Raising concerns

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.

Raising your concerns

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

You can contact the relevant service in the first instance to explain your concerns.

Suffolk County Council SEN Teams

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)

Making a formal complaint to an education setting

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. 

Read the Government guidance around complaining about a school.

Complaining to the local authority

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 won’t usually be able 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 a general query about SEND, you can contact the Local Offer Line on:  0345 606 1490 or email localoffer@suffolk.gov.uk

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, or where the lawful timescales have been missed, you can contact the Family Services Team to raise your concerns. If you are unsatisfied with their response you could lodge a formal complaint.

See also:

Requesting an early review

Special Needs Jungle flowchart (opens PDF) (when you are in disagreement with the local authority)

Appealing to the SEND Tribunal

Read the local authority information ‘Education, Health and Care plan provision: resolving disagreements’

IPSEA guidance for when provision in a plan is not being made

Complaining about the local authority to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

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

Mediation and disagreement resolution

Disagreement resolution services are available for any issue relating to SEND, provided all parties agree to participate.   You can request SEND mediation(where you disagree with a local authority decision around an Education, Health and Care plan). The local authority must participate within 30 days of being notified by the provider (Anglia Care Trust).   Read more about SEND mediation and disagreement resolution services Download the Anglia Care Trust leaflet (PDF)

Appealing to the SEND Tribunal service about an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan

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.

Read our information about appealing to the SEND Tribunal Service

Special Needs Jungle have a flowchart (opens PDF) explaining what you can do if you disagree with the local authority.

Disability Discrimination claims

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.

Take a look at the information from Child Law Advice about disability discrimination

Judicial Review

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:

Failure to…

  • 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

Find out about how to apply to court for Judicial Review.

IPSEA have some useful information about the process.


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.

Useful links

‘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:

The Local Offer – 0345 606 1490 or localoffer@suffolk.gov.uk

If you believe your child has been unlawfully excluded from school email: SchoolAttendance@Suffolk.gov.uk

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)

Complain to the SEND Tribunal about Disability Discrimination

Ofsted – school inspection & regulation

Healthwatch– health and social care consumer champions

PALS – confidential advice and support related to health matters


Disagreements about SEN Provision

Download ‘Disagreements about SEN Provision’ leaflet