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Complaints Procedure 

 

October 2014

Walderslade Primary School procedures for dealing with complaints

This document set out our procedure for complaints. We are committed to ensuring that all complaints are dealt with fairly, openly and honestly and aim to resolve issues in a positive partnership taking the opportunity to learn and improve our services wherever possible.

The procedure is divided into three stages;

Stage 1- The informal stage aims to resolve the concern through informal contact at the appropriate level in school. 

Stage 2 - The first formal stage at which written complaints are considered by the head teacher, or where the head teacher or governing body is the subject of the complaint the designated governor, (usually the Chair of Governors  who has special responsibility for dealing with complaints.

Stage 3 – Where the head teacher has investigated the complaint and you remain unhappy with the resolution, you can ask for the complaint to be passed to the designated governor who will review whether the complaint has been properly dealt with.

Stage 4 - The final stage of the school’s internal complaint procedure involving an appeal to a panel of governors.

Where a complaint or any other notice is related to safeguarding or child protection, the school has a legal responsibility to inform the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). If the LADO decides that the situation is to be formally investigated, this may postpone or supersede any investigation by the head teacher or governing body.

 

Where a matter can be resolved through a legal appeal it will not be considered as a formal complaint. The key areas are: admissions decisions; certain decisions relating to formal assessment of special educational needs; and decisions to permanently exclude a child.

 

Where a complaint relates to the action or inaction of the governing body, or the conduct of a member of the governing body the complaint should be addressed to the Chair of Governors in the first instance.

 

If the complaint is against a member of staff, it will be dealt with under the school’s internal confidential procedures, as required by law. You will be advised that the matter has been dealt with, but details of any action taken will not be disclosed.

How each of the stages one to four operates is explained below:

Stage One - Informal stage - your initial contact with the school

1. The vast majority of concerns will be dealt with informally when you make them known to us. The first point of contact should be your child’s class teacher

2. Once your concern is made known to us, we will see you, or contact you by telephone or in writing, as soon as possible.  This will usually be within 3 school days.  If it is necessary, all members of staff know how to refer to the appropriate person with responsibility for your particular issues. He or she will make a clear note of the details and will check later to make sure that the matter has been followed up. 

3. Any actions or monitoring of the situation that has been agreed, will be communicated clearly

4. If you are still dissatisfied following this informal approach, your concern will become a formal complaint and we will deal with it at the next stage.

Stage two - formal consideration of your complaint

This stage in our procedures deals with written complaints, which include those submitted by e-mail. The school will be happy to provide assistance to draft the complaint letter if that would be helpful. The person giving assistance will have no connection with the complaint itself.  This stage applies where you are not happy with the informal approach to dealing with your concern, as outlined above. 

1. Normally, your written complaint should be addressed to the head teacher. If, however, your complaint concerns the head teacher personally, or matters relating to the action or inaction of the governing body or a member of the governing body, it should be sent to the school marked for the attention of the designated governor for complaints

2. We will acknowledge your complaint in writing as soon as possible after receiving it. This will be within three school days of receipt by the head teacher or designated governor. 

3. The head teacher , his or her delegated representative or designated governor will investigate the complaint which may include inviting you to discuss your complaint further, and keep written, signed and dated records of all meetings and telephone conversations, and other related documentation.

4. Once we have established all the relevant facts, we will send you a written response to your complaint. This will give an explanation of the head teacher’s or designated governor’s decision and the reasons for it. If follow-up action is needed, we will indicate what we are proposing to do. We may invite you to a meeting to discuss the outcome as part of our commitment to building and maintaining good relations with you.

Normally we would expect to respond in full within 15 school days but if this is not possible we will write to explain the reason for the delay and let you know when we hope to be able to provide a full response.

5. If you are unhappy with the way in which we reached our conclusions, you may wish to proceed to stage two, as described below.

Stage three – consideration by the designated governor

This stage in our procedure deals with situations where having complained to the head teacher you remain dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been resolved. Upon receipt of a written request, designated governor will review the complaint and the way in which it has been dealt with.   Having reviewed your complaint, they will send you a written response, detailing their conclusions, normally within fifteen school days.  If the designated governor is unable to respond within this timeframe, we will write to you and let you know.

Stage four - consideration by a governors appeal panel

 If the complaint has already been through stages one, two and three and you are not happy with the outcome as a result of the way in which the complaint has been handled, you can take it further to a governors appeal panel. This is a formal process, and the ultimate recourse at school level. The purpose of this arrangement is to give you the chance to present your arguments in front of a panel of governors who have no prior knowledge of the details of the case and who can, therefore, consider it without prejudice.  However, the aim of a panel is not to rehear the complaint. It is there to review how the complaint has been investigated and to determine whether this has been conducted fairly. It is there to establish facts and make recommendations which will reassure you that we have taken the complaint seriously. 

Closure of complaints

Very occasionally, the school will feel that it needs, regretfully, to close a complaint where the complainant is still dissatisfied. While we will do all we can to help to resolve a complaint against the school but sometimes it is simply not possible to meet all of the complainant’s wishes. Sometimes it is simply a case of agreeing to disagree.

If a complainant persists in making representations to the school, to the head teacher, designated governor, chair of governors or anyone else this can be extremely time-consuming and can detract from our responsibility to look after the interests of all the children in our care. For this reason, we are entitled to close correspondence (including personal approaches, as well as letters and telephone calls) on a complaint where we feel that we have taken all reasonable action to resolve the complaint and that the complaint has exhausted our official process.  In exceptional circumstances, closure may occur before a complaint has reached stage two of the procedures described in this document. This is because a complaints panel takes considerable time and effort to set up and we must be sure that it is likely to assist the process of investigating the complaint.

Where you have been through the school’s internal complaints procedures (with or without recourse to a complaints review panel) and are still unhappy with the outcome or decision from the governing body, you can register your complaint with the Department for Education at

 https://www.education.gov.uk/form/school-complaints-form

Please enclose with your letter to the DfE a copy of the complaint outcome. This will save time in that the DfE will not need to ask for our view of what has happened.

We would advise parents that, unless the school is shown to have behaved unreasonably or not to have followed their own procedures, there is likely to be little further action that can be taken, as governing bodies are empowered to manage their own complaint resolution.

 

The governors appeal panel operates according to the following formal procedures:

  1. The governing body will convene a panel of three governors and will aim to arrange for the panel meeting to take place within 20 school days
  2. You will be asked whether you wish to provide any further written documentation in support of your appeal.
  3. The head teacher or complaint investigator will be asked to prepare a written report for the panel. The panel can request additional information from other sources if necessary.
  4. You will be informed, at least five school days in advance, of the date, time and place of the meeting. We hope you will feel comfortable with the meeting taking place in the school but we will do what we can to make alternative arrangements if you prefer.
  5. With the letter, you will receive any relevant correspondence or reports regarding stage one and you will be asked whether you wish to submit further written evidence to the panel. The letter will explain what will happen at the panel meeting and that you are entitled to be accompanied to the meeting. The choice of person to accompany you is your own, but it is usually best to involve someone in whom you have confidence but who is not directly connected with the school. They are there to give you support but also to witness the proceedings and to speak on your behalf if you wish.
  1. If it is necessary in the interests of the ratifying the investigative process, the complaint investigator may, with the agreement of the chair of the panel, invite relevant witnesses directly involved in matters raised by you to attend the meeting.
  2. As a general rule, no evidence or witnesses previously undisclosed should be introduced into the meeting by any of the participants. If either party wishes to do so, the meeting will be adjourned so that the other party has a fair opportunity to consider and respond to the new evidence.
  3. The chair of the panel will ensure that the meeting is properly minuted. Please understand that any decision to share the minutes with you, the complainant, is a matter for the panel’s discretion and you do not have an automatic right to see or receive a copy as the minutes are the property of the governing body. Since such minutes usually name individuals, they are understandably of a sensitive and, therefore, confidential nature.
  4. Normally, the written outcome of the panel meeting, which will be sent to you, should give you all the information you require. If, however, you feel that you would like to have a copy of the minutes it would be helpful if you could indicate this in advance. If the panel is happy for the minutes to be copied to you, the clerk can then be asked maintain confidentiality in the minutes.
  5. During the meeting, you can expect there to be opportunities for:
  • the panel to hear you explain your case and your argument for why it should be heard at this stage

  • the panel to hear the complaint investigator’s case in response;

  • you to raise questions via the chair;

  • you to be questioned by the complaint investigator through the chair;

  • the panel members to be able to question you and the complaint investigator; and

  • you and the headteacher to make a final statement.

  • In closing the meeting, the chair will explain that the panel will now consider its decision and that written notice of the decision will be sent to you and the headteacher within three school days. All participants other than the panel and the clerk will then leave.

11. The panel will then consider the complaint and all the evidence presented in order to reach a unanimous, or at least a majority, decision on the complaint; decide on the appropriate action to be taken, if necessary; and  recommend, where appropriate, to the governing body changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that similar problems do not happen again.

12. The clerk will send you and the headteacher a letter outlining the decision of the panel. The letter will also explain that you are entitled to have the handling of the complaint reviewed by the Secretary of State for Education.

13. We will keep a copy of all correspondence and notes on file in the schools records but separate from pupils personal records.