Complaints Policy and Procedure
The schools in our Federation will acknowledge complaints, deal with them effectively and aim to resolve issues swiftly.
John Hampden and Tetsworth Schools Federation will:
- publish a complaints procedure for parents and prospective parents
- adhere to the principles set out in this policy
- keep a record of the progress of each complaint and the final outcome, recording and monitoring the number of complaints registered under the formal procedure each school year
1. Key Principles
Our federation of schools will aim to:
1.1 Take all concerns and complaints seriously
1.2 Make every effort to deal with complaints informally and at an early stage in a spirit of partnership. The aim should be to identify areas of agreement between the parties. It is also equally important to clarify any misunderstandings that might have occurred as this can create a positive atmosphere in which to discuss any outstanding issues.
1.3 Apologise wherever necessary. An admission that the school(s) could have handled the situation better is not the same as an admission of negligence.
1.4 Deal with complaints in an impartial and non-adversarial manner. As far as possible deal with complaints in such a way as to resolve the issue, maintaining the best interests of the pupil or pupils involved (where that is applicable).
1.5 Publish a complaints procedure which is easily accessible and simple to understand and use.
1.6 Ensure a full and fair investigation is undertaken; normally by a person who has not been directly involved in the matter.
1.7 Respect people’s desire for confidentiality.
1.8 Use the outcome of a complaint to reflect on the services provided by the school(s) so that they can be improved.
2. Roles and Responsibilities
2.1 All staff have a responsibility to ensure that complaints are dealt with under the terms of this policy. To that end, staff should be made aware of the procedures so that they know what to do if they receive a complaint.
2.2 As part of their role, the Personnel Committee should be required to prepare an annual report for the full Governing Body.
2.3 The Headteacher has overall responsibility for the management of complaints and, together with the Governing Body, responsibility for the publication and implementation of the formal complaints procedure.
3. Implementation and Procedures
3.1 John Hampden and Tetsworth Schools Federation will have a written formal complaints procedure which is readily available to parents of pupils and prospective pupils of the schools.
3.2 At each stage of the procedure it is helpful to clarify exactly who will be involved, what will happen and how long it will take. There may, on occasion, be the need for some flexibility in the application of the procedure; for example, the possibility of further meetings between the complainant and member of staff directly involved, and further investigations may be required by the Headteacher after a meeting with the complainant
3.3 The Headteacher will have responsibility for the operation and management of the complaints procedure though could nominate a person to deal with a particular situation where appropriate.
3.4 The complaints procedure must:
a) Explain how a concern or a complaint can be made and to whom;
b) Set out the importance of being able to deal with concerns at an early stage and using informal processes;
c) Set out clearly the stages to be used in dealing with a complaint and the way the complaint will be investigated and recorded;
d) Set out clear timetables for the management of the complaint.
3.5 The formal complaints procedure should have three stages:
a) Stage one: complaint heard by staff member (though not the subject of the complaint);
b) Stage two: complaint heard by the Headteacher;
c) Stage three: complaint heard by the Governing Body’s Disciplinary committee / Complaints Appeal Panel as directed by the Chair of Governors.
3.6 The procedure should also specify how a complaint will be dealt with if it concerns the conduct of the Headteacher or a governor, or where these have been involved in the issue previously.
3.7 For each complaint being dealt with under the formal complaints procedure, a person should be appointed to investigate the complaint; this would normally be the Headteacher or nominated person.
3.8 In carrying out an investigation, it is recommended that the Headteacher / nominated person should:
a) establish what has happened so far and who has been involved;
b) clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved;
c) meet with the complainant or contact them (if unsure or further information is necessary);
d) clarify what the complainant feels would put things right;
e) interview those involved in the matter and/or against whom the complaint has been made, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish;
f) conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning;
g) keep notes of the interview.
3.9 At each stage in the procedure school(s) 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:
a) an apology;
b) an explanation;
c) an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better;
d) an assurance that the event complained of should not recur;
e) an explanation of the steps that have been taken to ensure that it should not happen again;
f) an undertaking to review policies in light of the complaint.
4. Complaints processing, recording and record keeping
Complaints need to be considered and resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible. The formal complaints procedure must set realistic time limits for each action within each stage. However, where further investigations are necessary, new time limits can be set and the complainant sent details of the new deadline and an explanation for the delay.
4.1 There is a legal requirement for the formal complaints procedure to be publicised. The way in which this is done is determined by each school but the following are suggested:
a) the information given to new parents when their children join the school;
b) any future Home-School agreement;
c) produce a specific complaints leaflet which includes a form on which a complaint can be made;
e) posters displayed in areas of the school that will be used by the public, such as reception or the main entrance;
f) the website.
4.2 A complaint may be made in person, by telephone or in writing and details of each should be noted carefully.
4.3 The Headteacher is responsible for maintaining all records and holding them centrally.
4.4 The Headteacher should prepare a brief annual report for the Governing Body stating the number of complaints received, their nature and outcome.
4.5 Records should be archived for 1 year and for longer in exceptional circumstances.
5.1 The appeals process is stage 3 of the formal complaints procedure. The decision of the Appeals Panel is final.
5.2 There may be occasions when, despite all stages of the procedure having been followed, the complainant remains dissatisfied. If the complainant tries to reopen the same issue, the Chair of Governors should inform him/her in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed.
5.3 The complaints procedure cannot be used to replace, or in addition to, other appeals processes where those exist.
6. Dealing with Complaints and School Improvement
6.1 The process of listening to and resolving complaints should contribute to Schools Federation improvement. When individual complaints are heard, the school may identify underlying issues that need to be addressed. The monitoring and review of complaints by the school leadership team and Governing Body can be a useful tool in evaluating school(s) performance.
Policy and procedures to be reviewed : Autumn 2018.
Appendix 1: Complaints Procedure
It is recognised that parents will, from time to time, have normal and legitimate concerns about the progress, achievement, behaviour or welfare of their son or daughter. Parents are encouraged to make those concerns known to staff so that they can be addressed in partnership with the school(s). Almost invariably, the sooner such concerns are raised the easier it is for an appropriate resolution to be found.
A concern or complaint may be raised with any member of staff. In our schools(s) this would normally be your child’s class teacher or Key Stage leader. That person will try and resolve the matter or will refer you to the appropriate person.
The member of staff will make a written record of all concerns and complaints and the date on which they were received. If the matter cannot be resolved or in the event that you are not satisfied, you will be advised to proceed to make an appointment with the Headteacher with regard to making a formal complaint. If the complaint concerns the Headteacher, the matter would normally be referred to the Chair of the Governing Body.
Stage One: Complaint Heard by Staff Member
If you need to make a complaint it should be made in the first instance to the class teacher. The class teacher will decide the best person to hear the complaint or next course of action to help resolve the matter. It would be helpful if you could indicate if there is someone with whom you might have difficulty discussing the complaint so that your views can be respected. Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels too compromised to deal with the complaint, the class teacher may consider referring you to another senior staff member or Headteacher as appropriate. In most instances, there will need to be an investigation in order to understand the circumstances surrounding the complaint. That investigation will normally be undertaken by the Headteacher after consultation with the class teacher(s).
If the matter cannot be resolved within a reasonable time period following receipt of the complaint or in the event that you are not satisfied, you will be advised to take your complaint to the second stage of this procedure.
The class teacher will make a written record of the complaint, the date on which it was received, the date on which the matter was dealt with and the outcome of the procedure. A copy of this written record will be kept on record following this process. If you have difficulty in putting your complaint in writing, you are asked to make an appointment with the Headteacher who will help you do that.
Stage Two: Complaint Heard by the Headteacher
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of stage one, if you feel that your complaint is sufficiently serious, or if you are dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled, you may take your complaint to the second stage of this procedure.
You should arrange an appointment with the Headteacher or put your complaint in writing to the Headteacher. Again, if you have difficulty in doing that, the Headteacher will provide advice and assistance.
The Headteacher may delegate the task of collating the information to another staff member but not the decision on the action to be taken. The Headteacher will decide whether it would be helpful to meet with you to discuss your complaint.
The decision in respect of this complaint will normally be made within 5 school days of the Head receiving the complaint. If the Headteacher feels that it is necessary, within reason, to ask for additional time, you will be informed.
Appendix 2: Appeals Procedure
- The third stage of the formal complaints procedure is the Chair of Governors who will discuss the issue with the Headteacher and if appropriate pass the matter onto the Governors Disciplinary Committee to consider all elements of the case and if necessary an appeal
- The appeals procedure is invoked when a complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the second stage of the procedure or with the handling of a complaint by the Headteacher
- The complainant is required to put their complaint in writing to the Chair of Governors marked for their attention. It is important that the complainant should set the matter out in sufficient detail
- On receiving a written complaint under the appeals procedure, a hearing by an Appeals Panel will be arranged within a notified period of time that is practicable
- The complainant may attend the hearing in person and may be accompanied if they so wish; in which case they are required to notify the clerk of the name and occupation of such a person.
The Composition of the Appeals Panel
Care must be taken not to involve the whole Governing Body as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up for a disciplinary hearing against a member of staff following a serious complaint.
2. The panel would normally consist of three governors. The panel may choose their own chair.
3. It is important that the appeal hearing is as independent and impartial as possible and that it is seen to be so. No governor may sit on the panel if they have had prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it. In deciding the composition of the panel, governors need to try and ensure that it is a cross-section of the categories of governor and sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
The Role of the Appeals Panel
1. 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(s) 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 that will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously.
2. An effective panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting. The panel chair will ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible. Care is needed to ensure the setting is informal and not adversarial. Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child.
3. The panel may:
a) dismiss the complaint in whole or in part;
b) uphold the complaint in whole or in part;
c) decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint;
d) recommend changes to the Schools Federation systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
Roles and Responsibilities
1. It is strongly recommended that a clerk be appointed who would be the contact point for the complainant and be required to:
a) set the date, time and venue of the hearing, ensuring that the dates are convenient or acceptable to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible;
b) invite both the complainant and the Headteacher to put their position in writing for the panel to consider;
c) collate any written material and send it to the parties in advance of the hearing;
d) record the proceedings;
e) notify all parties of the panel’s decision.
2. The Chair of the panel has a key role, ensuring that:
a) the remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption;
b) written material is seen by all parties;
c) key findings of fact are made and each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions;
d) the hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy;
e) the panel is open minded and acting independently.
Notification of the Panel’s Findings and Recommendations
1. The Chair of the panel needs to ensure that the Governing Body, the Headteacher and the complainant are notified of the panel’s findings and recommendations, in writing, with the panel’s response within 3 working days of the hearing.
2. The decision of the Appeals Panel is final.