The purpose of this procedure is to provide a robust process for dealing with complaints relating to the school or its employees, including the provision of facilities or services.
This procedure also includes a provision for dealing with vexatious, malicious or repetitive unfounded complaints.
This complaints procedure is not limited to parents or carers of children that are registered at the school. Any person, including members of the public, may make a complaint to <School Name> about any provision of facilities or services that we provide. Unless complaints are dealt with under separate statutory procedures (such as appeals relating to exclusions or admissions, see Appendix 5 for a full list), we will use this complaints procedure. This procedure is not to be used when considering complaints from staff. In such instances, the school’s grievance policy should be applied.
3.0 Aims of Procedure
The aim of this procedure is to:
• Achieve informal resolution wherever possible;
• Resolve general complaints efficiently and effectively;
• Provide a transparent process for dealing with complaints, both formally and informally;
• Ensure that all stages of the procedure will be investigatory rather than adversarial;
• Ensure that every complaint is heard and handled appropriately;
• Deal with complaints sensitivity, impartiality and confidentiality;
• Allow redress where necessary and provide information for the School Management team to improve services.
4.0 Legal Context
Section 29 of the 2002 Education Act requires governing bodies of maintained schools to establish procedures for dealing with all complaints relating to the school or the provision of facilities or services, other than complaints that are dealt with under other statutory procedures (See Appendix 5), and to publicise these procedures.
5.0 Complaints Procedure
The majority of issues raised by parents, carers, the community, visitors, volunteers or pupils, are concerns rather than complaints.
A concern may be defined as ‘an expression of worry or doubt over an issue considered to be important for which reassurances are sought’.
A complaint may be defined as ‘an expression of dissatisfaction however made, about actions taken or a lack of action’.
It is in everyone’s interest that all concerns and complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. Many issues can be resolved informally, without the need to use the formal stages of the complaints procedure. <School Name> takes concerns seriously and will make every effort to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
If you have difficulty discussing a concern with a particular member of staff, we will respect your views. In these cases, the schools nominated complaints administrator, will refer you to an alternative member of staff. Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels unable to deal with a concern, the complaints administrator will refer you to another staff member. The member of staff may be more senior but does not have to be. The ability to consider the concern objectively and impartially is more important.
We understand however, that there are occasions when people would like to raise their concerns formally. In this case, <School Name> will attempt to resolve the issue internally, through the stages outlined within this complaints procedure.
5.1 How to Raise a Concern or Make a Complaint
A concern or complaint can be made in person, in writing (by letter or email) or by telephone. They may also be made by a third party acting on behalf on a complainant, as long as they have appropriate consent to do so.
Concerns should be raised with either the class teacher or headteacher. If the issue remains unresolved, the next step is to make a formal complaint.
Complainants should not approach individual governors to raise concerns or complaints. They have no power to act on an individual basis and it may also prevent them from considering complaints at Stage 2 of the procedure.
Complaints against school staff (except the headteacher) should be made in the first instance, to the headteacher via the school office. Please mark them as Private and Confidential.
Complaints that involve or are about the headteacher should be addressed to the Chair of Governors, via the school office. Please mark them as Private and Confidential.
Complaints about the Chair of Governors, any individual governor or the whole governing board should be addressed to schools nominated complaints administrator via the school office. Please mark them as Private and Confidential.
For ease of use, a template complaint form is included with this document (Appendix 1). If you require help in completing the form, please contact the school office. You can also ask third party organisations, such as Citizens Advice to help you.
In accordance with equality law, we will consider making reasonable adjustments if required, to enable complainants to access and complete this complaints procedure. For instance, providing information in alternative formats, assisting complainants in raising a formal complaint or holding meetings in accessible locations.
5.2 Anonymous Complaints
We will not normally investigate anonymous complaints unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example if there were serious child protection concerns or bullying allegations where the school would either involve appropriate external agencies or else conduct its own internal review to test whether there is any corroborative evidence which might trigger a formal investigation. The headteacher or Chair of Governors, if appropriate, will determine whether the complaint warrants an investigation.
You must raise the complaint within three months of the incident or, where a series of associated incidents have occurred, within three months of the last of these incidents. We will consider complaints made outside of this time frame if exceptional circumstances apply.
If other bodies are investigating aspects of the complaint, for example the police, local authority (LA) safeguarding teams or Tribunals, this may impact on our ability to adhere to the timescales within this procedure or result in the procedure being suspended until those public bodies have completed their investigations.
If a complainant commences legal action against <School Name> in relation to their complaint, we will consider whether to suspend the complaints procedure in relation to their complaint until those legal proceedings have concluded.
5.4 Complaints Procedure Outside of Term Time
We will consider complaints made outside of term time to have been received on the first school day after the holiday period.
If a complaint is already going through the procedure and this is interrupted by a holiday the procedure will be paused until the holiday has ended. If the procedure is close to concluding as the holiday approaches, we will make reasonable attempts to get the procedure to an end prior to the holiday period but this may not always be possible.
5.5 Resolving Complaints
At each stage in the procedure, <School Name> wants to resolve the complaint. If appropriate, we will acknowledge that the complaint is upheld in whole or in part. In addition, we may offer one or more of the following:
• an explanation;
• an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better;
• an assurance that we will try to ensure the event complained of will not recur;
• an explanation of the steps that have been or will be taken to help ensure that it will not happen again and an indication of the timescales within which any changes will be made;
• an undertaking to review the relevant school policies in light of the complaint;
• an apology.
When we inform you of the outcome of your complaint, we will tell you as much of the details as we can, but possibly not everything. Telling you all the details may prejudice any employee complained about and affect their ability to carry out their job effectively. The release of too much information might prevent us from the use of our disciplinary or capability procedures or contravene the employee’s employment or data protection rights.
The procedure is designed to resolve any concerns with the minimum of conflict. To do this it is important that everyone has confidence in it and that it secures the “closure” of any complaint or concern.
It is unhelpful if a complaint is broadcast to the school community. Therefore, the school will make it clear to any person who raises a concern, that the school will treat the matter confidentially and will ask the complainant to do the same. The complainant must refrain from publicising the details of their complaint on social media.
5.6 Withdrawal of a Complaint
If a complainant wants to withdraw their complaint, we will ask them to confirm this in writing (by letter or email).
Where a complaint highlights a clear child protection or safeguarding concern, a referral to the Schools Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) will take place immediately.
5.8 The Formal Stages of the Complaints Procedure
<School Name> has a clear procedure for receiving enquiries, concerns and complaints so that they are directed to the appropriate people to be dealt with.
Informal attempts to resolve the situation should have been made including, if needed, mediation, before a complaint is escalated to the formal stages.
There are two stages to the formal complaints procedure:
Formal complaints must be made to the headteacher (unless they are about the headteacher), via the school office. This may be done in person, in writing (by letter or email, and preferably on the Complaint Form), or by telephone.
The headteacher will record the date the complaint is received and opened and will acknowledge this with the complainant in writing (by letter or email) within 5 school days.
Within this response, the headteacher will seek to clarify the nature of the complaint, ask what remains unresolved and what outcome the complainant would like to see. The headteacher can consider whether a face-to-face meeting is the most appropriate way of doing this.
Note: The headteacher may delegate the investigation to another member of the school’s senior leadership team but not the decision to be taken.
During the investigation, the headteacher (or investigator) will:
• if necessary, interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish
• keep a written record of any meetings/interviews in relation to their investigation
• wherever possible these should be read and agreed with those being interviewed and signed to confirm this has happened
At the conclusion of their investigation, the headteacher will provide a formal written response within 15 school days of the date of receipt of the complaint.
If the headteacher is unable to meet this deadline, they will provide the complainant with an update and revised response date.
The response will detail any actions taken to investigate the complaint and provide a full explanation of the decision made and the reason(s) for it. Where appropriate, it will include details of actions <School Name> will take to resolve the complaint, see 5.5 above.
The headteacher will advise the complainant of how to escalate their complaint should they remain dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 1.
If the complaint is about the headteacher, or a member of the governing board (including the Chair or Vice-Chair), a suitably skilled governor will be appointed to complete all the actions at Stage 1.
Complaints about the headteacher should be made to the Chair of Governors. Complaints about a member of the governing board must be made to the schools nominated complaints administrator, via the school office.
If the complaint is:
• jointly about the Chair and Vice Chair or
• the entire governing board or
• the majority of the governing board
Stage 1 will be considered by an independent investigator appointed by the governing board or (<insert Diocese details if appropriate>). When concluding their investigation, the independent investigator will provide a formal written response.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome at Stage 1, and can clearly state their grounds for doing so, they can escalate the complaint to Stage 2 – a meeting with members of the governing board’s complaints committee, which will be formed of three impartial governors, who are available. This is the final stage of the complaints procedure. It is not appropriate for a staff governor to sit on this committee and it would be unwise to use parent governors, unless the complaint is about a service the school provides, and does not relate directly to a pupil or members of staff.
A request to escalate to Stage 2 must be made to the schools nominated complaints administrator, via the school office, within 10 school days of receipt of the Stage 1 response.
The schools nominated complaints administrator will record the date the complaint is received and opened and acknowledge this with the complainant in writing (by letter or email) within 5 school days.
Requests received outside of this time frame will only be considered if exceptional circumstances apply.
The school’s nominated complaints administrator will write to the complainant to inform them of the date of the meeting. They will aim to convene a meeting within 15 school days of receipt of the Stage 2 request. If this is not possible, the schools nominated complaints administrator will provide an anticipated date and keep the complainant informed.
If the complainant rejects the offer of three proposed dates, without good reason, the schools nominated complaints administrator will decide when to hold the meeting. It will then proceed in the complainant’s absence based on written submissions from all parties.
The complaints committee will consist of at least three governors with no prior involvement or knowledge of the complaint. Prior to the meeting, they will decide amongst themselves who will act as the Chair of the Complaints Committee. If there are fewer than three governors from <School Name> available, the schools nominated complaints administrator will source any additional, independent governors through another local school or through their LA’s Governor Services team, to ensure there is appropriate representation on the committee. Alternatively, an entirely independent committee may be convened to hear the complaint at Stage 2.
The committee will decide whether to deal with the complaint by inviting parties to a meeting or through written representations. In making their decision they will need to be sensitive to the complainant’s needs and give due consideration to the complainant’s wishes.
If the complainant is invited to attend the meeting, they may bring someone along to provide support. This can be a relative or friend who should act in a supportive role as described in the roles and responsibilities in Appendix 3 . Generally, we do not encourage either party to bring legal representatives to the committee meeting. However, there may be occasions when legal representation is appropriate. For example, if a school employee is called as a witness in a complaint meeting, they may wish to be supported by union and/or legal representation.
Note: Complaints about staff conduct will not generally be handled under this complaints procedure. Complainants will be advised that any staff conduct complaints will be considered under staff disciplinary procedures, if appropriate, but outcomes will not be shared with them.
Representatives from the media are not permitted to attend.
At least 10 school days before the meeting, the schools nominated complaints administrator will:
• confirm and notify the complainant of the date, time and venue of the meeting, ensuring that, if the complainant is invited, the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible
• request copies of any further written material to be submitted to the committee at least 5 school days before the meeting.
Any written material will be circulated to all parties at least 3 school days before the date of the meeting. The committee will not normally accept, as evidence, recordings of conversations that were obtained covertly and without the informed consent of all parties being recorded.
The committee will also not review any new complaints at this stage or consider evidence unrelated to the initial complaint to be included. New complaints must be dealt with from Stage 1 of the procedure.
The meeting will be held in private. Electronic recordings of meetings or conversations are not normally permitted unless a complainant’s own disability or special needs require it. Prior knowledge and consent of all parties attending must be sought before meetings or conversations take place. Consent will be recorded in any minutes taken. It is strongly recommended that an experienced and independent clerk is used to take the minutes and provide support for the committee. Accurate minutes are essential to prevent misunderstandings and issues at a later date.
The committee will consider the complaint and all the evidence presented. The committee can:
• uphold the complaint in whole or in part
• dismiss the complaint in whole or in part.
If the complaint is upheld in whole or in part, the committee will:
• decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint
• where appropriate, recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to prevent similar issues in the future.
The Chair of the Committee will provide the complainant and <School Name> with a full explanation of their decision and the reason(s) for it, in writing (by letter or email), within 10 school days.
The letter to the complainant will include details of how to contact the Department for Education if they are dissatisfied with the way their complaint has been handled by <School Name>.
If the complaint is:
• jointly about the Chair and Vice Chair or
• the entire governing board or
• the majority of the governing board
Stage 2 will be heard by a committee of independent, co-opted governors.
The response will detail any actions taken to investigate the complaint and provide a full explanation of the decision made and the reason(s) for it. Where appropriate, it will include details of actions <School Name> will take to resolve the complaint.
The response will also advise the complainant of how to escalate their complaint should they remain dissatisfied.
6.0 Next Steps for the Complainant
If the complainant believes the school did not handle their complaint in accordance with the published complaints procedure or they acted unlawfully or unreasonably in the exercise of their duties under education law, they can contact the Department for Education after they have completed Stage 2.
The Department for Education will not normally reinvestigate the substance of complaints or overturn any decisions made by <School Name>. They will consider whether <School Name> has adhered to education legislation and any statutory policies connected with the complaint.
The complainant can refer their complaint to the Department for Education online at: www.education.gov.uk/contactus, by telephone on: 0370 000 2288 or by writing to:
Department for Education
7.0 Policy for managing serial and unreasonable complaints or contact
<School Name> is committed to dealing with all concerns or complaints fairly and impartially, and to providing a high quality service to those who raise them. We will not normally limit the contact complainants have with our school. However, we do not expect our staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and will take action to protect staff from that behaviour, including that which is abusive, offensive or threatening.
<School Name> defines unreasonable behaviour as that which hinders our consideration of concerns or complaints because of the frequency or nature of the contact with the school, such as, if the person contacting the school:
• refuses to articulate their concern or complaint or specify the grounds of a concern or complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the concern or complaint, despite offers of assistance;
• refuses to co-operate with the investigation process;
• refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the complaints procedure;
• insists on the concern or complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the complaints procedure or with good practice;
• introduces trivial or irrelevant information which they expect to be taken into account and commented on;
• raises large numbers of detailed but unimportant questions, and insists they are fully answered, often immediately and to their own timescales;
• makes unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and seeks to have them replaced;
• changes the basis of the complaint as the investigation proceeds;
• repeatedly raise the same concern or complaint (despite previous investigations or responses concluding that the concern or complaint is groundless or has been addressed);
• refuses to accept the findings of the investigation into that complaint where the school’s complaint procedure has been fully and properly implemented and completed including referral to the Department for Education;
• seeks an unrealistic outcome;
• makes excessive demands on school time by frequent, lengthy and complicated contact with staff regarding the concern or complaint in person, in writing, by email and by telephone while it is being dealt with;
• uses threats to intimidate;
• uses abusive, offensive or discriminatory language or violence;
• knowingly provides falsified information;
• publishes unacceptable information on social media or other public forums.
Those contacting the school should try to limit their communication with the school while their concern or complaint is being progressed. It is not helpful if repeated correspondence is sent (either by letter, phone, email or text), as it could delay the outcome being reached.
If the school feels the contacts are unreasonable, have made this clear and the behaviour continues, the headteacher will write to the person raising the concern or complaint explaining that their behaviour is unreasonable and ask them to change it. For people who excessively contact <School Name> as described above and cause a significant level of disruption, we may specify methods of communication and limit the number of contacts in a communication plan. This will be reviewed after six months.
In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, we will immediately inform the police and communicate our actions in writing (by letter or email). This may include barring an individual from <School Name> premises.