It is recognised that parents/ carers will, from time to time, have formal and legitimate concerns about the progress, achievement, behaviour and welfare of their son / daughter. Parents are encouraged to make these concerns known to school staff so that they can be addressed in partnership.
We hope that any complaints can be addressed informally but if, after attempting to do this, a parent is still concerned then they may raise this in a formal way.
This policy is designed partly as a guide to aid staff on duty as Receptionists. It is acknowledged that
Reception duty is a difficult task requiring skill, tact and diplomacy. In many instances, Receptionists will need to ‘think on their feet’ and this policy is not intended to replace the high level of spontaneous professionalism already in evidence.
We have a duty to respond to complaints promptly, courteously and fairly. As such, it is important that when a caller / visitor becomes angry or rude, the member of staff should seek to terminate the call / conversation by advising the caller that a member of the SLT will recommence the call / conversation. The handset may then be replaced or the conversation ended and the relevant member of SLT advised accordingly.
Complaints about the School Phoned in to Reception
1. If a parent or member of the public phones with a concern or complaint relating to any aspect of school activity (homework, disciplinary issue, school policy, member of staff, etc.) the Receptionist should:
- Make a note of the caller’s name, brief details relating to any School pupil(s) involved, brief details of the concern, who the caller wishes to speak to, and the time of the call
- If the complaint relates to a member of staff, the Receptionist should attempt to put the call through to a member of the SLT – preferably the line manager of this member of staff. If no-one is available, a note should be taken of the caller’s number and time received and an assurance given to the caller that he/she will be contacted within 24 hours. A note relaying details of the complaint, including the time received, should then immediately be given to the Business Manager who will ensure it is passed on to the appropriate member of the SLT without delay.
- If the complaint concerns other matters related to a pupil in a particular year group or subject area, the Receptionist should attempt to put the call through to the appropriate Head of Year / Curriculum Leader. If this is not possible, a note should be taken of the caller’s number, and the time of the call, with an assurance that he/she will be contacted within 24 hours. A note relaying details of the complaint should then immediately be placed in Head of Year’s / Curriculum Leader’s pigeon hole, with a requirement to establish contact within 24 hours. The Business Manager should also be notified so that he/she can ensure that a response can be provided within 24 hours.
- The member of staff dealing with the complaint should make an initial rapid response to the caller to ascertain the details of the concern, and respond accordingly. If pupils are involved, a note relating to the outcome should be placed on the pupil’s file. If the complaint relates to a member of staff, the correct procedure must be followed (see internal procedure for complaints).
2. Complaints about the School Made in Person at Reception
NB: As with all visitors, no complainant should ever be allowed to go beyond the waiting area unchallenged. If any visitor does so, and refuses to return, a member of SLT should be sent for and the Police (999) phoned immediately.
- If a parent/member of the public comes into Reception to make a complaint, brief details relating to the nature of the complaint should be noted, and the complainant asked to wait in the waiting area.
If there is concern that the complainant is in an obviously angry/ agitated state, a member of SLT should be alerted immediately, and assistance sought as appropriate.
- When dealing face to face with a complainant, members of staff should ensure they use their professional judgement concerning the possible need for a witness and also concerning their own personal safety. If possible, they should ensure they are in a position to summon assistance, if required. However, it must be remembered that the vast majority of complainants communicate their concerns calmly, reasonably and politely.
- If the complainant relates to a member of staff, an attempt should be made to locate a member of SLT.
- If this is not possible, then contact details should be taken and an assurance given that a member of SLT will contact the complainant within 24 hours. A note relating to the visit (its time) and the complaint should then be handed to the Business Manager who will ensure it is passed on to the appropriate member of SLT without delay.
- If the complainant is calm and polite, and the complaint relates to a pupil(s) in a particular year/subject, an attempt should be made to locate the appropriate Head of Year / Curriculum Leader. If she/he cannot be located, then contact details should be taken of the caller’s contact number, with an assurance given that they will be contacted within 24 hours.
3. Complaints about the School Received by Members of Staff
- When dealing face to face with a complainant, members of staff should ensure that they use their professional judgement concerning the possible need for a witness, and also concerning their own safety. The vast majority of complainants communicate their concerns calmly, reasonably and politely.
- We have a duty to respond to complaints promptly, courteously and fairly. If a complainant becomes angry or rude, the member of staff should seek to terminate the interview and suggest that it is recommenced with a member of the SLT present.
- Notes should be taken as a matter of course when members of staff are informed of a complaint.
- If the complaint is such that it requires either investigation by the member of staff, or referral to SLT, the complainant should be read a brief summary of the notes taken to ensure accuracy, should be told to whom it is being referred if that is the case, and should be assured that a proper investigation of their concerns will occur. They should also be assured that someone will contact them within the next 3 working days.
- If the complaint is such that it needs to be referred then a written summary of the concern should be made to a member of SLT immediately. If the concern is judged to be serious (i.e. an allegation that a member of staff is guilty of striking a child) then the note should be handed to a member of the SLT in person at the soonest opportunity, and certainly in less than an hour of the allegation being made.
- Whoever finally resolves the complaint, it is important that a note is placed on the file of any pupil directly involved.
- If the complaint received was by letter sent to a teacher, this should automatically be referred to a Head of Year / Curriculum Leader. If a letter is sent in reply and the matter is felt to be contentious, the letter of reply should first be discussed with a member of the SLT.
If the complaint involves an allegation of possible misconduct by a member of staff, this will be investigated by a member of SLT who will follow the procedures identified. Complaints of this nature will not normally be appropriate for investigation by staff other than SLT.
- It is a fact that the vast majority of concerns are resolved effectively, fairly and to everyone’s satisfaction. It is important for everyone concerned that all complaints received by the School, by whatever means, are responded to in a professional manner, and promptly.
General principles of complaints
Dealing With Complaints – Initial Concerns
These procedures deal with complaints but the underlying principle is that concerns should be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures. The complaints procedure does not in any way undermine efforts to resolve concerns informally.
Dealing With Complaints – Formal Procedures
The formal procedures will need to be invoked when initial attempts to resolve a concern have been unsuccessful and the complainant remains dissatisfied and wishes to take the matter further.
At each stage, the person investigating the complaint must ensure they:-
- Seek to establish what has happened and who has been involved
- Clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved
- Meet the complainant or contact them (if unsure or further information is required)
- Clarify what the complainant feels would put things right
- Interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied, if they wish
- Conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning
- Keep notes of the interview
At each stage in the procedure, schools will want to keep in mind ways in which a complaint can be resolved. It might be sufficient to acknowledge that the complaint is valid in whole or in part. In addition, it may be appropriate to offer one or more of the following:-
- An explanation
- An admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better
- An assurance that the event complained of will not recur
- An explanation of the steps that have been taken to ensure it will not recur
- An undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint
There may be occasions when, despite all stages of the procedures having been followed, the complainant remains dissatisfied. If the complainant tries to reopen the same issue, the chair of the Governing Body is able to inform them in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed.
Complaints need to be considered, and resolved, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The complainant should be kept informed of the process, in a reasonable way, and the timing of the process being followed.
Formal Complaints Procedure
The Stages Of Complaints
Stage 1 – complaint heard by staff member (though not the subject of the complaint)
Stage 2 – complaint heard by Headteacher
Stage 3 – complaint heard by Governing Body’s complaints appeal panel
Stage One – Complaint Heard by Staff Member
It is in everyone’s interest that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. The experience of the first contact between the complainant and the school can be crucial in determining whether the complaint will escalate. To that end, if staff are made aware of the procedures, they know what to do when they receive a complaint.
The School respects the views of a complainant who indicates that he/she would have difficulty discussing a complaint with a particular member of staff. In these cases, the complainant can be referred to another staff member. Where the complaint concerns the Headteacher, the complainant can be referred to the Chair of Governors.
Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels too compromised to deal with a complaint, the complainant will be referred to another staff member. The member of staff may be more senior, but does not have to be. The ability to consider the complaint objectively and impartially is crucial.
Where the first approach is made to a governor, the next step would be to refer the complainant to the appropriate person and advise them about the procedure. Governors should not act unilaterally on an individual complaint outside the formal procedure or be involved at the early stages in case they are needed to sit on a panel at a later stage of the procedure.
Stage Two – Complaint Heard by Headteacher
The Headteacher’s influence will already have shaped the way complaints are handled in the school. At this point, the complainant may be dissatisfied with the way the complaint was handled at stage one and/or will want to continue to pursue their initial complaint. The Headteacher may delegate the task of collating the information to another staff member but not the decision on the action to be taken.
Stage Three – Complaint Heard by Governing Bodies Complaints Appeal Panel
The complainant needs to write to the Chair of Governors, via the school, giving details of the complaint. The Chair, or a nominated governor, will convene a governing body complaints panel.
The governors appeal hearing is the last school-based stage of the complaints process and is not convened to merely rubberstamp previous decisions.
Individual complaints would not be heard by the whole governing body 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 governing body may nominate a number of members with delegated powers to hear complaints at that stage, and set out its terms of reference. These can include:- Drawing up its procedures Hearing individual appeals
Making recommendations on policies 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 Complaints 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 governor sitting on a complaints panel needs to remember:
- It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. No governor may sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it. In deciding the makeup of the panel, governors need to try and ensure that it is a cross-section of the categories of governor and sensitive to any issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
- 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 that the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour. It may only be possible for the panel to establish the facts and make recommendations which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously.
- 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 will ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible. The room layout will set the tone and care is needed to ensure the setting is informal, inclusive and not adversarial.
- Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child. Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child feels as relaxed as possible. 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 or guardian is the complainant, it would be helpful to give the parent/guardian the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend.
- The complainant may wish to bring another person to support them at the hearing.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Role of the Clerk
Any panel or group of governors considering complaints should be clerked. The clerk would be the contact point for the complainant and be required to:-
- Ensure the complainant understands the process
- 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
- Notify all parties of the panel’s decision
- Ensure written records are stored in a confidential secure place and that these records show clearly the outcome of any investigation
The Role of the Chair of the Governing Body or the Nominated Governor
The nominated governor role should:-
- Ensure that the correct procedure is/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 details of the complaint are clear and agreed The remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of presenting their case without due 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.
- A decision is taken by the panel and communicated to all relevant parties.
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, findings and recommendations within 48 hours. The letter needs to explain if there are any further rights of appeal and, if so, to whom they need to be addressed.
Notification of the Panel’s Decision
This letter should be circulated to the complainant, the Headteacher and when relevant, the person complained about. The panel needs to take the following points into account:-
- The hearing is as informal as possible
- Witnesses are only required to attend for the part of the hearing in which they give their evidence
- After introductions, the complainant is invited to explain their complaint, and be followed by their witnesses
- The Headteacher may question both the complainant and the witnesses after each has spoken
- The Headteacher is then invited to explain the school’s action and be followed by the school’s witnesses
- The complainant may question both the Headteacher and the witnesses after each has spoken
- The panel may ask questions at any point
- The complainant is then invited to sum up their complaint
- The Headteacher is then invited to sum up the school’s actions and response to the complaint
- The chair explains that both parties will hear the panel’s decision within a set time scale Both parties leave together while the panel decides on the issues
School Complaints Procedure: Summary of Dealing with Complaints
Stage 1: Complaint heard by staff member If issue not resolved, then:
Stage 2:Complaint heard by Headteacher If issue not resolved, then:
Stage 3: Governors complaints panel meeting arranged