(Please click here if you wish to download the policy in pdf format.)
Ladybridge Primary has a complaints procedure which will ensure we respond to complaints as quickly and effectively as possible. The procedure will set out exactly what will happen with a complaint and how long the process will take. The procedure will be used to deal with complaints relating to the school and any community facilities or services that the school provides. We value all comments about our school and we will endeavour to address your concerns at the earliest stage possible.
The formal procedures will need to be invoked when initial attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful and the person raising the concern remains dissatisfied and wishes the matter to be heard by an impartial committee of the Governing Body.
In the first instance complaints should be directed to a member of staff who will refer the issue to the most appropriate person. If the complaint concerns the Head Teacher or a Governor, the complainant should contact the Chair of Governors in writing via the school.
If the complaint is about the Chair of Governors, the complainant should write to the Clerk to the Governors who will convene the complaints committee appointed from the Governing Body, and stage three of this procedure will apply. In this instance the Chair of Governors may choose to present the evidence for the school. The Clerk may refer to the Local Authority, Governor Support Service for advice and support on any investigation.
When making a complaint it is important that the complainant identifies their desired outcome, that is what actions they feel might resolve the problem at any stage.
Pupils, parents or carers can make a complaint to the school about most aspects of its function including:
- Attitude/ behaviour of staff
- Teaching and learning
- Application of behaviour management systems
- Provision of extra-curricular activities
- The curriculum and collective worship
The same complaint could be made jointly by a number of persons, in this case it is expected that a nominee/representative speak on behalf of all complainants, otherwise, all complaints will be dealt with on an individual basis.
Members of the general public may make complaints to the school if the school is directly responsible for the issue being complained about e.g.
- Behaviour of pupils during break-times
- Health and safety issues of premises
- Behaviour of staff
These complaints will not fall within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State or Ofsted, therefore only the Head Teacher and the Governing Body will consider them.
This procedure will not be used for a staff grievance or disciplinary procedure. Legal, safeguarding or disciplinary proceedings take precedence over complaints procedures and timescales. A complaint about any community facilities or services provided by any third party through the school premises or using school facilities should be addressed to the third party provider who will have their own complaints procedure. Copies of the complaints procedure for any third party provider are available directly from the provider.
The Governing Body will monitor the level and nature of complaints and review the outcomes on a regular basis to ensure the effectiveness of the procedure and make changes where necessary. Complaints information shared with the whole Governing Body will not normally name individuals. As well as addressing an individual’s complaints, the process of listening to and resolving complaints will contribute to school improvement. When individual complaints are heard, any underlying issues that are identified will be addressed. The monitoring and review of complaints by the school and the Governing Body is seen as a useful tool in evaluating a school’s performance.
The role of the Local Authority/Diocese in school complaints is prescribed by legislation. Local Management of Schools made schools self-managing and therefore responsible for administering procedures that deal with complaints made against them.
Dealing with unreasonable complaints
If properly followed, a good 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.
A complaint can be regarded as unreasonable when the person making the complaint:
- Repeatedly makes the same complaint and refuses to accept the findings of the investigation into that complaint
- Seeks an unrealistic outcome
- Has a history of making unreasonable complaints
- Makes frequent, lengthy, complicated and stressful contact with staff regarding the complaint
A complaint will be considered unreasonable if the person making the complaint does so:
- Using threats, intimidation or violence
- Using abusive, offensive or discriminatory language
- Knowing it to be false
The presumption should be in favour of not restricting access unless it is absolutely necessary. The governors may consider:
- Warnings/contract for future conduct
- Restricting telephone calls to a particular day, time or person
- Restrictions on methods of contact (e.g. in writing)
- Not acknowledging future correspondence that does not present new information
- Temporary suspension of the person’s access to the complaints system
The complainant will be informed in writing of any action taken and how long the action will last. They must be advised how to contact the Local Government Ombudsman.
Stage One: Complaint Heard by Staff Member
The vast majority of concerns can be resolved informally. There are many occasions where the class teacher, office staff, or the Head Teacher, can resolve concerns straight away. It is in everyone’s best interests that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. Complainants must feel able to raise concerns with members of staff without any formality, either in person, by telephone or in writing. This allows staff to establish whether a person is asking a question, expressing an opinion or making a complaint.
The member of staff first contacted should clarify the nature of the concern and re-assure the complainant that the school wants to hear about it. Once a complaint has been received by a member of staff they should determine whether they are the best person to resolve the complaint.
Ladybridge Primary School respect the views of any complainant and if they express a difficulty in discussing their complaint with a particular member of staff the complainant will be referred to another member of staff.
Where the complaint concerns the Head Teacher, the complainant will be referred to the Chair of Governors.
If the concern involves any child protection issue, the Head Teacher will inform the relevant Local Authority social care team or Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).
Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels too compromised to deal with a complaint, they may consider referring the complainant to another staff member.
Once the complaint has been investigated the outcome should be communicated to the complainant. The complaint will be responded to within 10 school days either verbally or in writing. The complainant must also be informed of what do next if they remain dissatisfied with the response.
If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation into their complaint they should write to the Head Teacher within 10 school days asking for your complaint to be investigated at stage
Stage Two: Complaint Heard by Head Teacher
Parents and pupils should be advised of their right to make complaints. Complaints should be made either in writing or by arrangement of an appointment with the Head Teacher. The complainant may choose to use the attached complaints form (see appendix 1). If the complaint is about the Head Teacher, the Chair of Governors should deal with the matter using this procedure. If the complainant has difficulty expressing themselves in writing, they should be informed where they can get independent assistance.
The Head Teacher may delegate the task of collating the information to another staff member but not the decision on the action to be taken. The person investigating the complaint should be clear what exactly the complaint is and the desired outcome as soon as possible.
The Head Teacher should contact the complainant and provide an opportunity for the complainant to discuss their concerns and find solutions. This could be by phone or in a meeting. It should be made clear that the complainant may bring a friend, family member or advocate to any meeting if they wish. Interpreting services should be made available where necessary. The Head Teacher should have another member of staff present to observe and record the meeting and promote staff safety. Care should be taken in these circumstances not to create an intimidating atmosphere for the complainant. If it is necessary to interview pupils as part of the investigation, this should be done in the presence of another member of staff, or in the case of serious complaints e.g. where the possibility of criminal investigation exists, in the presence of their parents.
Written notes should be kept of all communications with regard to the complaint and its investigation.
The complaint will be investigated and written response will be provided within 10 school days, unless the complaint is complicated and to allow for a full investigation to be carried out an extension of 10 school days may be granted. Where it is deemed necessary to apply an extension to the investigation period this will be communicated to the complainant.
The complainant must be informed of the right to take the complaint to stage 3 if they remain dissatisfied.
Stage Three: Complaint Heard by Governing Body’s Complaints Committee
Where a complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint at stage two they should write to the Chair of Governors within 10 school days of receipt of the decision of the stage two investigation. The Chair of Governors should first ensure that the complaint has been dealt with at stage two, and the complaint is covered by the school’s complaints procedure not other procedures e.g. personnel or child protection. If not the matter should be referred back to the Head Teacher and the Chair of Governors should write to the complainant advising them of the correct procedures.
Upon receipt of a letter notifying the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of a stage two investigation, the Chair of Governors should write acknowledging that the complaint has been received. At this point the Chair of Governors may offer mediation as a means of resolving the complaint. Mediation can be facilitated by the Chair of Governors, or if it is felt to be more appropriate an external agency may be used such as Parent Partnership, Bully Free-zone or a professional mediation service. If the matter cannot be resolved through mediation the Chair of Governors should arrange for the complaints committee to be convened. The letter should explain that the complainant has the right to submit any further documents or information relevant to the complaint. A deadline for submission of these documents should be given, which should be at least 5 school days before the hearing.
A clerk will be appointed who should convene the complaints committee appointed from the Governing Body. The committee should comprise of 3 or 5 governors who have no previous involvement with the complaint, of which one will assume the role of chair for the committee, who will have delegated powers to hear complaints at this stage. The complaint should never be heard by the entire governing body as this could compromise the impartiality of any committee set up for a disciplinary hearing against a member of staff following a serious complaint.
The Head Teacher should also be invited to submit a written report for the committee; this may be a copy of the stage two response. The Head Teacher may also invite members of staff directly involved in matters raised by the complainant to respond personally or in writing.
The complaints committee should set a timetable for the hearing and should notify the complainant of this. The hearing should be heard within 20 school days of receiving the letter.
It is strongly recommended that the complaints hearing meeting be clerked. The clerk would be the contact point for the complainant and be required to:
- 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;
- welcome the parties as they arrive to the hearing;
- record the proceedings;
- notify all parties of the committee’s decision.
The Clerk should write to inform the committee, Head Teacher, complainant and any relevant witnesses of the date and time of the hearing, giving a minimum of 5 days notice. All documents submitted should be circulated to the committee, the Head Teacher and the complainant. The complainant will be notified of their right to have a friend, family member, advocate or interpreter present if they wish. The Chair of Governors should ensure that minutes are taken at the complaints committee meeting.
The committee should be open-minded and independent. The aim of the meeting should be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it may sometimes only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations that satisfy the complainant that their concern has been taken seriously.
The decision of the committee must be final as they have been delegated authority by the Governing Body to hear and make decisions about the complaint.
The hearing should be held in private. Any witnesses (other than the complainant and the Head Teacher) should only attend for the part of the hearing in which they give evidence. Good practice would be that at no point should the Head Teacher or the complainant be left with the complaints committee without the other being present.
The committee should remember that the complainants may not be familiar with the conduct of formal meetings and may feel inhibited in addressing the committee. It is recommended that the chair of the committee keep the proceedings as informal as possible. This is particularly important if the complainant is a child.
If either party wishes to introduce new information at the meeting, this should be allowed. The meeting should then be adjourned for a short period to allow other parties to review and respond to this information.
The meeting should allow for:
- The complainant to explain their complaint and the Head Teacher to explain the school’s response
- Witnesses to be brought by the complainant or the Head Teacher
- The Head Teacher and the complainant to ask questions of each other and any witnesses
- The committee to ask questions of the complainant, Head Teacher and any witnesses
- The complainant and the Head Teacher to summarise their position
The chair of the committee should thank the complainant and Head Teacher for their attendance and request they leave the meeting while the committee consider their decision. They should then decide:
- Whether to dismiss the complaint in whole or part
- To uphold the complaint in whole or part
- To approve any appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint
- Where appropriate, recommend to the Governing Body what action can be taken to prevent similar difficulties in the future
A written response detailing the decisions, recommendations and the basis on which these have been made should be sent to the complainant and the Head Teacher within 5 school days of the meeting.
The school should retain a copy of all correspondence and records of meetings in line with current retention guidelines.
If the complaint remains unresolved and the complainant feels that the school has behaved unreasonably about their concerns, they can write to the Secretary of State for Education:
The Secretary of State, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT
Ofsted will also consider a complaint if they affect the school as a whole. For example:
- The school is not providing a good enough education
- The pupils are not achieving as much as they should, or their different needs are not being met
- The school is not well led and managed, or is wasting money
- The pupils’ personal development and wellbeing are being neglected
Ofsted can be contacted on 0300 123 4666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please click on the links below to access the following forms.