Skip to main content

Schools: Complaints

Volume 493: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many complaints have been made about schools to Ofsted by parents in each of the last two years; how many of those were investigated; and if he will make a statement. (273417)

[holding answer 7 May 2009]: This is a matter for Ofsted. HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has written to the hon. Member and a copy of her reply has been placed in the House Libraries.

Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 20 May 2009:

Your recent parliamentary question has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for reply.

Under section 11A of the Education Act 2005, as amended by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, Ofsted may consider whether to investigate certain complaints, known as qualifying complaints, made about schools. Table A shows the number of complaints about schools made to Ofsted in the last two years and how many of these qualified for further investigation. Ofsted may consider a complaint about a school from any person, not just a registered parent. The data in Table A may include complaints from persons other than parents.

To qualify, the subject of the complaint must fall within one of the areas covered by Ofsted's school inspection remit, as defined by section 5 of the Education Act 2005 and the relevant regulations. These are:

The quality of the education provided in the school

How far the education provided in the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school

The educational standards achieved in the school

The quality of the leadership in and management of the school, including whether the financial resources made available to the school are managed effectively

The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils at the school

The contribution made by the school to the well-being of those pupils

From September 2008, the contribution made by the school to community cohesion.

In addition, a complaint must be made in writing and must not fall within the remit of another statutory complaints process. Furthermore, the complainant must normally have already exhausted local complaints procedures. Ofsted may waive this particular requirement, but will normally only do so in exceptional circumstances. This is because it is appropriate that a school and/or the relevant local authority have the opportunity to put right a complaint before it is referred to Ofsted.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Rt Hon Jim Knight MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners, and will be placed in the library of both Houses.

Table A: Complaints about schools made to Ofsted, April 2007 to March 2009


Total written complaints about schools

Those concerning safeguarding issues1

Those qualifying for consideration under Ofsted's powers of investigation2

Those retained for the lead inspector for the next scheduled inspection3

Those leading to an immediate inspection

Those leading to the next scheduled inspection being brought forward

27 April 2007 to 4 April 2008







4 April 2008 to 31 March 2009







1 These complaints concerned safeguarding issues and were sent to Ofsted's safeguarding teams for further consideration.

2 The main reasons for complaints not qualifying are that complainants have either failed to exhaust local complaints procedures, or the complaint does not fall within the areas covered by Ofsted's school inspection remit. Ofsted responds to such complaints with advice on resolving their concerns through more appropriate authorities.

3 Ofsted considers all qualifying complaints. In the first instance, Ofsted may investigate by contacting the school or local authority, as well as consider the school's self-evaluation form, performance data, and their last inspection report. At this point, we are normally able to determine what action should be taken, which may lead to an inspection of the school or the information being retained for the next scheduled inspection. Alternatively, we may further investigate the issue raised by the complaint, which may include requiring the school or local authority to provide information relevant to the complaint or to hold a meeting of parents. We may also formally refer the complaint to the school or local authority.