Section 70 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980: guidance on making a complaint

Guidance to support those who are considering or who have made a complaint under Section 70 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.

Other complaints mechanisms available

The section 70 process can only be used in certain circumstances where it is alleged that a responsible body has failed to carry out a statutory duty relating to education. Before making a complaint under section 70, you may like to consider if it is the most appropriate course of action.

Noted below are some of the other mechanisms available for resolving complaints or disputes.

Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010

A complaint under section 70 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 may be made by an interested party where they have evidence that:

  • An education authority has made a change to its school estate without undertaking a statutory consultation about its proposals in accordance with the requirements of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 (the 2010 Act),or
  • Where such a consultation has been held, the authority has failed to comply with certain obligations placed upon it by the 2010 Act. This could include, for example, the situation where an authority has failed to comply with any of the conditions which the School Closure Review Panel may have imposed when granting its consent for the authority to close a school.

Otherwise the 2010 Act has its own mechanisms which can be used by interested parties where it is considered for example that an authority has failed to comply with the requirements imposed on it by that Act in relation to school closure proposals.

Grant Aided Schools (including Special Schools)

Each Grant Aided School has their own complaints procedure which can be accessed via their website or obtained from the school.

Independent Schools

Each Independent School has their own complaints procedure which can be accessed through contact with the school or their website.

In addition, the Scottish Ministers may, in accordance with part V of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, impose conditions on the running of an independent school where a school is at risk of becoming objectionable on one or more of the grounds set out in section 99(1A) of the 1980 Act. Further, where Ministers are satisfied that the school is objectionable on one or more of those grounds, they must serve a Notice of Complaint on the proprietor of an independent school.

Complaints Concerning Functions Relating to the Named Person and Child's Plan

Functions relating to the named person and child's plan are set out in the Children and Young People Act 2014. As complaints to Scottish Ministers under section 70 must relate to an education related enactment, complaints cannot be made under section 70 regarding the named person or a child's plan. Once the relevant legislation is commenced, guidance on making a complaint in relation to a named person or a child's plan will be made available. Until then, complaints regarding the named person or a child's plan, where these exist on a policy basis, can be made through the relevant health board, local authority or organisation's normal complaints procedures.

Education Appeals Committee

The education appeal committee hears and makes decisions on appeals made by parents and young people regarding decisions made by a school or education authority related to:

  • exclusion from school
  • placing request refusals which are not related to a child with additional support needs.

You can access more information regarding the education appeals committee from your child's school or local authority website.

Education Authority Complaints Procedures

Each education authority has their own complaints procedure which you can access via their website or through discussion with your child's school or education authority.

There are generally 2 routes to resolution within education authorities:

Front Line Resolution (Stage 1)

For issues that are straightforward and easily resolved.

Investigation (Stage 2)

Undertaken for issues that have not been resolved at the front line or are complex, serious or 'high risk'. The need for an investigation may arise as a result of stage 1, or a complaint may require an investigation from the start.

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman ( SPSO) is the final stage for complaints about public services in Scotland. The SPSO considers complaints where a member of the public has suffered injustice or hardship as a result of maladministration or service failure by a public service. Generally, the SPSO expects the person to have completed the public service organisation's full complaints procedure before it considers their complaint.

Further information on the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman can be accessed on its website:

Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

The Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland has a power of formal investigation where it appears that the rights of individual children and young people or groups of children and young people might have been breached. However, it is important to note that the Commissioner cannot carry out an investigation if; the concern relates to matters which are reserved to the UK Government; it concerns the decision-making of a court of tribunal in a particular case; or it concerns a case currently before a court or tribunal. The Commissioner also cannot investigate a complaint if another body in Scotland has the power to carry out an investigation.


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