«Alwyn Infant School Complaints Procedure Governing Bodies of all maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England are required, under ...»
Reviewed by Finance and Buildings Committee 21/10/14
Alwyn Infant School Complaints Procedure
Governing Bodies of all maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England are
required, under Section 29 of the Education Act 2002, to have in place a procedure to deal
with complaints relating to the school and to any community facilities or services that the
school provides. The law also requires the procedure to be publicised.
An anonymous complaint will not be investigated under this procedure unless there are exceptional circumstances.
To allow for a proper investigation, complaints should be brought to the attention of the school as soon as possible. Any matter raised more than 3 months after the event being complained of will not be considered save in exceptional circumstances.
Investigation of any complaint or review request will begin within 5 school term days of receipt of the same, save in exceptional circumstances. The investigation will be completed as soon as reasonably practicable.
The Formal Complaints Procedure
The Stages of Complaints:
Stage one: Complaint heard by Headteacher;
Stage two: Complaint heard by Chair of Governing Body Stage three: Complaint heard by Governing Body complaints panel Individual complaints will 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.
Dealing with Complaints – Initial concerns We take informal concerns seriously at the earliest stage with the underlying principle that concerns ought to be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures.
The requirement to have a complaints procedure does not in any way undermine efforts to resolve any concerns informally. In most cases the class teacher will receive the first approach. It is helpful if staff are able to resolve issues immediately.
Complaints Procedure Page 1 of 8 Reviewed by Finance and Buildings Committee 21/10/14 Informal Stage The complainant is normally expected to arrange to communicate directly with class teacher or Headteacher. This may be by letter, by telephone or in person by appointment. Many concerns can be resolved by simple clarification or the provision of information and it is anticipated that most complaints will be resolved by this informal stage. An unreasonable refusal to attempt an informal resolution may result in the procedure being terminated forthwith.
Formal Stage If the complaint is not resolved at the informal stage the complainant must put the complaint in writing and pass it to the Headteacher, who will be responsible for its investigation.
A copy of this complaints procedure will be given to the complainant with the complaint form.
The complainant should include details which might assist the investigation, such as names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events, and copies of relevant documents. The complainant may be asked to complete a complaint form. In addition the Headteacher may meet with the complainant to clarify the complaint. The complainant may be accompanied by a friend or representative if they wish. The Headteacher will collect such other evidence as he/she deems necessary. Where this involves an interview with a member of staff, who is the subject of the complaint, that member of staff may be accompanied by a friend or representative if they wish.
The investigation will begin as soon as possible and when it has been concluded, the
complainant will be informed in writing of the outcome. This may be to the effect that:
There is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion, so the complaint cannot be upheld The concern is not substantiated by the evidence The concern was substantiated in part or in full. Some details may then be given of action the school may be taking to review procedures etc… but details of the investigation or of any disciplinary procedures will not be released The matter has been fully investigated and that appropriate procedures are being followed, which are strictly confidential. [ e.g. where staff disciplinary procedures are being followed] The complainant will be told that consideration of their complaint by the Headteacher is now concluded.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the manner in which the process has been followed, the complainant may request that the Governing Body review the process followed by the Headteacher in handling the complaint. Any such request must be made in writing within 2 weeks of receiving notice of the outcome from the Headteacher, and include a statement specifying any perceived failures to follow the procedure.
If the complainant considers that the decision of the Headteacher is perverse, unprofessional or inappropriate, or that the Headteacher has acted unreasonably in considering the complaint, then the complainant may bring a complaint against the Headteacher. See below.
This will provide an opportunity for the evidence to support such a complaint to be investigated.
Complaining about the actions of the Headteacher Informal stage The complainant is usually expected to arrange to speak directly with the Headteacher.[In the case of serious concerns it may be appropriate to raise them directly with the Chair of the Governing Body] Many concerns can be resolved by simple clarification or the provision of information. If the matter is not resolved then the formal stage is entered.
Formal Stage If the complaint is not resolved at the informal stage the complainant must put the complaint in writing and pass it to the Chair of the Governing Body.
The complainant should include details which might assist the investigation, such as names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events, copies of relevant documents etc…. In addition the complainant will be invited to meet with the Chair to present oral evidence or to clarify the complaint.
The Chair will collect such other evidence as is deemed necessary. This may include the interviewing of witnesses and others who may provide relevant information.
The Headteacher will be provided with a copy of the complaint and any additional evidence presented by the complainant or collected by the Chair. Once there has been an opportunity for the Headteacher to consider this, he/she will be invited to meet separately with the Chair, in order to present written and oral evidence in response. The Headteacher may be accompanied at this meeting by a friend or representative.
When the investigation has been concluded, the complainant and the Headteacher will be informed in writing of the outcome. The complainant will not be informed of any disciplinary /capability action.
The complainant will be told that consideration of their complaint by the Chair is now concluded.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the manner in which the process has been followed, or considers that the decision of the Chair is perverse, or that the Chair has acted unreasonably in considering the complaint, then the complainant may request that the Governing Body review the handling of the complaint by the Chair. Any such request must be made in writing within 2 weeks of receiving notice of the outcome from the Chair, and include a statement specifying any perceived failures.
Complaints Appeal Panel The Governing Body may nominate a number of members with delegated powers to hear complaints at this stage. The panel can be drawn from the nominated members and will consist of three people. This review process is the last school-based stage of the complaints process, and is not convened to merely rubber-stamp previous decisions.
The panel may choose their own chair.
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 review will normally be conducted through a consideration of written submissions, but reasonable requests to make oral representations should be considered sympathetically.
The panel will first receive written evidence from the complainant.
The panel will then invite the Headteacher or the Chair, as appropriate, to make a response to the complaint.
The panel may also have access to the records kept of the process followed.
The complainant, and the Headteacher or the Chair, as appropriate, will be informed in writing
of the outcome. This may be to the effect that:
There is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion, so the complaint cannot be upheld The concern is not substantiated by the evidence The concern was substantiated in part or in full but that the procedural failure did not affect the outcome significantly so the matter is now closed.
The concern was substantiated in part or in full and the Governing Body will take steps to prevent a recurrence or to rectify the situation [ where this is practicable ] The Remit of the Complaints Appeal Panel
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 make-up 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 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.
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 layout of the room will set the tone and care is needed to ensure the setting is informal 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 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.
At each stage, the person investigating the complaint makes sure 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 further information is necessary);
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.
Resolving Complaints 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 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.
Vexatious Complaints If properly followed our complaints procedure will limit the number of complaints that become protracted. However, there will 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 will inform them in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed.
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
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;
record the proceedings;
notify all parties of the panel’s decision.
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;