Complaints about an Academy

An outline of the complaints procedure and the role of the EFA

All schools including Academies must have a procedure for dealing with complaints against the school made by parents of pupils at the school.

Complaints about the administration of the appeals process for admissions are dealt with by a separate procedure.

An academy’s procedure for handling complaints against the school must comply with the Education (Independent Schools Standards) Regulations 2010, SI 2010/1997.

The Regulations require that a school’s complaints procedure must include:

  1. Informal stage, eg through discussion with senior staff.
  2. Formal complaint stage when complaint made in writing.
  3. Hearing before panel appointed by proprietor made up of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters that are subject to the complaint, one of whom must be independent of the management or running of the school.

Where an academy has considered a complaint in accordance with its policy, but the matter has not been resolved, the complainant may complain to the Education Funding Agency (EFA), and the EFA will consider the complaint in accordance with its complaints policy.

The EFA will normally only consider a complaint about an Academy after the Academy’s own complaints procedure has been exhausted.

The EFA will not consider a complaint:

  • Regarding examination results or curriculum where it would be more appropriate to take it up with the examining body or Ofqual.
  • A statement of SEN that should be dealt with by the SEN and disability tribunal.
  • That they consider vexatious or malicious.
  • Over 12 months old, usually.

The EFA acts on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The EFA cannot review or overturn decisions about complaints made by Academies. It can only investigate whether the Academy considered the complaint appropriately, and if it finds that an Academy did not, it can request the Academy to re-consider the complaint.

Complaints about an academy should be sent by email to

Or by post to:  Academies Central Unit (Academy Complaints), Education Funding Agency, Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH

Complaints about the EFA or about how it has handled a complaint should, be sent marked “Complaint about EFA – Academies” to the same address.

Lord Nash – doubts about paid Governors

Lord Nash, Education Minister, does not seem to be in favour of paid governors.

Speaking at the Education Select Committee on 20 March on the role of school governing bodies he said that he was “not convinced” about the benefits of paying governors. He said:

I think it could be a distraction. There is a danger that by paying governors you could attract the wrong people, or you could open the floodgates.

He went on to say, “voluntary does not mean amateur”.

Indeed – as we said in our last post, just because someone is unpaid does not means that they are not capable or qualified.

Qualifications are no guarantee of quality

Why does Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector,  think that the best measure of the quality of governors is their professional qualifications and how much they are paid?

No one would deny that there is a real need to improve the quality of school governance. But his statements today seem to miss the point and just rehearse old arguments.

People with specific professional backgrounds can clearly make valuable members of a governing body, but it is not helpful to place all the emphasis on those with the more obvious formal qualifications. And to do so risks ignoring or loosing the valuable contribution that can be brought by people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Just because someone is unpaid, does not mean that they are not capable or ‘qualified’, or are going to operate at a lower standard.  Across the voluntary sector their are numerous examples of people working in and governing successful organisations at

There are numerous examples in the voluntary sector of people operating to high standards of professionalism, working in and governing organisations without receiving financial reward. The idea that unpaid work is somehow sub-standard flies in the face of what is actually going on in voluntary organisations across the country.

We want people to give their time and energy to being a governor because of a commitment to improving education, not because they will get paid for it.

Attracting qualified professionals to take roles as members of governing bodies should not become a tick-box exercise of counting letters after peoples’ names, or  seen as an alternative to the schools themselves ensuring that they employ appropriate professional advice and support.

Get stuck in or carp from the sidelines?

There are signs of a shift in the debate about academy schools. away from arguing about the merits or otherwise of the government’s academies policy, towards a focus on seeking ways to get the best out of the options available.

In the face of the government’s push to force failing primary schools to become academies, the governing bodies of some of those schools, who would in an ideal world not want to become academies at all, are taking the more pragmatic approach that the interest of their school and its students is best served by them ‘working within the system’ and trying to shape the kind of academy their school will become.

It may not be the game they would choose to play but the game is not going to change and they realise that it would be better to play, rather than just carp from the sidelines.

By parking the argument about academies or not academies, and engaging in the debate about the way their school becomes an academy and its potential academy partners, governors can have a real influence on the future of their school.

And it can be a stark choice, with the DfE seeming to favour a one size fits all approach driven by their favoured academy sponsors.

The better-known academy sponsors impose consistent branding and standardised procedures on all schools in their chains – an approach that has all the hallmarks of a supermarket or retail chain. But this centralised approach runs counter to the way many schools aim to serve their local community and wish to retain their own character and ethos. For them the model of the specialist food market and cooperative offers a better example.

By setting out what matters to them and choosing a local school they would prefer to have as their sponsor, the Governors of a school under threat of forced academisation can have a real impact on the future direction and governance of their school – even if they will ultimately not have a direct role in it themselves.

Views of Headteachers and Chairs of Governors on the role of the LA

The increasing independence of schools as they move to academy status is just the latest stage in the journey of school autonomy which can trace its origins back many years through foundation schools, grant maintained schools, and local management of schools.

As more schools take advantage of increased autonomy and freedom from local government, inevitably, the relationship between schools and local authorities has to be redefined. Whilst politicians and local authority education officers are staking their claim to a place in the new world order, the voice of schools themselves seems often to be overlooked.

To explore the views of headteachers and chairs of governors, Tamarind Chambers carried out a survey by email questionnaire sent to of a range of secondary schools across England between October 2011 and February 2012.

Survey results

The survey shows that schools value their increased autonomy and freedoms but recognise that, within clearly defined parameters, the local authority still has a role to play.

Two areas stood out as matters that schools did not see as a role for the local authority.

First, schools were clear on their wish to have control of the curriculum. The vast majority of Chairs and Headteachers said that local authorities should not have any control over the curriculum in schools, with just one respondent saying that the local authority should actually determine the curriculum.

The second highest ‘no’ vote was on the governing body – with over a third of respondents saying that the local authority should have no role in removing or replacing a governing body and nearly half saying that they should only be able to do so under certain conditions.

There was general agreement across schools on the local authority’s role in the provision for children with special educational needs. In their responses, most Chairs and Headteachers said that local authorities should continue to be responsible for assessing the special educational needs of individual pupils and for providing appropriate education to meet those assessed needs and controlling the funding.

The responses to some questions revealed contradictory views. For example whilst most respondents said that local authorities should have a role in planning and co-ordinating school places, there was less support for local authorities having specific powers to make changes to the size of a school or alter a school’s admissions decisions.

A clear majority of Chairs and Headteachers were against local authorities having the power to enter and inspect schools as they chose. However, a large proportion did think the local authority should be able to intervene in a failing school, albeit under certain conditions.

There was general agreement that local authorities should collect and report on data about schools in their area, and provide advice and support on school standards.

Whilst schools wish to guard their independence and ability to deliver education in the way they feel best for them, they also want someone to act as a ‘policeman’ or arbitrator to protect them from potentially damaging actions by another school.

Full report

The full data from the responses to the survey has been published in our report ‘The role of the local authority in education: Views of Headteachers and Chairs of Governors’, that can be found here.

Where are the Governors in the Gove Agenda?

In September, Michael Gove said: “Teachers, not politicians or bureaucrats, should run schools.” What is striking as you review many of the speeches made by the Secretary of State, is the lack of recognition of the role of the Governing Body.

Whilst educational professionals rightly should be in charge of the day-to-day running of schools, the Governing Body is responsible for the strategic leadership of a school whether maintained, academy or voluntary aided. In fact, in their promotion of academies the government has elevated the role and responsibility of governing bodies.

Announcements by the Secretary of State often refer to money going to teachers and headteachers, of teachers being free to run schools, leaving the impression that it is only the teaching profession that has an interest in or responsibility for the effective running of a school. The purpose of a school is to provide education for its students in the interests of the wider community. A school is not just for current students, parents and teachers – its role is to provide education for the benefit of the wider community, now and in the future.

Gove frequently refers to improving educational achievement and broadening educational perspective. This can only really be achieved by the effective engagement of the whole range of stakeholders.

What Governors bring into a school is a whole range of knowledge and experience from their personal and professional lives which complement the expertise of those running the school on a day-to-day basis. A feature of a successful school is a governing body willing to engage with and challenge the headteacher and the school’s leadership team.

In England, over 300,000 people give their time voluntarily to serve as school governors, representing the largest volunteer group in the UK. If Gove really wants to improve the education of our children (and to further the government’s Big Society Agenda), he needs to harness and engage the skills and commitment of this army of volunteers.