Concerns and Complaints Policy
Since 1 September 2003 Governing Bodies (GBs) of all maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England were required, under Section 29 of the Education Act 2002, to have a procedure in place to deal with complaints relating to the school and to any community facilities or services that the school provides. This does not limit complainants to parents or carers of pupils registered at Kilmorie, a complainant could be member of the wider community or another stakeholder. The DFE’s January 2016 best practice advice document for school complaints procedures underpins this policy.
Dealing with Complaints – Initial Concerns
Through the building of positive relationships and effective communication we aim to ensure that parents and carers and other stakeholders feel able to voice any concerns in an informal way. Concerns ought to be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures. We hope that by taking informal concerns seriously at the earliest stage we will reduce the number that develop into formal complaints. However, formal complaints should always follow the complaints procedure.
Often a first approach may be made to a class teacher or a member of the administration staff and they will try and resolve issues on the spot. This may include offering a clear explanation; in some cases accepting that a situation could have been handled better; in other cases an apology may be appropriate.
If you are worried about something that has happened in school concerning your child, talk to the class teacher initially, before or after school or by making an appointment via the School Office, giving an outline of your concern. If this does not resolve the concern the Assistant Head Teachers responsible for your child’s phase can be contacted via the school office or are often at the school gate at the end of the day.
If a member of the wider community or another stakeholder then please contact the school office initially with your concern.
Dealing with Complaints – Formal Procedures
Framework of Principles
If informal procedures do not resolve the issue, the school’s formal procedures aim to be swift, fair, impartial and non-adversarial.
An effective complaints procedure will:
- encourage resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible;
- be easily accessible and publicised;
- be simple to understand and use;
- be impartial;
- be non-adversarial;
- allow swift handling with established time-limits for action and keeping people informed of the progress;
- ensure a full and fair investigation by an independent person where necessary;
respect people’s desire for confidentiality;
- address all the points at issue and provide an effective response and appropriate redress, where necessary;
- provide information to the school’s senior management team so that services can be improved.
We expect parents and staff to talk to each other with respect and to listen carefully to what each other has to say.
At each stage, the person investigating the complaint must ensure that they:
- establish what has happened so far, and who has been involved;
- clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved;
- meet with the complainant or contact them (if unsure or if further information is required);
- clarify what the complainant feels would put things right;
- interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained about, 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 the school will 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 apology;
- 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 that it will not happen again;
- an undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint.
Complainants will be encouraged to state what actions they feel might resolve the problem at any stage. An admission that the school could have handled the situation better is not the same as an admission of negligence.
Persistent and Unreasonable Complainants
The aim of our policy is to limit the number of complaints that become protracted. However, there may be occasions when, despite all stages of the procedure being followed, the complainant remains dissatisfied.
If the complainant tries to reopen the same issue, the chair of the GB will inform them in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed.
Further information about the school’s approach to dealing with persistent complainants can be found in the policy for unreasonable complainants.
Complaints need to be considered and resolved, as quickly, and efficiently as possible. Realistic time limits for each action within each stage will be set and notified to the complainant. However, where further investigations are necessary, new time limits can be set. The complainant will be sent details of the new deadline and an explanation for the delay.
It is reasonable to expect parents/carers to make a complaint as soon as possible after an incident arises and at least within three months. There may, however be good reasons why this is not the case and consideration will be given to extending the cut off in exceptional circumstances.
The Complaints Procedure
Stage 1 TALK TO DEPUTY HEAD OR HEAD TEACHER
We do not expect parents to go to the Deputy Head or Headteacher first unless:
- You have serious concerns about a teacher’s actions or behaviour.
- You have concerns about the conduct of a governor or member of staff who is not a teacher.
If talking to the teacher or does not seem to have resolved a particular problem, you should make an appointment to see a either the Deputy Head or Headteacher. You can expect them to investigate your concerns, and to discuss the outcome with you and/or respond within ten school days.
If your complaint is about the Head Teacher your complaint should be taken to the Chair of the governing body.
Stage 2 COMPLAINT HEARD BY CHAIR OF GOVERNORS
If the complainant is not satisfied with the response of the Deputy Head /Headteacher, the complainant should write to the Chair of Governors to request that their complaint is considered further. In order to consider the complaint further the Chair of Governors will investigate the concern and how it has been dealt with by the school. As part of the investigation it may be necessary for the Chair of Governors to meet with the complainant and members of staff involved for fact finding. The Chair of Governors should respond to the complainant within 15 school days to inform them of the outcome of their considerations.
Stage 3 COMPLAINT HEARD BY GOVERNING BODY’S COMPLAINTS APPEAL PANEL
If the complainant is not satisfied with the response of the Chair of Governors, the complainant needs to put the complaint in writing and send it to the school office for the attention of the Clerk to the Governing Body.
A nominated governor, who has not been involved at any previous stage in the process, will convene a Governing Body complaints panel.
A Complaint Form is provided to assist you (see appendix 1)
You should include details which might assist the investigation, such as names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events, and copies of relevant documents.
It is very important that you include a clear statement of the actions that you would like the school to take to resolve your concern. Without this, it is difficult to proceed.
The clerk will seek similar written responses from the school, where this is necessary.
The clerk will convene a panel of 3 governors, who have not previously been involved with the complaint.
A meeting of the panel will take place, usually within 15 school days, to consider the matter. The complainant (who may be accompanied by a friend if they wish) and the Headteacher acting as the school representative (who will be accompanied by a colleague, friend or representatives from their professional association) may be invited to attend this meeting in order to clarify the matter. As the panel meeting is intended to be investigatory, rather than adversarial, the persons giving evidence or making representations to the panel may attend separately.
If the designated governor has been involved in attempting to resolve the complaint s/he may present information at the panel meeting, but will take no part in the decision making.
The remit of the Complaints Appeal Panel (for further guidance see appendix 2)
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 ( It should be noted that if the complaint then becomes a disciplinary matter the complainant may not know the final outcome because the member of staff will be managed in a different way in line with the school’s disciplinary code.);
- recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
Notification of the Panel’s Decision
You should be informed of the panel’s decision in writing, usually within 5 school days of the hearing.
Consideration of the complaint by the Governing Body and the school, except for any actions that are agreed, will terminate at this point.
If the complainant is not satisfied that the appropriate procedure has been followed, they may request a review of that process by another panel of the Governing Body.
The final stage of appeal is to the Secretary of State for Education.
Complainants should be advised to write to The School Complaints Unit (SCU) at:
Department for Education
2nd Floor, Piccadilly Gate
Managing and Recording Complaints
Stage 1 – 2. The school will record the progress of the complaint including notes of meetings and telephone calls as well as the final outcome. Where appropriate the school will draft a letter confirming what has been discussed and agreed.
Stage 3. The hearings will be minuted
Governing Body Review
The GB will monitor the level and nature of complaints and review the outcomes on a termly basis to ensure the effectiveness of the procedure and make changes where necessary.
Complaint information shared with the whole GB will not name individuals.
As well as addressing an individual’s complaint, the process of listening to and resolving complaints will contribute to the school’s improvement. When individual complaints are heard, the school may identify underlying issues that need to be addressed.