Complaints Procedure

COMPLAINTS POLICY AND PROCEDURE

Agreed by Local School Committee: Autumn 2019

Review Autumn 2020

Information for Dealing with Complaints

 

Every well governed and well managed school will from time to time have to deal with complaints from parents, visitors, members of the community. Beckfoot Trust will know that most concerns and complaints are resolved informally by the school staff and Head teacher. Comparatively few complaints lead to a formal process, but some do, and the Trust must be sure that informal and formal procedures are in place, understood and followed.

 

What kind of complaints?

This paper describes a procedure for dealing with complaints:

  • It can be used to resolve complaints about the way school is run or about the way a school policy has been implemented. Most of these complaints are about decisions which affect a particular pupil or pupils.
  • It cannot be used to resolve matters where other legal procedures already apply. For example staff discipline, special educational needs, admissions and exclusions.

 

Who can complain and when?

This procedure applies to complaints made by:

  • parents of pupils currently or recently at the school.
  • people who either have 'parental responsibility' for a pupil or who care for him or her, but are not the pupil’s parents.
  • pupils aged 18 years and over.
  • Visitors or members of the community.

Note: Complaints must be presented within three months of the action or matter complained of.

Beckfoot Trust has given responsiblity for the Complaints policy to the Local School Committee (LSC).

What action should the LSC take? 

The LSC should:

  1. Approve and adopt a written Complaints Procedure.
  2. Appoint a Complaints Appeal Committee of two or three members when needed. Staff and Teacher member are advised not to serve on the Committee due to the potential for conflict of interest.

How does the complaints procedure work?

The procedure is based on informal and formal stages. The informal stage involves trying to resolve the matter as quickly as possible with first the class teacher or the Head teacher and must be tried first. Only if the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome or the matter cannot be resolved by this individual should the matter be referred to the formal stage with the Head teacher or the LSC.

Where a complaint is initially sent to the Chair of the LSC or the Trust, the matter should be referred back to the Head teacher for it to be dealt with under the procedures below.

Exceptions

There are two exceptions to the procedure above:

A complaint may appear to be sufficiently serious that it should be referred straight through to the formal procedure, or

  1. A complaint may clearly relate to breaches of discipline by a staff member, in which case this procedure would not apply and personnel advice should be sought.

Beckfoot Phoenix School Complaints Procedure

Informal Stage – Where to complain?

Stage 1 - Appropriate member of staff

Parents, visitors, members of the community should be given the opportunity to discuss their concerns with an appropriate member of staff, such as the class teacher.

  • In many cases concerns and complaints are resolved at this early part of the informal stage.
  • If the concern remains unresolved the staff member should advise them that they may complain to the Headteacher.

Stage 2 - Headteacher

The Headteacher should:

  • Meet with the person making the complaint and obtain full details of the complaint.
  • Discuss this with the member of staff involved.
  • Where a complaint concerns a pupil that pupil should normally be interviewed.
  • Ensure written records are kept of all meetings, telephone discussions, and any other relevant documents.
  • Consider all the facts and reach a conclusion.
  • Write to the person making the complaint giving a full explanation of the decision, the reasons for it and, where appropriate, what action the school proposes to take. The letter should inform the parent that if they are not satisfied with the outcome they may complain to the Chair of the LSC within 10 school days.

Stage 3 - Chair of Governors

a)    If a complaint has been through stages 1 and 2, the Chair would normally pass the complaint straight to the Complaints Appeal Committee unless it is clear that the matter can be immediately resolved.

b)  A complaint against the Headteacher should be referred straight to the Chair of LSC and should be discussed with Beckfoot Trust's CEO:

This would usually involve the Chair speaking with the person making the complaint and the Headteacher to ascertain whether or not the complaint can be resolved at this informal meeting.

  • If the matter cannot be resolved and the complaint falls within the scope of the procedure the Chair should then refer the complaint straight to the Complaints Appeal Committee.
  • If the Chair has had some prior involvement in the matter which is being complained of he or she should ask the vice-chair to undertake this role instead of the Chair.

Stage 4 - Beckfoot Trust - for more information: www.beckfoottrust.org

Stage 5 – OFSTED for more information: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. That inspects and

regulates services that care for children and young people.

Formal Stage

The Complaints Appeal Committee of the LSC deals with any complaint which has reached the formal stage.

This involves: 

1. Receiving the complaint

2. Investigating the complaint

3. Making a decision on the complaint

4. Reporting the decision of the Complaints Appeal Committee to the Governing Body.

  

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.

 There are several points which any members sitting on a complaints appeal panel needs to remember:

   (a)        It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. No member may sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it. In deciding the make-up of the panel, members need to try and ensure that it is a cross-section so that the panel is sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
 

(b)        The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it has to be recognised the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour. It may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously.

  (c)        An effective panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting. Parents often feel emotional when discussing an issue that affects their child. The panel chair should ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible. The layout of the room should set the tone and care should be taken to ensure the setting is informal and not adversarial.

(d)        Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child. Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child does not feel intimidated. The panel needs to be aware of the views of the child and give them equal consideration to those of adults. Where the child’s parent is the complainant, it would be helpful to give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend.

  (e)        The members sitting on the panel need to be aware of the complaints procedure.  

 

Roles and Responsibilities

The Role of the Clerk

The Department for Education (DfE) strongly recommends that any panel or group 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;
  • meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing;
  • record the proceedings (in certain circumstances it may be advisable to appoint a clerk independent to the school, to take the notes of the meeting);
  • notify all parties of the panel’s decision.

The Role of the Chair of the LSC

 check that the correct procedure has been followed;  

  • if a hearing is appropriate, notify the clerk to arrange the panel;

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; within 5 working days of the hearing.

The letter will explain that there are no further rights of appeal to the governing body and if the complainant wishes to take the matter further they need to write to the Secretary of State for Education, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT or on line at http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/schoolperformance/school-complaints-form

 

 1. Receiving the complaint

The Complaints Appeal Committee should try to meet as soon as possible after the complaint is received to agree and be clear about what needs to be done and draw up a timetable for doing it.

The Chair of the Complaints Appeal Committee should write to the person making the complaint to:

  • explain that the committee is now dealing with the complaint
  • confirm that the committee has received a copy of any written complaint
  • set out what appears to be the nature of the complaint and to invite the complainant to send any further written information about the complaint
  • set out the committee's timescale for dealing with the complaint
  • invite the person making the complaint to meet the committee to give full details of their complaint, and inform them they may be accompanied by a friend or representative
  • set a reasonable deadline for reply by the person making the complaint, and make it clear that if       there is no response by this deadline the committee will proceed on the basis of the information it already has.

If the person making the complaint accepts the invitation to meet the Committee, arrangements should be made to make this as easy as possible. The Committee may wish to consider the most appropriate time and place for the meeting to take place and whether other facilities such as providing an interpreter would be helpful.

The committee should also write to the person(s) complained of informing him/her of the complaint and explaining that they will be given the opportunity to give their version of events.

The purpose of all the above is to find out precisely what the complaint is about and to inform the complainant of the procedure and timescale.

 2. Investigating the complaint

The Committee must meet to discuss the complaint and decide what information they need, who they may need to interview in addition to the person(s) complained of and what questions will need to be asked.

  • The interviews can proceed with prepared questions followed by other questions if necessary, and the people being interviewed should be asked if they have anything to add. Answers to the questions should be carefully recorded and the people being interviewed should be asked to sign the record of answers.
  • The investigation is not a staff disciplinary investigation.
  • Following interviews with staff it may be necessary to ask for further information from the person making the complaint.
  • The complainant and the person(s) who is the subject of the complaint should be informed if there is any delay in the investigation process.
  • When the Complaints Appeal Committee is satisfied that it has all the available information it will consider the complaint and all the evidence. Governors serving on the committee should all try to reach an agreed decision and should decide what should be done to resolve the complaint.
  • It may be possible for the Complaints Appeal Committee to recommend changes to school policies or procedures to prevent the same problem arising in the future. 

3. Making the decision

The Complaints Appeal Committee must make its decision on the basis of the information in their possession.

  • It should produce an investigation report which documents its decision. This would need to be produced if the complainant was to refer the matter to the Secretary of State.
  • This report is usually written by the Chair of the Committee.
  • The investigation report will be brief and will usually keep the names of the pupil, parents and people interviewed confidential. Its purpose is to:

o   Summarise the evidence gathered

o   Give the decisions made by the Complaints Appeal Committee

o   Give any recommendations made by the Complaints Appeal Committee to prevent a recurrence.

Where conflicting versions of events have been given it should be clear from the report why one version has been preferred over the other.

  • In very few cases it could happen that one of the recommendations is for the Trust/LSC to hold a formal disciplinary investigation to find out if staff disciplinary action is necessary. In this case the Complaints Appeal Committee should seek the advice of the Human Resource Service before the investigation report is issued.

 The decisions and recommendations of the Committee should be:

­Sent to the person making the complaint with the information that if the Trust's response has failed to satisfy the person making the complaint he or she may complain to the Secretary of State for Education on the grounds that the Trust has failed to discharge its statutory duties. The formal School Complaints From can be found at http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/schoolperformance/school-complaints-form

 

 4. Reporting the decision

The outcome of the complaint should be reported to the Trust.