Ombudsman welcomes report findings on school complaints
Archived press release
Date Published: 02/04/12
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has welcomed the findings of the report Parents’ and young people’s complaints about schools published by the Department for Education.
The study includes an evaluation of the effectiveness of the LGO’s service in dealing with schools complaints in 14 local authority areas (see list below).
Dr Jane Martin, Ombudsman, says “This study highlights the value of having an independent expert body available to resolve complaints when all else has failed. The research shows that this benefits parents, young people and schools alike.”
The report says: “Emerging strongly from the interviews with parents and stakeholders was a consensus that the key strengths of the LGO service are its accountability, independence and expertise.” (para 5.5)
Key findings of the report included:
- one of the most valuable aspects of the LGO service was the offer of training and professional development in complaints handling – the evidence suggests that much re-modelling of local procedures occurred as a result
- where the LGO ruled in favour of a school or governing body this was recognised as being crucial to help validate the schools' position, in the event that a parent had made perceived unfair claims about the school
- where the LGO upheld the complaint, schools often reported a sense of relief, particularly where they had tried all other options and weren’t able to see a way forward
- the response from schools to the LGO service has generally been positive over time, as they have realised the expertise that is available from the LGO at no cost – and schools have increasingly contacted the LGO team for advice
- the LGO’s advice team signposts callers to other complaint routes where appropriate, and this was welcomed by these agencies, such as Ofsted
- parents’ verdict on the LGO service related closely to the outcome of their complaint, with more parents reporting a positive experience – their reasons being that:
- the LGO was effective at re-engaging the school in the complaint
- the LGO was perceived as impartial
- processes and procedures were easily understandable, and
- more intensive support was available if needed.
The report presents findings from research into parents’ and young people’s complaints about schools, undertaken between November 2010 and March 2011.
The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning (ASCL) Act 2009 gave the LGO new powers for considering complaints against a school by pupils and parents of a pupil, and replaced the role of the Secretary of State. These new responsibilities were introduced through phased roll out in 14 local authority areas from April 2010 to September 2010.
The Education Act 2011, which was given Royal Assent on 15 November 2011, repealed the power to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman about internal school matters (awaiting commencement order).
The 14 local authority areas where the Local Government Ombudsman can (until July 2012) investigate complaints about schools are: Barking and Dagenham, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Kent, Kensington and Chelsea, Lincolnshire, Medway, Portsmouth, Sefton, Sheffield & Wolverhampton.