NFIS Accountability Petition & Survey

Not Fine in School have heard numerous stories about the difficulties that families have accessing appropriate support for children in school. Often, these difficulties should, and could, be aided if the relevant legislation was followed by schools and local authorities, but instead existing statutory guidance, duties and policies are ignored or misinterpreted. In some cases, local policies are enforced when they hold no legal power.

Parents have few options to complain or enforce legislation using current ineffective procedures and powerless services. This means schools and local authorities are not being held accountable when children are denied the support and education they need. Therefore, NFIS are calling for the creation of a new independent, transparent and objective monitoring body who will investigate complaints in a fair and unbiased way. Please sign and share this petition.

Parents and carers have told us they make complaints about a variety of aspects including SEND provision, bullying, academic testing and SATS, disability discrimination & reasonable adjustments, exam arrangements, holiday requests, attendance monitoring and penalties, and provision for physical illness in schools.

In May 2018 we shared a brief survey within our social media groups to collect data about the outcomes of complaints made by parents/carers about schools and local authorities.

Our survey was shared for 4 weeks and had 122 responses.

Complaints to Schools

  • 102 parents had complained to a teacher or SENCO and 95 were unsatisfied with the outcome.
  • 110 parents had complained to the head teacher and 104 were unsatisfied with the outcome.
  • 78 parents had complained to the Board of Governors and only was fully satisfied with the outcome, while were partially satisfied.
  • 20 parents said that they thought the school’s complaints policy had been followed, while 83 thought it had not.
  • parents thought that government guidance had been followed, but 96 parents said it had not.

Complaints to Local Authorities

  • 82 parents had complained to their Local Authority and 28 had involved the LADO (Local Area Designated Officer).
  • 33 parents said the LA had investigated their complaint, and 17 said their complaint had been partially investigated.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome and were partially happy.
  • parents thought that the LA had followed correct policies and guidance, 13 said the LA had partially followed correct policies and guidance.

Complaints to OFSTED

  • 51 parents said they had made a complaint to OFSTED about a school or college.
  • 10 parents had their complaint investigated in full and said it had been partially investigated.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome and were partially satisfied.

Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman

  • 27 parents had asked the LGO to investigate a complaint and had made a partial request.
  • 14 complaints were investigated in full and were partially investigated.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome and were partially satisfied.

Complaints to Academies

  • 47 parents had made a complaint to an academy head teacher.
  • 18 parents said their complaint had been investigated, and were partially investigated.
  • 10 parents thought that the academy’s complaints policy had been followed, said it had been partially followed.
  • parent was satisfied with the outcome and were partially satisfied.
  • 24 parents had complained to the head of the academy trust and had their complaint investigated in full, were partially investigated.
  • parents thought the trust’s complaints policy was followed in full and said it was partially followed.
  • parent was satisfied with the outcome and parent was partially satisfied.

Complaints to the Education & Skills Funding Agency (about an Academy)

  • 12 parents had complained to the ESFA about an academy.
  • parents had their complaint investigated.
  • parent was partially satisfied with the outcome.

Complaints to First Tier Tribunal (SEND) (formerly SENDIST)

  • 42 parents had applied for a tribunal hearing, had made a partial application.
  • 22 hearings had taken place
  • 16 parents said they were satisfied with the outcome and were partially satisfied.
  • 12 parents thought that government guidance/law had been correctly followed and said it was partially followed.

Complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office

  • 24 parents said they had made a complaint to the ICO about the actions of a school, had made a partial complaint.
  • 12 complaints were fully investigated and were partially investigated.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome.

Complaints to the Equality Commission about disability discrimination at a school

  • 10 parents had made a complaint to the Equality Commission, had made a partial complaint.
  • complaints were fully investigated and were partially investigated.
  • parent was satisfied with the outcome and parent was partially satisfied.

Complaints to the Police (in relation to a school-linked issue such as bullying)

  • 22 parents had made a complaint to the police and had made a partial complaint.
  • complaints were fully investigated and were partially investigated.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome.

Complaints to a Local Member of Parliament

  • 77 parents had made a complaint to their local MP, had made a partial complaint.
  • 28 complaints were fully investigated and 14 were partially investigated.
  • In cases the MP was able to fully influence the situation, while in 11 cases parents thought the MP had partially influenced the situation.
  • parents were satisfied with the outcome and were partially satisfied.

Complaints to the Department for Education

  • 32 parents had complained to the DfE, had made a partial complaint.
  • complaints were fully investigated and were partially investigated.
  • parent was partially satisfied with the outcome.

Respondents were asked what would improve the way parents/carers can make complaints about education related issues?

There needs to be governance in the truest sense applied to the entire education system from top to bottom. Dishonesty is the norm cover-up is the norm doing the right thing is an alien thing within the system. There is no integrity in many organisations.

True accountability for failings.

Our society is in favour of highly educated individuals who can afford legal advice. The authorities do not play by the rules but make it up as they go along. Only those with access to legal advice at a cost can challenge them effectively.

The response to my complaint (about the Head) was written by the head herself! There must be more scrutiny of the process and an easier means of escalating the complaint, e.g. automatic right to an independent panel hearing if you don’t agree with the governors findings. The LEA were not interested in the malicious referrals to SS made by the head and these referrals remain in my/children’s records.

I don’t believe any parent ever wants to be in a position to have to complain – it’s an absolute last resort but sadly sometimes a stressful necessity. It’s a terrible situation when that arises – but 1st and foremost we are our children’s best advocates. To stand by & say nothing when there is an escalating problem would be negligent of me in my parental duties. Yet I found myself being accused of all sorts by the professionals with whom I simply wanted to find resolution & move forward for the sake of my children. I had no hidden agenda yet professionals told each other I did. Humility costs nothing, yet would have resolved so much heartache for children & families when professionals do get it wrong. Instead, we ended up with escalating persecution as well as the original unresolved & unvalidated problems.

I think having independent people to investigate would be a good start, if ex-teachers are included then there would need to be parents/carers as independent people as well.

It is a farce, there is no accountability particularly for church schools. The LA tell us their hands are tied with church schools and they have no power over them.

All agencies, authorities, and organisations close ranks on a parent to protect their reputation no one wants a bad marker against their establishment. We are run ragged until we are too ill to continue.

SEN needs an independent, legally and technically competent regulator.

I made complaints previously about professionals lying about me and my child and was then bullied by professionals because I made complaints. I do believe complaining about professionals and education setting can lead to parents to be bullied more and children lives made worse by professionals.

As soon as we made our complaint formal, the head threatened us with being banned from school premises, without foundation, He then tried to present falsified documentation to the governors with a letter with the date altered trying to suggest to them that we presented the complaint after his threat, when it was the other way round, and was proved to them when we showed them his original letter.

An independent body should investigate school complaints where SEN children are concerned that have no links to the LA or where finances prevent them bothering to investigate. Also, there should be serious consequences to schools treating parents this way and scaring them and threatening them into submission to cover their own inadequacies. My son has suffered greatly from his old school and the stress made me really ill. The staff still make nasty comments about my son to parents currently at the school.

The whole system is flawed and we need an independent enquiry and watchdog it’s disgusting the way we have been treated.

More help for parents to understand the vast and complex process of complaints procedures. Especially as they’re so time consuming as it is usually vulnerable people who have to deal with these issues. Maybe the local authority should spend the money they waste on fining parents to look at why kids aren’t at school and how they can be helped. Maybe that would cut down on a huge amount of complaints. Also getting rid of academy schools as my daughter has lower grades now than when she was in primary school, their teaching standards are appalling.

System is a shambles and allows neglect of Disabled children’s rights to an education. Until the system penalised those who ignore legislation it will never change. Delays save money. Even the complaints system at LA needs complaining about as they are always delayed and are never solved . A complaint to my LA is just a box ticking exercise that needs to be done before LGO.

Schools following their own policies correctly and admitting when bullying is happening instead of ignoring or blaming the victim.

Serious complaints should not be investigated by school governors. All allegations of abuse in school to be investigated. Child line and NSPCC should do more when a child contacts them about their treatment in school. During school complaints process if a children’s is old enough their voice should be heard. If a social worker is made aware by a child of mistreatment in school they need to act up on it. School admissions should be looking at why children are leaving schools to identify if there could be a problem. Ofsted need to look into allegations of mistreatment in schools.

Having the Local Authority actually being accountable would be good. As soon as an unlawful policy is in place there should be a body that will make the LA deal with it. My son has had no education for 6 months. He is profoundly deaf and has a whole host of other diagnoses now (all private as the LA wouldn’t refer or assess because he’s intelligent). He’s only 8. The Head of SEND at the LA and the DfE all seem to think that telling me that tribunal in 5-months-time is an acceptable way to deal with this. My son has an EHCP and a Clinical Psychology assessment stating that he can’t attend school and needs his education at home. So the LA tell me to Electively home educate! The system is a joke.

The complaints procedure it’s self should not involve the Head or any teachers naturally they are going to defend each other and the school. It’s not fair on parents when theirs just the two of you against a panel of what is supposed to be professional teachers and governors. There is zero support out there for parents fighting for their children unless you are financially able to pay a lot of money then you can find support but why should you have to pay for help if the school for whatever reason has done wrong why should you be forced to move schools.

That the DfE and ICO work together possibly. I was scared to report to Ofsted. I was told a story by a parent that she had been treated very badly by school/la and other services after she reported to Ofsted.

After my initial complaint (about an NQT teacher victimising and shaming SEN children in her class, which was more of a request that she had more training than a full on attack) – the Headteacher decided it was personal and went on the attack. Because she could not subdue or intimidate me she went after my ASD child and intimidated and terrified her. I have found the whole process incredibly shocking and upsetting. I would like to make a formal complaint to Ofsted but I have left it a long time now, to recover from the ordeal, and I don’t know how to go about it (I also think I’m too late). At the end of the day it is my word against hers and I don’t know how to prove my accusations as all witnesses were colleagues and staff and other parents whose children were threatened with exclusion if they did not withdraw their complaints. It is blatant bullying and discrimination and abuse of power, but I can’t prove it.

It is now time for politicians to hold up their hands and admit that the complaint system is ineffective.

Government needs to establish an effective, independent body to vastly improve the outcomes for children and families.

Please sign and support our petition.

Download our full survey report