This complaints policy has been revised:
- Using the Trafford Policy on Complaints revised in January 2016
- The DFE best practice advice for School Complaints 2016
About This Policy
This policy sets out the most effective process for dealing with the majority of complaints which are not covered by alternative statutory procedures. In most cases any concern or complaint, regardless of whose attention it is initially brought to, should be discussed informally (stage 1) before being submitted at any of the following consecutive formal stages.
Who is Allowed to Complain?
This policy may be used by anyone who has a concern or complaint about any aspect of the school. In the main this will mean the parents and carers of the school’s pupils, but may include neighbours of the school, or any other members of the local community.
Aims and Objectives of the Policy
This complaints policy aims to:
- Encourage the resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible
- Ensure that concerns are dealt with quickly and within clearly defined time limits
- Provide effective responses
- Maintain good working relationships between all people involved with the school
At all stages of the complaints procedure, the following information should be recorded:
- The name of the complainant
- The date and time at which complaint was made
- The details of the complaint
- How the complaint is investigated
- Results and conclusions of investigations
- Any action taken
- The complainant’s response
Normally a complaint is managed by the person with the best knowledge of the situation and who can provide a speedy resolution of the issue. This may be a Head of Department or Head of House, a member of the senior leadership and the headteacher. When this is the case, this individual will have the responsibility for the operation of the school complaints policy and will be responsible for securing a resolution. Records should be retained.
Upholding or Not Upholding Complaints
At each stage of the complaints procedure, the conclusion will be either:
1. That the complaint is upheld (in part or in full) and action is taken.
2. That the complaint is not upheld and reasons for this are clearly given.
In the first instance, it may be appropriate to offer one or more of the following:
- an apology
- an explanation
- an assurance that the event complained of will not recur
- an undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint
Publicity and Communication
This policy will be made available via the School Office and on the website. It may be included within the information given to new parents when their children join the school. All staff and members of the governing body are made aware of the complaints procedure and the various stages involved.
Confidentiality is vital. All conversations and correspondence will be treated with discretion. Complainants have the right to know what use will be made of personal information and, accordingly, personal information will only be shared between staff on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Equal Access, Accompaniment and Representation
Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that any individual has the opportunity to raise their concerns or submit a formal complaint. This includes the right to be accompanied by a friend or relative at discussions and hearings.
If a complaint concerns the Headteacher, the governing body will undertake the investigation and if necessary, involve the diocese and local authority.
The Headteacher or Chair of Governors can write to a complainant and refuse to consider their complaint if he or she feels that there are insufficient grounds to do so, if the complaint has already been considered at this stage or if it has been closed. In both cases, the complainant has the right to take their complaint to Trafford Council.
Unreasonably Persistent, Harassing or Abusive Complainants
The headteacher and governing body are fully committed to the improvement of our school. We welcome feedback from parents and will always try to resolve any concerns as quickly as possible. There is a procedure for parents to use if they wish to make a formal complaint. Sometimes, however, parents or carers pursuing complaints or other issues treat staff and others in a way that is unacceptable. We will not accept threatening or abusive behaviour towards any member of staff.
What do we mean by ‘an unreasonably persistent complainant’?
An unreasonably persistent complainant may be anyone who engages in unreasonable behaviour when making a complaint. This will include persons who pursue complaints in an unreasonable manner. Unreasonable behaviour may include:
- Actions which are out of proportion to the nature of the complaint, or persistent – even when the complaints procedure has been exhausted
- Using abusive or threatening language or making complaints in public or via social media
- Deliberately targeted at one or more members of school staff
What does the school expect of any person wishing to raise a concern?
The school expects anyone who wishes to raise concerns with the school to:
- treat all members of the school community with courtesy and respect
- respect the needs of pupils and staff within the school
- avoid threatening or abusive behaviour
- recognise the pressures staff work under and understand not all complaints can be dealt with immediately
- follow the school’s complaints procedure.
Unreasonably persistent complaints or harassment
In cases of unreasonably persistent complaints or harassment, the school may take some or all of the following steps:
- inform the complainant informally that his/her behaviour is now considered by the school to be unreasonable or unacceptable, and request a changed approach
- inform the complainant that, except in emergencies, the school will respond only to written communication
Physical or Verbal Aggression
The governing body will not tolerate any form of physical or verbal aggression against members of the school community. If there is evidence of such the school may:
- ban the individual from entering the school site, with immediate effect
- request an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
- prosecute under Anti-Harassment legislation
- call the police to remove the individual from the premises, under powers provided by the Education Act 1996.
Stage 1(Informal): Complaint heard by Staff Member
It is in everyone’s interest that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. If a complaint can be settled by a Head of Department or Head of House then this ensures any issue is dealt with speedily. If there is an issue with your child’s progress in a lesson or if there is a behaviour matter in school the stage 1 is the best place to deal with it and with the person who knows most about the issue.
So that there is complete clarity about the nature of the complaint at stage 1 it is advisable that this be communicated in writing, and if not, by telephone or face to face. It may be that a member of staff is teaching and therefore it may be necessary to leave a message or to wait until a time when they are free.
Stage 1 is also the point at which a complaint received by the Headteacher may be passed to another member of staff to deal with and this will be communicated to the parent. This process should take no longer than 5 school days.
Stage 2(Formal): Complaint heard by Headteacher
If at this point a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome then this is then passed to a senior leader in the school who will review all the information received under stage 1 and talk to the complainant about why he/she is dissatisfied. The senior leader will consider the evidence and decide the outcome.
If the Headteacher deals with the complaint at stage 2 he may delegate the task of collecting the information to another staff member but not the decision on the action to be taken.
Stage 2(Formal): Complaint heard by Chair of Governors
If the complainant is about the Headteacher or a Governor, the complainant should write to the Chair of Governors to request that their complaint is considered further. If the complaint is regarding the Headteacher or a Governor, it will be investigated by the Chair of Governors who may conduct the investigation him/herself, delegate it to another Governor or commission an independent investigation. The Chair should seek advice from the Clerk to Governors and if necessary, HR and Legal Advisors.
Stage 3(Final School Based Stage): Complaint heard by Complaints Appeal Panel
If the complaint remains unresolved following the response of the Headteacher and Chair of Governors, the complainant usually needs to write to the Clerk to the Governing Body giving details of the complaint and asking that it is put before the appeal panel. The Clerk will convene a complaints appeal panel.
The governors’ appeal hearing is the last school-based stage of the complaints process and is not convened merely to rubber-stamp previous decisions. Individual complaints would not be heard by the whole GB at any stage, as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up for a disciplinary hearing against a member of staff following a serious complaint.
The Complaints Appeal Panel will be constituted by Governors subject to availability and impartiality. The Panel will have delegated powers to; hear complaints; set out its terms of reference and procedures; hear individual appeals; make recommendations on policy as a result of complaints. The panel can be drawn from the nominated members and may consist of three or five people. The panel may choose their own Chair.
The Remit of the Complaints Appeal Panel
The panel can:
- dismiss the complaint in whole or in part;
- uphold the complaint in whole or in part;
- decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint;
- recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
The Role of the Clerk
The department strongly recommends that any panel or group of governors considering complaints be clerked. The clerk would be the contact point for the complainant and be required to:
- set the date, time and venue of the hearing, ensuring that the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible
- collate any written material and send it to the parties in advance of the hearing (recommended at least five school days in advance)
- meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing
- record the proceedings by taking discursive minutes
- notify all parties of the panel’s decision
The Clerk should share copies of the panel meeting minutes with all parties involved in the panel hearing, providing a reasonable opportunity for the minutes to be agreed or challenged.
The Role of the Chair of the Panel
The Chair of the Panel has a key role, ensuring that:
- the remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption
- the issues are addressed
- key findings of fact are made
- parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease;
- the hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy;
- the panel is open minded and acting independently
- no member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure
- each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions
- written material is seen by all parties. If a new issue arises it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to consider and comment on it.
Notification of the Panel’s Decision
The Chair of the Panel needs to ensure that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision, in writing, with the panel’s response (including the reasons for the decision); this is usually within a set deadline which is publicised in the procedure. The letter needs to explain if there are any further rights of appeal and, if so, to whom they need to be addressed.
Adopted by Governing Body March 2017
To be reviewed in March 2018