Registration of independent schools: guidance for applicants, proprietors, and parents

Guidance covering topics topics such as how to register a new independent school or apply to amend the registration of existing independent schools in Scotland.

5. Concerns or complaints about independent schools

Who can I make a complaint to about an independent school?

This will depend on the nature of your complaint or concerns. Ideally, complaints should be resolved at a local level i.e. between the complainer and the school.

All independent schools are expected to have a clear complaints policy that allows learners, parents, staff, and others to have their concerns heard. Where a complaint cannot be resolved by the headteacher, individuals are encouraged to raise the matter with the school's proprietor (this is usually a board of governors or trustees).

Where your concerns relate to potentially criminal conduct, you may wish to contact Police Scotland.

Additionally, where there is a dispute between a school and a third party, there may be a route to resolution through mediation. It is not for the Registrar of Independent Schools or any inspecting body to facilitate or otherwise be involved in such mediation. However, schools may wish to contact SCIS to find out more about mediation and how to begin a process of mediation if appropriate. You can find out more about SCIS online.

The Registrar of Independent Schools

The Registrar may not investigate individual complaints. However, you may have a complaint that relates to one or more of the grounds [10] on which the Scottish Ministers can find a school objectionable.

For example, you may have raised a complaint with the school about the quality of your child's education. While neither the Registrar nor the Scottish Ministers may look into your complaint specifically, the Registrar may, based on your complaint, seek information from the school regarding its delivery of education generally.

The Registrar would then seek the professional opinion of HM Inspectors and, if there is cause for concern, provide advice to the Scottish Ministers. Depending on the level of concern or the weaknesses identified, the Scottish Ministers may take regulatory action. Alternatively, HM Inspectors may consider it more appropriate to work with the school to bring about improvement without regulatory action by the Scottish Ministers.


The GTCS (as outlined earlier in this document) are responsible for registering teachers and ensuring the integrity of the profession.


The SSSC is similar to the GTCS, but regulates care workers. This is relevant if your child attends early learning and childcare provision or a special school.

The Care Inspectorate

If your concerns relate to the provision of early learning and childcare or a boarding or residential element of the school, the Care Inspectorate has an independent complaints procedure may be able to investigate your complaint. If your child attends early learning and childcare within an independent school, or is a boarding pupil, or your concern relates to the boarding provision at a school, you may wish to contact the Care Inspectorate if the school is unable to deal with your complaint satisfactorily

Information Commissioner's Office

Individuals may wish to contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) (how to contact the Information Commissioner's Office) if there are any concerns as to how a school manages or stores data.

The ICO should not be confused with the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner – their role relates to freedom of information law which only applies to independent special schools (how to contact the Scottish Information Commissioner).



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