Independent and private schools have a much larger degree of autonomy than state schools, so there is no local education authority to oversee their behaviour, but there are still places to turn when things go wrong.
All independent schools in the UK have to be registered with the DFE and are regularly inspected by Ofsted. However, most schools are also accredited and belong to other organisations such as the Independent Schools Council or the Independent Schools Inspectorate, which means their quality is also scrutinised and they are rigorously inspected on a regular basis.
When things go wrong, just as in a state school, the first person to see will be the form tutor, head of year, house tutor or the head teacher. If the problem can't be resolved quickly and effectively after an initial face-to-face meeting, then write to the head, explaining the background and ask for the matter to be investigated and a strategy to be introduced to combat the problem.
Make a complaint to the governors
Hopefully, making a complaint to the governors will help resolve the bullying. If not, then write to the chairman of governors and enclose copies of correspondence with the head and explain why you are still not satisfied. It is very important that you do not withhold school fees as the result of a dispute, this could result in county court action to recover them.
When your child joins a school you will have signed a contract agreeing to pay the fees. The contract is likely to have a clause explaining that you need to give notice of removing your child and you will still be liable for the fees if you take a child away mid-term.
If contacting the head and governors is unsuccessful, the next option is to take the matter up with one of the organisations to which your child's school is accredited. These organisations together make up the Independent Schools Council (ISC).
Escalating the complaint
Independent schools are expected to have a policy designed to combat bullying and evidence of this is sought during inspections of independent schools. If after taking a complaint of bullying up with the head and the chairperson of the governors, a parent considers that the school has not taken their concerns seriously, or investigated them properly, they should write to the Department of Education at Independent Education and Boarding Team, DFE, Mowden Hall, Staindrop Road, Darlington, DL3 9BG or they can telephone the department on 0370 0002288 or email email@example.com
You can contact
The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC)
12 The Point
Tel 01858 469 059/01858 465 260
All these associations except the HMC insist that any school seeking membership is assessed by the Independent Schools Inspectorate which operates broadly along the same lines as Ofsted.
In addition, boarding schools are subject to the 1989 Children Act and governors, heads and private owners all have a duty under this act to safeguard and promote the welfare of their pupils. Social services departments also have to be satisfied that the welfare arrangements are adequate.
Inspection of Independent schools
All schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council are rigorously inspected. Just like state schools, there are detailed inspection reports, a summary of which must be sent to parents free of charge and parents can get a copy of the whole report if they want one.
The Independent Schools Inspectorate is the body responsible for the inspection of schools in membership of the Associations that make up the Independent Schools Council. They are approved for the purpose of inspection under Section 162A of the Education Act 2002, and report to the Department for Education on the extent to which schools meet statutory requirements. Not all private schools are inside the accreditation system so ask the headteacher when you visit the school or check the prospectus.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.