24/02/2012 12:30 GMT | Updated 24/02/2012 12:47 GMT

School Complaints Should Not Be 'Badge Of Shame', Says DfE

Schools are receiving thousands of complaints about issues affecting pupils each year, a government report suggests.

The study calls for a culture change in schools, warning that many see complaints as a "badge of shame".

Instead, schools should see concerns raised by parents as a means to improve the way they work, it says.

The study, published by the Department for Education (DfE), reviewed complaints affecting individual children made by parents and young people to state schools in England.

The research was based on analysing correspondence sent to the Education Secretary, interviews and surveys of schools and parents.

The findings show around half of the schools (51%) surveyed systematically recorded all complaints, both formal and informal, while a further 27% recorded most.

However just under a fifth (19%) were not regularly recording informal or minor complaints.

Under the Education Act 2002, schools are not required to keep either numbers, types or outcomes of complaints, it notes.

The study concludes that drawing on the snapshot data, at a broad estimate, around 13,000 formal school complaints involving an individual child are made each academic year in English state schools.

It adds that further, larger surveys would be needed to make full estimates.

The study concludes: "The research evidence suggests that there is room for improvement at a school level with regard to the implementation of formal complaints handling.

"There is tentative evidence from the survey that a minority of schools are neglecting their statutory duties under Education Act 2002 to establish and publicise a complaints procedure.

"The research interviews pointed towards the need for a culture change in schools; moving away from seeing complaints as a 'badge of shame' and to recognise that complaints data can be a powerful tool for performance management, where gathered and used effectively."

The report says that the findings suggest that the scale of complaints warranting investigation is "relatively modest", especially given that there were 7.4 million schoolchildren in England in 2010, and that the survey indicates that a relatively low number of complaints reach the stage of involving the headteacher.

Researchers also examined the types of complaints made to schools, and found that the issues most commonly reported involved bullying, special educational needs, teacher conduct and exclusions.

It also warned that due to the small sample sizes analysed, these findings are "illustrative" rather than representative.