Issue 129 - 2023 Autumn term
Schools and trusts are seeing a significant rise in the number and complexity of complaints received from parents.

School complaints

There has been a significant rise in the number and complexity of complaints schools and trusts receive from parents. More and more parents are also seeking to fast-track or escalate complaints via external agencies such as local authorities, local MPs and Ofsted. 

School leaders should be reassured that despite this, Ofsted’s involvement in parental complaints remains low compared to the volume of complaints received. Ofsted received 14,900 complaints about schools this year, yet only 16% qualified for investigation, the majority raising whole-school issues and most involving safeguarding matters. Ofsted carried out immediate inspections in only 76 cases (less than 1%) and referred individual safeguarding matters to the relevant local authorities. 

Despite this, where complaints do qualify, it can be frustrating for schools when there is a lack of transparency on action taken, timescales and so on. The Academies Regulatory and Commissioning Review, published in March 2023, identified the issue of parents submitting their complaint to multiple agencies, including Ofsted. To address this, in the short term, the DfE has committed to updating the GOV.UK page on complaints to clarify
  • which organisations should be engaged at different stages
  • what is in scope for different organisations
  • the ways in which complaints data informs key processes and its limits
The department has also committed, by autumn 2023, to introduce a revised data sharing agreement with Ofsted, to support better information sharing around safeguarding and reduce duplication/overlap. While these changes are welcomed, they won’t necessarily stop parents from involving Ofsted and may not address concerns around transparency of Ofsted’s investigations into qualifying complaints.

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