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Complaints

Concerns and Complaints

 

 

Concerns and complaints are not necessarily the same thing. A concern is expressed when a parent is makes an enquiry into something that they are unsure about and would like to seek further clarification. It might be that a concern becomes a complaint or it might be that the school can help resolve the issue causing the concern.

 

A complaint is where a parent feels that the school has not handled or dealt with a situation adequately. It is more direct than a concern and usually centres around a specific event or series of events that may or may not have been handled effectively by the school.

 

This policy deals with procedures for handling initial concerns through to making a formal complaint.

 

Concerns

 

It is natural that parents may, occasionally, be concerned about an aspect of their child's education or welfare at school. This could include issues concerning your child’s progress, homework, behaviour, school policy or some other issue.

 

The school welcomes enquiries from parents about any matter. Teachers and staff will explain the school practices, policies, and how they affect the pupils. The vast majority of concerns will be handled by the class teacher. If in doubt, keep asking until you are completely satisfied as all staff are eager to help.

 

The usual format is to speak to the child's class teacher in the first instance, or to contact the school office to arrange an appointment to discuss your concern with whoever you wish. At all times the staff will help to resolve a concern. If occasionally parents feel they must state their concern formally, this too is not a problem. The school has defined procedures for handling complaints so don't be embarrassed if you feel an issue warrants more attention.

 

 

The fact that schools must, by law, have a complaints policy need not in any way undermine efforts to resolve concerns informally. In most cases the class teacher should be the first to be approached with a concern.

 

 

Complaints

 

 

For complaints from parents of pupils, this procedure must comply with The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and offer :

 

- an opportunity to resolve the complaint with the academy on an informal basis, for example through discussion with a senior member of staff;

 

- a formal complaint stage when the complaint is made in writing and usually responded to by the chair of governors; and

 

- a hearing with a panel set up by the academy trust, comprising at least three people not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint, one of whom must be independent of the management and running of the school.

 

This policy has due regard for The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014.

 

 

 

Complaints Procedures

 

Concerns and complaints from parents, carers and others are handled under the following general procedures.

 

The procedure is divided into three stages:

 

Stage 1 aims to resolve the concern/complaint through informal contact with the appropriate person in the school.

 

Stage 2 is the first formal stage at which written concerns/complaints are considered by the Headteacher.

 

Stage 3 is the next stage once Stage 2 has been worked through.  It involves a complaints review panel of governors.

 

 

Beyond the Governing Body (Stage 3), the final recourse for a complainant is to the Education Funding Agency.  

 

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) handles complaints about open academies and free schools. Part of their role is to make sure academies comply with the terms of their funding agreement which is a contract between the academy and the Secretary of State.

 

 

How each of these stages operates is explained below:

 

Stage 1 – Your initial contact with the school

 

  • Many concerns will be dealt with informally when you make them known to us.  If the concern is regarding your child’s education, the first point of contact should always be your child’s class teacher before approaching the Headteacher. If your concern is regarding administration, the school office staff might be the most appropriate people to approach.
  • Your child’s class teacher or relevant person will arrange to meet with you, or contact you by telephone or in writing. This will happen as soon as possible after your concern is made known to us.  All members of staff know how to refer, if necessary, to the appropriate person with responsibility for particular issues raised by you.  If it is appropriate, he or she will make a clear note of the details and will check later to make sure that the matter has been followed up.
  • We will ensure that you are clear what action or monitoring of the situation, if any, has been agreed. 
  • We will ensure that we speak directly to all appropriate persons who may be able to assist us with our enquiries into your concern.
  • We will discuss with you the progress of our enquiries.  You will have the opportunity of asking for the matter to be considered further, once we have responded to your concern.
  • If you are still dissatisfied following this informal approach after approaching the most relevant person and the Headteacher, you may wish to make a written formal complaint.

 

 

 

Stage 2 - Formal consideration of your complaint

 

This stage in our procedures deals with written complaints.  It applies where you are not happy with the informal approach to dealing with your concern, as outlined under Stage 1 above.

 

  • Normally, your written complaint should be addressed to the Headteacher.  If, however, your complaint concerns the Headteacher personally, it should be sent to the school marked “For the attention of the Chair of Governors” . 
  • We will acknowledge your complaint in writing, telephone call or in person as soon as possible after receiving it.  This will normally be within three working days. 
  • We will enclose a copy of these procedures with the acknowledgement. 
  • Normally we would expect to respond in full within ten working days but if this is not possible we will write to explain the reason for the delay and let you know when we hope to be able to provide a full response.
  • As part of our consideration of your complaint, we may invite you to a meeting to discuss the complaint and fill in any details required.  If you wish, you can ask someone to accompany you to help you explain the reasons for your complaint.
  • The Headteacher, or Chair of Governors may also be accompanied by a suitable person if they wish.
  • Following the meeting, the Headteacher or Chair of Governors will, where necessary, talk to witnesses and take statements from others involved.  If the complaint centres on a pupil, we will talk to the pupil concerned and, where appropriate, others present at the time of the incident in question.
  • We will normally talk to pupils with a parent or carer present, unless this would delay the investigation of a serious or urgent complaint, or where a pupil has specifically said that he or she would prefer the parent or carer not to be involved.  In such circumstances, we will ensure that another member of staff, with whom the pupil feels comfortable, is present.
  • If the complaint is against a member of staff, it will be dealt with under the school’s internal confidential procedures, as required by law.
  • The Headteacher or Chair of Governors will keep written/typed, signed and dated records of all meetings and telephone conversations, and other related documentation regarding a complaint. 
  • Once we have established all the relevant facts, we will send you a written response to your complaint.  This will give a full explanation of the Headteacher’s or Chair of Governors’ decision and the reasons for it.  If follow-up action is needed, we will indicate what we are proposing to do.  We may invite you to a meeting to discuss the outcome as part of our commitment to building and maintaining good relations with you.
  • The person investigating your complaint may decide that we have done all we can to resolve the complaint, in which case we may use our discretion to close the complaint at this point.  Please see the next page for further information about this process.
  • If we do not close the complaint after Stage 2, you may wish to proceed to Stage 3, as described below.

 

 

 

Closure of complaints

 

 

  • Very occasionally, a school will feel that it needs, regretfully, to close an complaint where the complainant is still dissatisfied.   
  • We will do all we can to help to resolve a complaint against the school but sometimes it is simply not possible to meet all of the complainant’s wishes.  Sometimes it is simply a case of “agreeing to disagree”.
  • If a complainant persists in making representations to the school – to the Headteacher, Chair of Governors or anyone else - this can be extremely time-consuming and can detract from our responsibility to look after the interests of all the children in our care.  
  • For this reason, we are entitled to close correspondence (including personal approaches, as well as letters and telephone calls) on a complaint where we feel that we have taken all reasonable action to resolve the complaint. 
  • This does not, of course, prevent you from referring your complaint to the Education Funding Agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage 3 - Consideration by a complaints review panel

 

This is the final stage for a complaint at school level. The complainant will have put in writing to the Chair of Governors the details of the complaint.

 

This stage of the procedures cannot be invoked for complaints about the personal conduct of members of staff; they can only be dealt with by the Headteacher; and concerns about a Headteacher’s personal conduct can only dealt with by the Chair of Governors.

 

Under the school's internal confidential procedures, and as required by employment law, the outcome of any investigation may not be disclosed in detail to the complainant but a letter stating that the matter has been investigated and any appropriate action taken should be sent. 

 

A complaint about a member of the school's governing body can only be heard by a governor panel; and again it is dealt with under the school's internal procedures.

 

The purpose of the governing body complaints review panel is to give the complainant a hearing in front of a panel of governors who are as independent as possible and who can therefore consider the issue without prejudice.

 

The panel will consist of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint. At least one panel member will be independent of the management and running of the school.

 

The aim of the review panel is to establish the facts and make any recommendations necessary to help resolve the complaint and to achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant.

 

However, it has to be recognised that the complainant may not be satisfied with the outcome and it may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations that will re­assure the complainant that the complaint has been taken seriously.

 

Whilst the local authority and the DfE strongly recommend that the review panel be clerked, there is no statutory requirement for the clerk to the Governing Body to carry out this function and therefore, if a school wishes, a member of staff, or an agency clerk employed on a “one-off” basis, can take full and fair notes of the meeting.

 

The panel chair/clerk will aim to arrange the review panel to take place within 20 working days of written notification being received.

 

The Headteacher will be asked to prepare a written report, plus any reports or statements from other members of the staff. The complainant will also be asked if he or she wishes to provide any further written documentation and any witness statements; and whether they wish to have any witnesses present. The Headteacher may wish to have a professional association representative present at the hearing.

 

 

At least five working days before the meeting, the time, date and venue need to be notified to all parties, along with all relevant written reports and statements.

 

Although the complaints review panel is a formal procedure, it should be made as comfortable as possible for the complainant; and the process should be outlined either by letter sent with the other details or before the review hearing starts.

 

The panel hearing allows for a parent to attend and be accompanied at a panel hearing if they wish.

Any recommendations made as a result of the hearing will  :

(i) be provided to the complainant and, where relevant, the person complained about; and

(ii) be available for inspection on the school premises by the proprietor and the headteacher

(iii) action taken by the school as a result of those complaints (regardless of whether they

are upheld); and

(iv) provide that correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints are to be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the 2008 Act requests access to them.

 

 

 

Checklist for a panel hearing

 

  • The panel chair makes the introductions and outlines the proceedings.
  • The complainant is invited to explain the complaint, followed by their witnesses.
  • The panel and Headteacher may question both the complainant and their witnesses.
  • The Headteacher is then invited to explain the school's action and be followed by any school witnesses.
  • The panel and complainant may question both the Headteacher and the witnesses.
  • The chair of the panel has the discretion to adjourn the hearing where new information is introduced – or for other reasons.
  • The complainant is asked to sum up the complaint.
  • The Headteacher is asked to sum up the school's action and response to the complainant.
  • The chair of the panel explains that both parties will hear the panel's decision and/or findings within a set time and both parties are asked to leave while the panel decides on the issues.

 

The letter to all parties will outline the panel's action and should indicate what recourse the complainant might have beyond the governing body.

 

 

If your concern has already been through Stages 1 and 2 and you are not happy with the outcome, we may agree to set up a complaints review panel to consider it.  This is a formal process, and your ultimate recourse at school level.  The Chair of Governors has discretion to agree to this form of meeting where he or she feels it would be helpful in resolving the complaint.

 

The purpose of this arrangement is to give your complaint a hearing in front of a panel of governors who have no prior knowledge of the details of the complaint and who can, therefore, consider it without prejudice.

 

The aim of a complaints review panel is to resolve the complaint and to achieve reconciliation between the school and the parent.  We recognise, however, that it may sometimes only be possible to establish facts and make recommendations which will reassure you that we have taken your complaint seriously.

 

The complaints review panel operates according to the following formal procedures:

 

The clerk to the governing body will aim to arrange for the panel meeting to take place within 20 working days.

 

The clerk will ask you whether you wish to provide any further written documentation in support of your complaint.  You can include witness statements, or ask witnesses to give evidence in person, if you wish. 

 

The Headteacher will be asked to prepare a written report for the panel.  Other members of staff directly involved in matters raised in your complaint will also be asked to prepare reports or statements. 

 

The clerk will inform you, the Headteacher, any relevant witnesses and members of the panel by letter, at least five working days in advance, of the date, time and place of the meeting.   We hope that you will feel comfortable with the meeting taking place in the school; but we will do what we can to make alternative arrangements if you prefer.

 

With the letter, the clerk will send you all relevant correspondence, reports and documentation about the complaint and ask whether you wish to submit further written evidence to the panel. 

 

The letter will explain what will happen at the panel meeting and the clerk will also inform you that you are entitled to be accompanied to the meeting.  The choice of person to accompany you is your own, but it is usually best to involve someone in whom you have confidence but who is not directly connected with the school.  They are there to give you support but also to witness the proceedings and to speak on your behalf if you wish.

 

With the agreement of the chair of the panel, the Headteacher may invite members of staff directly involved in matters raised by you to attend the meeting,

 

The chair of the panel will bear in mind that the formal nature of the meeting can be intimidating for you and will do his or her best to put you at your ease.

 

As a general rule, no evidence or witnesses previously undisclosed should be introduced into the meeting by any of the participants.  If either party wishes to do so, the meeting will be adjourned so that the other party has a fair opportunity to consider and respond to the new evidence.

 

The chair of the panel will ensure that the meeting is properly minuted.  Please understand that any decision to share the minutes with you, the complainant, is a matter for the panel’s discretion and you do not have an automatic right to see or receive a copy.  Since such minutes usually name individuals, they are understandably of a sensitive and, therefore, confidential nature. 

 

Normally, the written outcome of the panel meeting, which will be sent to you, should give you all the information you require.  If, however, you feel that you would like to have a copy of the minutes it would be helpful if you could indicate this in advance.  If the panel is happy for the minutes to be copied to you, the clerk can then be asked maintain confidentiality in the minutes.

 

During the meeting, you can expect there to be opportunities for:

 

  • you to explain your complaint;
  • you to hear the school’s response from the Headteacher;
  • you to question the Headteacher about the complaint;
  • you to be questioned by the Headteacher about the complaint;
  • the panel members to be able to question you and the Headteacher;
  • any party to have the right to call witnesses (subject to the chair’s approval) and all parties to have the right to question all witnesses;
  • you and the Headteacher to make a final statement.

 

In closing the meeting, the chair will explain that the panel will now consider its decision and that written notice of the decision will be sent to the Headteacher and yourself within two weeks.  All participants other than the panel and the clerk will then leave.

 

The panel will then consider the complaint and all the evidence presented in order to:

 

  • reach a unanimous, or at least a majority, decision on the complaint;
  • decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint;
  • recommend, where appropriate, to the governing body changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that similar problems do not happen again.
 

 

 

The Education Funding Agency

 

If the complainant is unhappy with the outcomes of stages 1 through 3, the final recourse is to lodge the complaint with the Education Funding Agency.

 

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) handles complaints about open academies and free schools. Part of their role is to make sure academies comply with the terms of their funding agreement which is a contract between the academy and the Secretary of State.

 

Before submitting a complaint to the EFA your first step should be to make a complaint directly to the academy following its complaints procedure (Stages 1-3).

 

Academies must make available on request a procedure for dealing with complaints from parents of pupils.

 

What the EFA will investigate

 

The EFA  will look at complaints about academies that fall into the following areas:

 

  • undue delay or non-compliance with an academy’s own complaints procedure
  • an academy’s failure to comply with a duty imposed on it under its funding agreement with the Secretary of State
  • an academy’s failure to comply with any other legal obligation, unless there is another organisation better placed to consider the matter

 

 

Complaints from the community

 

Dealing with complaints or concerns from residents is also the responsibility of the school and the governing body. It is important to maintain good relationships with local residents and to that end schools should ensure that any concerns from the community, which tend to be about issues such as litter, unruly pupils, objects landing in gardens and car parking, are dealt with in a similar way to a complaint from a parent or other legal representative of the child.

 

In the event of an incident giving rise to a complaint, a prompt and courteous reply - with perhaps an expression of regret for any inconvenience caused - will go a long way to maintaining the school's good name and standing in the community.

 

It is the responsibility of the governing body of the school to ensure that any third party, such as a sports or social club, offering community facilities or services through the school premises, or using school facilities, has its own complaints procedures in place.

 

Complaints about members of staff

If the complaint is about the personal conduct of a member of staff, including the Headteacher, it will be dealt with under the school's internal confidential (disciplinary) procedures, as required under employment law, and the detailed outcome of any investigation will not be disclosed to the complainant.

This type of complaint cannot be  progressed to Stage 3 as the complaints review panel does not deal with (potential) staff disciplinary matters. 

 

Investigating complaints

 

At each stage of the concern or complaint, the person responsible ensures that the following steps are followed as far as possible:

 

  • Clarify the exact nature of the concern or complaint and what is unresolved; sometimes one concern can be masking other underlying issues.

 

  • Contact the complainant if necessary if unsure, or if more information is required.

 

  • Establish what has happened and who has been involved.

 

  • Ask what the complainant feels would resolve the issue.

 

  • Notify members of staff concerned, if appropriate.

 

  • Express regret over the issue. This is not an admission of liability, but it may go a long way to appeasing the complainant.

 

  • Interview those involved, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish; keep an open mind.

 

  • Keep notes of all interviews and all investigations, including telephone calls. Ensure that the complainant is aware that you are taking notes.

 

  • Try to keep to your response times; if not possible, send an interim letter.

 

  • Keep all parties informed of the steps/action being taken?

 

 

 

Compliments

 

These are always welcome and very encouraging to teachers and staff. The school encourages feedback or opinions from pupils and parents. In practice this dialogue is continuous, sometimes directly and also indirectly, for example, through the Friends of Stisted Academy. It may not always be possible to act immediately but pupils and the school always benefit so please don't hold back.

 

 

 

Action flow-chart

 

 

Concern raised                          Stage 1 :       Can this be resolved informally by Class

   teacher, Headteacher or other appropriate 

   member of staff?

 

       
   
 

 

 

 

Yes

No

                                                                                                                                                                  

 

 

                                           
     
 
   

Stage 2 : Escalate to Headteacher in writing.

 
     

Discuss the concern and seek an outcome as appropriate to all parties. Closure.

 
 
   
 
   
   
       

Report, as above

     
 
 
 
   
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

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