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National Curriculum

November 19, 2009

If you are unhappy about what your child is being taught at school, you can make a complaint.

Who do you complain to?

Stage one

Talk to your child’s teacher. If you are still dissatisfied, make a formal complaint to the governing body of the school concerned. This applies to both local education authority (LEA) maintained and independent schools.

Stage two

Complain to the LEA for LEA-maintained schools: community, foundation, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools.

Stage three

If you are still dissatisfied with the LEA’s response (or you wish to complain about an independent school) contact the relevant government department.

What grounds do you have to complain?

You have a right to complain if you feel that your child’s school is failing to comply with legal requirements as to the curriculum, or is unreasonable in the way it complies with them.


You can also complain if you disagree with the headteacher’s decision that for special reasons, your child should not follow the full national curriculum for the moment. Or, if you think the headteacher should decide this and she or he refuses to do so.

Head teachers are allowed to disapply the national curriculum in certain circumstances at their own discretion. Disapplication is permitted under the Education Act 1996 for individual pupils for:

  • a temporary period

  • for specific purposes at key stage 4

  • through a statement of special educational need

For groups of pupils, or for the school community, schools may apply to the secretary of state to enable a curriculum development or experiment.

Disapplication may be of all or part of the national curriculum, including all or part of separate programmes of study and all or part of the assessment arrangements. At key stage 4, only certain subjects can be disapplied, however.

Only national curriculum programmes of study and assessment arrangements may be disapplied. Disapplication may not be extended to other statutory requirements, such as:

  • to provide a balanced and broadly based curriculum

  • to use approved qualifications only

  • religious education

  • sex education

  • careers education and collective worship

Will you get a fair hearing?

School governing bodies and LEAs are both part of the education system, although LEA complaints procedures are external to individual schools.

Secretaries of state are government ministers – appeals to them will be investigated by the appropriate government department.

What will happen if you’re successful?

If the school’s governing body, or the LEA, or the secretary of state finds in your favour then the matter you have complained about will be put right.

Anything else you can do?

If you are unhappy about the way the secretary of state for education and skills has looked into your complaint the final option is to contact the parliamentary ombudsman.