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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 05:53 GMT 06:53 UK
Child complaints system attacked
Schoolchildren (generic)
Peter Clarke says children must be seen as holders of rights
Children make hardly any formal complaints to Welsh education authorities because the system is so off-putting, says a new report.

Welsh Children's Commissioner Peter Clarke said complaints and whistleblowing procedures were rarely accessible or promoted.

His report, "Children don't complain and it's no wonder", takes its title from one education director's comment.

His recommendations include a "one-stop shop" in each Welsh county.

This is Mr Clarke's second report on systems for protecting the rights and welfare of children, and relates only to arrangements in local education authorities.

The systems themselves are rarely child-friendly or accessible, and are not actively promoted
Peter Clarke

It follows a report three years ago on systems in local councils' social services departments.

Another report, on the Clywch inquiry, published in 2004, included recommendations on complaints and whistleblowing in schools.

His latest review said education authorities' complaints procedures were likely to discourage children and parents from coming forward.

Mr Clarke called for a "cultural shift" within education departments to ensure that young people were seen as users of services and rights holders, as well as their parents and carers.

'Negative attitude'

He said: "It is hardly surprising that local education authorities receive so few complaints from children and young people given that the systems themselves are rarely child-friendly or accessible, and are not actively promoted."

Peter Clarke, Children's Commissioner for Wales
Mr Clarke says young people should take part in decision-making
The report said education departments should do more to inform children and young people about the services they offer, and to involve them in the process of making decisions.

It said some procedures were "likely to discourage many adults from making a complaint". Education authorities were also found to have too negative an attitude, and they should use lessons learned to improve services.

The report raised particular concerns about children in specialist teaching facilities far from their families. It said there would be many safeguards if they were under the care of social services, but there were few within the education system.

It recommended:

  • A one-stop shop offering a contact point for children and young people in each local authority;

  • Councils should review whistleblowing policies, publicise them and train staff to implement them;

  • Local authorities should commission children's advocacy within education as a priority.


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