Complaints Procedure

 

Meadow High School

Complaints Procedure

 

Policy Name: 

Complaints

 

Policy Number: 

14

 

Date of Approval:

 

 

Effective Date:

 

 

Revised Date:

June 2019

 

Review by Date:

 

 

 

Contents

1. Aims. 2

2. Legislation and guidance. 3

3. Definitions and scope. 3

4. Roles and responsibilities. 3

5. Principles for investigation. 4

6. Stages of complaint (not complaints against the headteacher or governors) 4

7. Complaints against the headteacher, a governor or the governing board. 7

8. Referring complaints on completion of the school’s procedure. 7

9. Persistent complaints. 7

10. Record keeping. 9

11. Learning lessons. 9

12. Monitoring arrangements. 9

13. Links with other policies. 9

 

 

1. Aims

Our school aims to meet its statutory obligations when responding to complaints from parents of pupils at the school, and others.

When responding to complaints, we aim to:

  • Be impartial and non-adversarial
  • Facilitate a full and fair investigation by an independent person or panel, where necessary
  • Address all the points at issue and provide an effective and prompt response
  • Respect complainants’ desire for confidentiality
  • Treat complainants with respect and courtesy
  • Ensure that any decisions we make are lawful, rational, reasonable, fair and proportionate, in line with the principles of administrative law
  • Keep complainants informed of the progress of the complaints process
  • Consider how the complaint can feed into school improvement evaluation processes

We try to resolve concerns or complaints by informal means wherever possible. Where this is not possible, formal procedures will be followed.

The school will aim to give the complainant the opportunity to complete the complaints procedure in full.

To support this, we will ensure we publicise the existence of this policy and make it available on the school website.

Throughout the process, we will be sensitive to the needs of all parties involved, and make any reasonable adjustments needed to accommodate individuals.

We believe that a well-established complaints system can provide valuable feedback, leading to many benefits for the school and its community.

It provides:

  • a free and continuous source of feedback from the school’s community covering every aspect of the school;
  • it demonstrates that the school takes complaints seriously and listens to its community;
  •  it can help to improve confidence and satisfaction in the local community;
  • It can serve as an early warning sign to identify any areas where things are not running effectively;
  • Ensures that complaints are handled in a consistent manner and helps to prevent complaints not being dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

 

2. Legislation and guidance

This document meets the requirements of section 29 of the Education Act 2002, which states that schools must have and make available a procedure to deal with all complaints relating to their school and to any community facilities or services that the school provides.

It is also based on guidance for schools on complaints procedures from the Department for Education (DfE), including the model procedure, and model procedure for dealing with unreasonable complaints.

 

3. Definitions and Scope

3.1 Definitions

The DfE guidance explains the difference between a concern and a complaint:

  • A concern is defined as “an expression of worry or doubt over an issue considered to be important for which reassurances are sought”. The school will resolve concerns through day-to-day communication as far as possible
  • A complaint is defined as “an expression of dissatisfaction however made, about actions taken or a lack of action”

3.2 Scope

The school intends to resolve complaints informally where possible, at the earliest possible stage.

There may be occasions when complainants would like to raise their concerns formally. This policy outlines the procedure relating to handling such complaints.

This policy does not cover complaints procedures relating to:

  • admissions
  • Statutory assessments of special educational needs (SEN)
  • Safeguarding matters
  • Exclusions
  • Whislte-blowing
  • Staff grievances
  • Staff discipline

Please see our separate policies for procedures relating to these types of complaint.

Arrangements for handling complaints from parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) about the school’s support are within the scope of this policy. Such complaints should first be made to the Form Tutor; they will then be referred to this complaints policy. Our SEN policy and information report includes information about the rights of parents of pupils with disabilities who believe that our school has discriminated against their child.

Complaints about services provided by other providers who use school premises or facilities should be directed to the provider concerned.

 

4, Roles and Responsibilities

4.1 The complainant

The complainant will get a more effective and timely response to their complaint if they:

  • Follow these procedures
  • Co-operate with the school throughout the process, and respond to deadlines and communication promptly
  • Treat all those involved with respect
  • Not publish details about the complaint on social media

4.2 The investigator

An individual will be appointed to look into the complaint, and establish the facts. They will:

  • Interview all relevant parties, keeping notes
  • Consider records and any written evidence and keep these securely
  • Prepare a comprehensive report to the headteacher or complaints committee which includes the facts and potential solutions

4.3 Clerk to the governing board

The clerk will:

  • Be the contact point for the complainant and the complaints committee, including circulating the relevant papers and evidence before complaints committee meetings
  • Arrange the complaints hearing
  • Record and circulate the minutes and outcome of the hearing

4.4 Committee chair

The committee chair will:

  • Chair the meeting, ensuring that everyone is treated with respect throughout
  • Make sure all parties see the relevant information, understand the purpose of the committee, and are allowed to present their case

 

5. Principles for investigation

When investigating a complaint, we will try to clarify:

  • What has happened
  • Who was involved
  • What the complainant feels would put things right

5.1 Time scales

The complainant must raise the complaint within 3 months of the incident. If the complaint is about a series of related incidents, they must raise the complaint within 3 months of the last incident.

We will consider exceptions to this time frame in circumstances where there were valid reasons for not making a complaint at that time and the complaint can still be investigated in a fair manner for all involved.

When complaints are made out of term time, we will consider them to have been received on the next school day.

If at any point we cannot meet the time scales we have set out in this policy, we will:

  • Set new time limits with the complainant
  • Send the complainant details of the new deadline and explain the delay

 

6. Stages of complaint (not complaints against the headteacher or governors)

6.1 Stage 1: informal

The school will take informal concerns seriously and make every effort to resolve the matter quickly. It may be the case that the provision or clarification of information will resolve the issue.

The complainant should raise the complaint as soon as possible with the relevant member of staff or the headteacher as appropriate, either in person or by letter, telephone or email. If the complainant is unclear who to contact or how to contact them, they should contact the school office on 01895 443310 or by emailing meadow@meadowhighschool.org  

The school will acknowledge informal complaints within 3 school days, and investigate and provide a response within 10 school days.

If the complaint is about a teacher, the complainant will be directed to the Head teacher. If the concern is about the headteacher, the complainant will be directed to the Governing Body Chair.

The school will aim to resolve concerns and give feedback to all parties within ten school days. If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, he/she/they will have twenty days to take their complaint to Stage Two.

If the complaint is not resolved informally, it will be escalated to a formal complaint.

6.2 Stage 2: formal

This stage can be reached if the school has been unable to resolve the problem, or if the complaint is about a teacher. At this stage the complaint will be properly recorded, either in the form of a letter or on the complaints recording form (Appendix B). Assistance will be provided to any person who may have difficulties recording their complaint in writing.

Note: if the complaint is about the head teacher, the complainant will be asked to contact the Governing Body Chair.

Formal complaints can be raised:

  • By letter or email
  • Over the phone
  • In person
  • By a third party acting on behalf of the complainant

The complainant should provide details such as relevant dates, times, and the names of witnesses of events, alongside copies of any relevant documents, and what they feel would resolve the complaint.

If complainants need assistance raising a formal complaint, they can contact the school office by calling 01895 443310 or by emailing meadow@meadowhighschool.org

The headteacher (or designated member of the senior leadership team) will call a meeting to clarify concerns, and seek a resolution. The complainant may be accompanied to this meeting, and should inform the school of the identity of their companion in advance.

In certain circumstances, the school may need to refuse a request for a particular individual to attend any such meeting – for example, if there is a conflict of interest. If this is the case, the school will notify the complainant as soon as they are aware, so that the complainant has the opportunity to arrange alternative accompaniment.

The headteacher (or other person appointed by the headteacher for this purpose) will then conduct their own investigation. The written conclusion of this investigation will be sent to the complainant within 15 school days.

If the complainant wishes to proceed to the next stage of the procedure, they should inform the clerk to the governing board within 10 school days of receiving the outcome.

How to escalate a complaint

Complaints can be escalated by writing to the clerk to the Governing Body Chair. Assistance will be provided to those who have difficulty in recording their complaint in writing. If the complainant is unable to provide a written request, they can approach the Chair via:

  • phone
  • In person
  • Through a third party acting on behalf of the complainant

The clerk will need the details of the complaint as set out above, as well as details from the complainant on how they feel the previous stage of the procedure has not addressed their complaint sufficiently, and what they feel would resolve the complaint.

The written conclusion of this investigation will be sent to the complainant within 15 school days.

If the complainant wishes to proceed to the next stage of the procedure, they should inform the clerk to the governing board in writing within 10 school days of receiving the outcome. Requests received outside of this time frame will be considered in exceptional circumstances.

6.3 Stage 3: submit the complaint to the review panel

Convening the panel

The review panel consists of the first 3 members of the governing board available, who don’t have direct knowledge of the complaint. These individuals will have access to the existing record of the complaint’s progress (see section 10). The governors will select a panel chair from amongst themselves.

If not enough impartial governors are available, we will seek panel members from other schools, or the local authority. We will make sure the governors we source are suitably skilled and can demonstrate that they are independent and impartial.

The complainant must have reasonable notice of the date of the review panel; however, the review panel reserves the right to convene at their convenience rather than that of the complainant. The clerk will aim to find a date within 15 school days of the request, where possible.

If the complainant rejects the offer of 3 proposed dates without good reason, the clerk will set a date. The hearing will go ahead using written submissions from both parties.

Any written material will be circulated to all parties at least 5 school days before the date of the meeting.

At the meeting

At the review panel meeting, the complainant and representatives from the school, as appropriate, will be present. Each will have an opportunity to set out written or oral submissions prior to the meeting.

The complainant must be allowed to attend the panel hearing and be accompanied by a suitable companion if they wish. We don’t encourage either party to bring legal representation, but will consider it on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if a school employee is called as a witness in a complaint meeting, they may wish to be supported by their union.

At the meeting, each individual will have the opportunity to give statements and present their evidence, and witnesses will be called as appropriate to present their evidence.

The panel, the complainant and the school representative will be given the chance to ask and reply to questions. Once the complainant and school representatives have completed presenting their cases, they will be asked to leave and evidence will then be considered.

The panel will then put together its findings and recommendations from the case. The panel will also provide copies of the minutes of the hearing and the findings and recommendations to the complainant and, where relevant, the subject of the complaint, and make a copy of the findings and recommendations available for inspection by the headteacher.

The outcome

The committee can:

  • Uphold the complaint, in whole or in part
  • Dismiss the complaint, in whole or in part

If the complaint is upheld, the committee will:

  • Decide the appropriate action to resolve the complaint
  • Where appropriate, recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to prevent similar issues in the future

The school will inform those involved of the decision in writing within 20 school days. (Complainants will be advised if there is more than 20 days is needed to investigate the complaint.)

6.4 Stage 4: submit the complaint to an independent reviewer

The independent reviewer is appointed by or on behalf of the proprietor. This person must not, at any time, have been a governor of the school, or a member of staff or supply staff at the school, and must not have been the parent of a registered or former registered pupil at the school. They must also not have been directly involved in any matter detailed in the complaint.

The independent reviewer will convene a review meeting with the complainant and representatives from the school, as appropriate. Each will have an opportunity to set out written or oral submissions prior to the meeting.

At the meeting, each individual will have the opportunity to give statements and present their evidence, and witnesses will be called as appropriate to present their evidence.

The independent reviewer, the complainant and the school representative(s) will be given the chance to ask and reply to questions.

The complainant, proprietor and headteacher, and where relevant, the subject of the complaint, will be given a copy of the findings and recommendations made by the independent person.

The school will inform those involved of the decision in writing within 20 school days. In some complex cases, more than 20 days might be needed to investigate the complaint. If this is likely to be the situation, the complainant should be advised of this.

7. Complaints against the headteacher, a governor or the governing board

7.1 Stage 1: informal

Complaints made against the headteacher or any member of the governing board should be directed to the clerk to the governing board in the first instance. (Ms G. Duncan)

If the complaint is about the headteacher or one member of the governing board (including the chair or vice-chair), a suitably-skilled and impartial governor will carry out the steps at stage 1 (set out in section 6 above).

7.2 Stage 2: formal

If the complaint is jointly about the chair and vice-chair, the entire governing board or the majority of the governing board, an independent investigator will carry out the steps in stage 2 (set out in section 6 above). They will be appointed by the governing board, and will write a formal response at the end of their investigation.

7.3 Stage 3: review panel

If the complaint is jointly about the chair and vice-chair, the entire governing board or the majority of the governing board, a committee of independent governors will hear the complaint. They will be sourced from local schools, the local authority and will carry out the steps at stage 3 (set out in section 6 above).

 

8. Referring complaints on completion of the school's procedure

If the complainant is unsatisfied with the outcome of the school’s complaints procedure, they can refer their complaint to the School Complaints Unit (SCU), which investigates complaints relating to maintained schools on behalf of the secretary of state.

The SCU will not re-investigate the matter of the complaint. It will look at whether the school’s complaints policy and any other relevant statutory policies that the school holds were adhered to. The SCU also looks at whether the school’s statutory policies adhere to education legislation. It may direct the school to re-investigate the complaint where it is clear the school has acted unlawfully or unreasonably.

For more information or to refer a complaint, see the following webpage:

https://www.gov.uk/complain-about-school

We will include this information in the outcome letter to complainants.

 

9. Persistent Complaints

9.1 Unreasonably persistent complaints

Most complaints raised will be valid, and therefore we will treat them seriously. However, a complaint may become unreasonable if the person:

  • Has made the same complaint before, and it’s already been resolved by following the school’s complaints procedure
  • Makes a complaint that is obsessive, persistent, harassing, prolific, defamatory or repetitive
  • Knowingly provides false information
  • Insists on pursuing a complaint that is unfounded, or out of scope of the complaints procedure
  • Pursues a valid complaint, but in an unreasonable manner e.g. refuses to articulate the complaint, refused to co-operate with this complaints procedure, or insists that the complaint is dealt with in ways that are incompatible with this procedure and the time frames it sets out
  • Changes the basis of the complaint as the investigation goes on
  • Makes a complaint designed to cause disruption, annoyance or excessive demands on school time
  • Seeks unrealistic outcomes, or a solution that lacks any serious purpose or value

Steps we will take

We will take every reasonable step to address the complainant’s concerns, and give them a clear statement of our position and their options. We will maintain our role as an objective arbiter throughout the process, including when we meet with individuals. We will follow our complaints procedure as normal (as outlined above) wherever possible.

It the complainant continues to contact the school in a disruptive way, we may put communications strategies in place. We may:

  • Give the complainant a single point of contact via an email address
  • Limit the number of times the complainant can make contact, such as a fixed number per term
  • Ask the complainant to engage a third party to act on their behalf, such as Citizens Advice
  • Put any other strategy in place as necessary

Stopping responding

We may stop responding to the complainant when all of these factors are met:

  • We believe we have taken all reasonable steps to help address their concerns
  • We have provided a clear statement of our position and their options
  • The complainant contacts us repeatedly, and we believe their intention is to cause disruption or inconvenience

Where we stop responding, we will inform the individual that we intend to do so. We will also explain that we will still consider any new complaints they make.

In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, we will immediately inform the police and communicate our actions in writing. This may include barring an individual from our school site.

9.2 Duplicate complaints

If we have resolved a complaint under this procedure and receive a duplicate complaint on the same subject from a partner, family member or other individual, we will assess whether there are aspects that we hadn’t previously considered, or any new information we need to take into account.

If we are satisfied that there are no new aspects, we will:

  • Tell the new complainant that we have already investigated and responded to this issue, and the local process is complete
  • Direct them to the DfE if they are dissatisfied with our original handling of the complaint

If there are new aspects, we will follow this procedure again.

9.3 Complaint campaigns

Where the school receives a large volume of complaints about the same topic or subject, especially if these come from complainants unconnected with the school, the school may respond to these complaints by:

  • Publishing a single response on the school website
  • Sending a template response to all of the complainants

If complainants are not satisfied with the school’s response, or wish to pursue the complaint further, the normal procedures will apply.
 

10. Record Keeping

The school will record the progress of all complaints, including information about actions taken at all stages, the stage at which the complaint was resolved, and the final outcome. The records will also include copies of letters and emails, and notes relating to meetings and phone calls.

This material will be treated as confidential and held centrally, and will be viewed only by those involved in investigating the complaint or on the review panel.

This is except where the secretary of state (or someone acting on their behalf) or the complainant requests access to records of a complaint through a freedom of information (FOI) request or through a subject access request under the terms of the Data Protection Act, or where the material must be made available during a school inspection.

Records of complaints will be kept securely, only for as long as necessary and in line with data protection law, our privacy notices and GDPR.

The details of the complaint, including the names of individuals involved, will not be shared with the whole governing board in case a review panel needs to be organised at a later point.

Where the governing board is aware of the substance of the complaint before the review panel stage, the school will (where reasonably practicable) arrange for an independent panel to hear the complaint.

Complainants also have the right to request an independent panel if they believe there is likely to be bias in the proceedings. The decision to approve this request is made by the governing board, who will not unreasonably withhold consent.

 

11. Learning Lessons

The governing board will review any underlying issues raised by complaints with the headteacher, where appropriate, and respecting confidentiality, to determine whether there are any improvements that the school can make to its procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.

 

12, Monitoring arrangements

The governing board will monitor the effectiveness of the complaints procedure in ensuring that complaints are handled properly. The governing board will track the number and nature of complaints, and review underlying issues as stated in section 11.

The complaints records are logged and managed by [job title of staff member].

This policy will be reviewed by the headteacher and the governing board every 2 to 3 years. At each review, the policy will be approved by the full governing board

 

13. Links with other policies

Policies dealing with other forms of complaints include:

  • Child protection and safeguarding policy and procedures
  • Admissions policy
  • Exclusions policy
  • Staff grievance procedures
  • Staff disciplinary procedures
  • SEN policy and information report
  • Privacy notices
  • GDPR

 

Appendix B                     Complaints recording form 

Meadow High School and Extended Services

Details of Complainant

Date:

Staff Name:

Complainants name:

Relationship to pupil:

Pupils Name:

Date of Birth:

Complainants:

Complainants:

Nature of complaint (please ‘X ’and describe)

About School

About Head teacher: (Action: refer complaint to the governing)

About a Teacher;

About Support Staff:

About governing body (Action: refer complaint to the LEA

About SEN, admissions, exclusions, public examinations, etc (Action refer complainant to correct procedure)

Another Matter:

 

Description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action taken and advice given (please ‘X’and describe)

Complaints leaflet offered:

 

Complaints procedure followed:

 

Additional Information:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summarise outcome here           

 

 

 

 

 


Appendix C

Useful addresses

 

  • Education Complaints Officer
    Education & Children's Services
    London Borough of Hillingdon
    4E/01 Civic Centre
    High Street
    Uxbridge UB8 1UW
    Tel: 01895 277468
    Email: education-complaints@hillingdon.gov.uk
  • Head of School Improvement Service
    London Borough of Hillingdon
    4E/07 Civic Centre
    High Street
    Uxbridge UB8 1UW
    Tel: 01895 250426
  • National Business Unit
    Ofsted
    Royal Exchange Buildings
    St Ann's Square
    Manchester
    M2 7LA

 

More information can be found on www.parentcentre.co.uk