Making a complaint
We know how upsetting it is when either you as a young person, or your child if you are a parent or carer are being bullied. Most of the time schools are willing and able to manage concerns about bullying but sometimes children and their parents and carers feel that the school are not listening and that they need to take further action.
Know your rights
Schools in England have a legal duty to ensure the safety of all children and young people and to prevent all forms of bullying. Head teachers also have powers to respond to bullying outside of school premises, and to search for and confiscate items that may have been used to bully or intimidate (The Education and Inspections Act 2006: The Education Act 2011). For more information on the law and government policy relating to bullying, visit the policy and guidance section of this website.
Before making a complaint we would suggest that you seek further advice and support. The following organisations can offer help:
Involve your child
It is extremely important that you ask your child what they would like you to do. Children and young people can be very afraid of telling others they are being bullied - they may be scared that the situation could become worse so it is vital that you reassure them and involve them in the actions that you take. Your child's safety comes first and so if they are still experiencing the bullying take all reasonable action to keep them safe - if you have serious concerns for their safety, or you think a crime has been committed against them, then contact the police or the local authority children's services team.
Follow the school complaints procedure
Whether your child is in a school, academy or a college - be it private or public, your first step in making a complaint should be to follow their internal complaints procedure (schools must have this under the Education Act 2002 and they must make this available to you). A typical process may involve talking through your concerns with your child's tutor or Head of Year, sending a letter to the Head teacher, and then if that does not address your concerns, sending a letter to the Chair of Governors. Always keep your letters brief and factual and keep copies of the letters that you send. If your child is still experiencing the bullying, it can be helpful if they keep a diary of events so that you can also share this with the school.
If you have followed the complaints procedure and the situation has still not been resolved then you can take the following steps...
Further action you can take
Contact the local authority. It may be that your local authority has staff members who can offer support to you or your child. If you have serious concerns for your child's safety then the local authority has a legal duty to protect your child.
Contact the Secretary of State for Education. If your child is in a maintained school you can contact the Secretary of State for Education. This should always be a last resort after you have followed the schools complaints procedure, and you should include all steps you have already taken to resolve the complaint. Write to The Secretary of State, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BT. Visit www.dfe.gov.uk for further details.
Contact Ofsted. As well as inspecting how schools perform, Under Section 11 of the Education Act 2005, Ofsted has powers to consider certain complaints about schools (these are called 'qualifying complaints'). Qualifying complaints must meet a set of criteria and must raise an issue that affects the school as a whole rather than an individual. You must also have followed the school complaints process before making a complaint to Ofsted. Ofsted carefully considers all complaints received and takes action when it is in its power to do so. For more details visit www.ofsted.gov.uk.
Contact your local MP. Your local MP is available to listen to your concerns about bullying - whether in school or the wider community. They may be able to raise concerns on your behalf with the local authority or the Department for Education.
What if my child is in an academy?
If your child is in an academy - after following the internal complaints procedure you can contact the Educational Funding Agency (EFA). The EFA can investigate whether the Academy has considered the complaint appropriately. If it finds that they did not consider the complaint appropriately they can request the Academy to re-consider the complaint. Complaints can be sent by email to email@example.com or by post to Academies Central Unit (Academy Complaints), Education Funding Agency, Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH. For more details on the Academy complaints process.
What if my child is in an independent or boarding school?
If your complaint is about an independent or boarding school you should follow its complaints procedure through the governing body. If you are still dissatisfied after this, you can pursue matters relating to your contract with the school through the courts. If your complaint is that the school is not complying with legal regulations governing independent schools, you can contact Department for Education public enquiries on 0370 000 2288, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Department will not investigate individual complaints, but can look at regulatory issues. Remember that if your child is at risk of harm or you think a crime has been committed you can always contact the police or the local authority children's services team.