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Complaints

COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES

September 2016
Policy review date September 2019
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 All schools are required to establish a complaints procedure and to publicise that procedure. It is anticipated that this will include clear signposting to the procedure in any appropriate school publications, which should indicate that a copy of the full procedure is available on the school website and on request from the school office. References to ‘school’ throughout this procedure encompass Burnt Tree Primary.
1.2 The intention of this procedure is to provide schools with a clear and transparent process that will enable all complaints to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. The length of time that this takes will vary with the gravity and complexity of the complaint and the urgency with which it needs to be settled. However, all complaints should be settled within a period which is reasonable in the circumstances.
1.3 This procedure takes into account current Department for Education guidance.
1.4 All references to working days refer to days on which the school is open to pupils and for staff training days.
2. SCOPE OF THE PROCEDURE
2.1 This procedure covers all complaints against the school by external persons/parties which do not have an alternative statutory avenue of appeal or complaint. Where complaints make allegations of misconduct against members of staff this procedure may be superseded by use of the staff disciplinary procedure or other appropriate staffing procedure, at any time or following recommendations at the conclusion of the complaints process.
2.2 Employees of the school (and ex-employees who wish to raise an issue relating to their former employment) cannot use this procedure but, where necessary, should raise concerns via the appropriate staffing procedure, full details of which are available from the school.
3. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
3.1 All complaints should be dealt with in a transparent way and as quickly as is reasonably practicable. Complainants should be kept informed during the investigation of their complaint and of the outcome, except where this is confidential, e.g. in the case of a staff disciplinary process. Every effort should be made to resolve complaints in a non- confrontational and informal way.
3.2 The timescales within this procedure should be adhered to as far as is reasonable practicable.
Where this is not possible the complainant should be informed, within the specified timescale, as to why this is the case, and given a revised timescale for dealing with the complaint.
3.3 The school ensures that they have appropriate arrangements for recording complaints and the way in which they are resolved. Further, that they will regularly (at least annually), monitor the nature and level of complaints, so as to best ensure the effectiveness of the procedure, and consider any underlying issues the school may need to address, including whether specific actions identified as outcomes of complaints have been addressed.
4. RESOLVING COMPLAINTS
4.1 At each stage in the procedure schools will want to consider the ways in which a complaint can be resolved. It may 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 apology; an explanation; 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.
4.2 At each stage complainants should be asked to state what actions they feel might resolve the issue. 
An admission that the school could have handled the situation better is not the same as an admission of negligence.
5. FRIVOLOUS OR VEXATIOUS COMPLAINTS
5.1 The Office of the Independent Adjudicator has defined frivolous or vexatious complaints as follows: Complaints which are obsessive, persistent, harassing, prolific, repetitious; Insistence upon pursuing unmeritorious complaints and/or unrealistic outcomes beyond all reason; Insistence upon pursuing meritorious complaints in an unreasonable manner; Complaints which are designed to cause disruption or annoyance; Demands for redress which lack any serious purpose or value.
5.2 An ‘unreasonable manner’ may include situations where the complainant’s frequency of contact with the school hinders the consideration of the complaint and/or impedes the ability of the Headteacher and school to meet the needs of all pupils equitably.
5.3 Where the Headteacher, and/or Chair of Governors, judges a complaint to be frivolous or vexatious, having considered all the relevant circumstances, s/he should take appropriate action which may include rejecting the complaint and/or restricting contact between the complainant and the school.
5.4 The Headteacher or Chair of Governors as appropriate should write to the complainant and explain this decision and the reasons for it, and what action will follow.
5.5 Where a complainant seeks to reopen a matter the same as, or similar to, a matter previously considered under the procedure the Chair of Governors has the right to inform him/her that the procedure has been exhausted and the matter is closed.
6. STAGES OF THE PROCEDURE
6.1 Many concerns and minor complaints can be resolved quickly and informally. There are many occasions where issues are resolved immediately through the class teacher or another member of staff, depending upon the nature of the complaint. Unless there are exceptional circumstances every effort should be made by the school to have a full discussion with the complainant before moving into the stages of this procedure.
First Stage
6.2 If the complaint is not resolved through such discussion, the complainant should contact the Headteacher. The complaint should be made in writing by the complainant, or by another person on
their behalf, with their consent (by letter or email). 
6.3 The Headteacher, or other member of staff nominated by him/her, should offer to meet with the complainant to discuss his/her concerns within ten working days of receiving the complaint, or as soon as is reasonably practicable. Where necessary the Headteacher, or other nominated member of staff, should carry out a full investigation into the issues raised. The Headteacher will give a written response to the complainant as soon as possible but, in any case, within ten working days of this meeting. Where the complainant refuses the offer of a meeting this response should be made within ten working days of the receipt of the written complaint. Where the complainant is dissatisfied with this response, the complaint should move to the first formal stage of the procedure.
6.4 Where the complaint is against the Headteacher, the chair of governors, another governor or the Governing Body as a whole, the complaint will move straight to the second stage of the procedure.
Second Stage
6.5 If the complaint cannot satisfactorily be resolved at the first stage of the procedure, or where paragraph 6.4 applies, the complainant should put their complaint in writing to the Chair of Governors (or Vice Chair/ nominated governor where the complaint is against the Headteacher/Chair of Governors), which may be by letter or email, via the school. The Chair/Vice Chair/nominated governor should offer to meet with the complainant to discuss his/her concerns within ten working days of receiving the complaint, or as soon as is reasonably practicable after this.
6.6 The Chair/Vice Chair/nominated governor will review the investigation and Headteacher’s decision and may confirm this decision or reach a different decision. The governor may choose to reinvestigate the complaint in whole or in part.
6.7 Where paragraph 6.5 applies the Chair/Vice Chair/nominated governor will conduct an investigation into the complaint. S/he should take appropriate advice in doing so.
6.8 The Chair/Vice Chair/nominated governor will communicate his/her response in writing to the complainant as soon as possible but, in any case, within ten working days of the meeting referred to in paragraph 6.7. Where the complainant refuses the offer of such a meeting the governor will inform the complainant of the outcome of the investigation within ten working days of receipt of the written complaint or as soon as is reasonably practicable afterwards.
6.9 Where the complainant is dissatisfied with this response the complaint should move to the appeal stage of the procedure.
Appeal Stage
6.10 If the complainant wishes to appeal against the decision made at the formal stage s/he must indicate his/her intention to do so within ten working days of receipt of the outcome of the formal stage.
6.11 The complainant should do this by sending a written appeal to the Chair of Governors, either by letter or email, or, where the complaint is against the Chair, to the nominated governor. This should state the original complaint and the reasons for on-going dissatisfaction. The Chair of Governors, or nominated governor, may decline to accept a complaint into the Appeal Stage where s/he, acting reasonably, believes that the complaint has been upheld in full at the Formal Stage and in all the circumstances there is no merit in the matter proceeding further.
6.12 A governors’ panel should be convened, consisting of three governors who have had no previous involvement in consideration of the complaint. Where the complainant is a parent, governors may wish to consider the possible advantages of this panel including a parent governor. A complaints appeal meeting will be held in accordance with the procedure attached as Appendix A.
6.13 The meeting of the governors’ panel should take place as soon as possible, but in any case a date should be set and communicated to the complainant within twenty working days of receipt of the appeal. The governors’ decision should be communicated in writing to the complainant as soon as possible but, in any case, within five working days of the meeting. The complainant will have no further right to appeal this decision within the school.
7. OPPORTUNITIES TO REQUEST A REVIEW COMPLAINING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE
7.1 If a complainant believes that the Governing Body has acted unreasonably s/he can complain in writing to the Secretary of State for Education. Complaints to the Secretary of State regarding maintained schools are handled by the Department for Education. In the case of academies the Secretary of State’s responsibility to consider complaints is dealt with by the Education Funding Agency.
Complaining to Ofsted
7.2 Ofsted has powers to investigate certain types of complaint from parents to help them to decide whether to inspect a school.
7.3 Before complaining to an external body it would usually be expected that all stages of this procedure had been exhausted.