If you are unhappy with a service or the help your child is getting, you should speak with someone as soon as possible.
Browse through our dropdowns below which take you through the various options of how to raise your concerns.
You may also be interested in attending our workshop 'Making Meetings Matter' which offers practical advice and the opportunity to meet other parents and share good practice.
See our news and events page for details of available workshops.
For concerns about support in school
The first thing you should do if your are unhappy about the help your child receives is speak to a member of staff at the setting, for example:
- their teacher (or for a nursery their keyworker)
- the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)
- the headteacher (or principal)
You will likely need to arrange a meeting so you have time to discuss your concerns.
Read our leaflet 'Making Meetings Matter' (PDF) for how to get the best out of your meeting.
For concerns about SEN services provided by the local authority
Raising your concerns in writing...
- start with a positive - For example: 'Thank you for taking the time to talk to me yesterday, I really appreciated the opportunity. Unfortunately I still have some concerns and would be grateful if you could look into these for me...'
- use bullet points where you have more than one issue (or many concerns about the same issue)
- stick to the key points, sometimes a lot of background information can detract from your main concerns
- include your child's views, what they have said to you or how they are feeling
- it can be helpful to think about and include the outcome you are seeking
- finish with another positive, for example 'I really hope can work together to resolve these issues and look forward to hearing from you very soon.' (you could add a date by which, if possible, you would like to hear back)
If discussing your concerns has not reassured you, you could:
- make a complaint by writing to the Head Teacher (or principal), marking it as 'formal complaint'
- complain to the Governing body or Trustees (their website will include information about how to contact)
- ask for independent disagreement resolution or mediation (see dropdown)
Look at the setting's own website for details about their complaints procedure.
For academies (and free schools) if you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you may be able to complain to the Education Skills & Funding Agency.
Local authority maintained schools
If your complaint is about a maintained school (maintained by the local authority) and you have been unable to resolve with the school directly, you may complain to the local authority.
Academies and free schools
You cannot complain to the local authority about an academy or free school. You can find the complaints procedure for the school on their website. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you may be able to complain to the Education Skills & Funding Agency.
Local authority services
You can complain to the local authority about a service, or if you believe a policy has been applied unfairly.
General concerns about SEN/Inclusion in a school
If you have more general concerns about SEN or Inclusion in a school you could contact the Inclusion Consultant for Suffolk:
Maria Hough - 01473 260394 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Where there is an EHC plan
If you are unhappy with the provision your child is receiving, or the provision in their plan is not being provided, you can contact the Family Services Team to raise your concerns. If you are unsatisfied with their response you could lodge a formal complaint.
Special Needs Jungle flowchart (opens PDF) (when you are in disagreement with the local authority)
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, which considers complaints about local authorities, has temporarily suspended its central phone line and online complaint submission form from 18 March 2020. New complaints will not be accepted until further notice.
They have also said that the progress of existing cases may be limited. However, if you have already registered a complaint, they may continue to work on it and make email and telephone extensions of individual staff available.
If you have followed the local authority complaints procedure and are still dissatisfied, you can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about:
- School admissions
- School transport
- School exclusions
- Special educational needs
- Home education
You can only complain about something that the Local Authority has done wrong, or failed to do, that directly affected you/your child. This is known as 'maladministration'. They will not get involved where you simply disagree with the action that has been taken by the Local Authority or school.
Examples of 'maladministration' include:
- taken too long to take action, without good reason;
- not followed its own rules or the law;
- taken incorrect action or failed to take action at all;
- failed to follow it’s own polices;
- failed to provide information or given the wrong information;
- not made a decision in the correct way;
- failed to take relevant considerations into account in making a decision;
- failed to investigate;
- failed to deal with a letter or other enquiries;
- failed to comply with legal requirements;
- made misleading or inaccurate statements.
Possible outcomes (if your complaint is upheld) might be asking the local authority to...
- apologise to you
- provide a service you should have had
- make a decision it should have done before
- reconsider a decision it did not take properly in the first place
- improve its procedures so similar problems do not happen again
- make a payment
Read more about complaining to the LG&SCO
You can appeal these local authority decisions...
- refusal to carry out an EHC needs assessment;
- refusal to issue an EHC plan;
- the final EHC plan or amended plan;
- decision not to amend an EHC plan;
- decision to cease to maintain an EHC plan
... but you must firstly consider mediation.
Special Needs Jungle have a flowchart (opens PDF) explaining what you can do if you disagree with the local authority.
Nurseries, Schools and Colleges must take steps to ensure disabled children and young people are not substantially disadvantaged due to their disability. 'Reasonable adjustments' is the term used to describe these in law.
If you are not sure if your child is disabled take a look at our section 'Equality and Inclusion'
Watch our video presentation 'Equal Opportunities for disabled students':
The SEND Code of Practice summarises the Equality Act duty and says Nurseries, Schools and Colleges must:
- not directly or indirectly discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children and young people
- make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services, to ensure that disabled children and young people are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with their peers. This duty is anticipatory – it requires thought to be given in advance to what disabled children and young people might require and what adjustments might need to be made to prevent that disadvantage (Introduction xix)
If you feel your disabled child has been discriminated against (within the last six months you could consider complaining to the SEND Tribunal.
As this is a formal legal route, it is strongly advisable to seek legal representation if you are considering this option.
You can ask a court (within three months) to consider whether the action taken by the local authority was made in a lawful, fair and reasonable manner and a few possible examples might be:
- provide a full-time education
- provide transport
- issue an EHC plan
- secure the provision in an EHC plan
- comply with SEND Tribunal decisions
- carry out an annual review
Ofsted will not handle individual complaints about a school, however it may be possible to let them know about general concerns you have.
When a school your child attends has a visit from Ofsted, you will have an opportunity to share your views confidentially, known as 'parent view'.
Read more about what you can raise with Ofsted.
'When people can't agree' Department for Education guidance for young people with complaints about SEND
Complain about a school or childminder - Government guidance
Education & Skills Funding Agency - For complaints about an academy (or free school)
Complain to the local authority about a maintained school, or where the local authority have failed to follow policy or in their duty to provide a service
For more general concerns about SEN or Inclusion in a school you can contact:
Maria Hough, Inclusion Consultant - 01473 260394 (email@example.com)
firstname.lastname@example.org - to notify the local authority about unofficial exclusions (asking parents to pick up child early or at lunch, sending home to cool off without issuing a formal exclusion).
Family Services Team - the local authority (exclusions, SEN services and EHC plans)
Mediation (about local authority decisions - EHC needs assessments and plans)
Appealing to the SEND Tribunal Service (about local authority decisions - EHC needs assessments and plans)
Ofsted - school inspection & regulation
Healthwatch - health and social care consumer champions
PALS - confidential advice and support related to health matters