Woodside Primary School values the good relations it enjoys with parents/carers and the community. These good relations are based on mutual respect and a willingness to listen to other points of view. The purpose of our complaints procedure is to provide a framework for the governing body to adopt, giving a structured opportunity for all concerned to express and resolve concerns and thus to improve provision.
It is in the best interest of all parties that any concern is expressed and resolved quickly and at the earliest possible stage. We believe an effective Complaints Procedure should:
- encourage resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible
- be easily accessible
- be simple to understand and use
- be impartial;
- be non-adversarial
- allow swift handling with established time-limits for action and keeping people informed of the progress
- ensure a full and fair investigation by an independent person where necessary
- respect people’s desire for confidentiality
- address all the points at issue and provide an effective response and appropriate redress, where necessary
- provide information to the school’s senior management team so that services can be improved.
At any stage in the process, any party may consult the Local Authority for impartial advice on matters of procedure.
Our Complaints Procedure
Our Complaints Procedure has three stages:
STAGE 1 – TEACHER THEN HEADTEACHER
Many concerns are the result of a misunderstanding and can be resolved informally by discussion with a member of staff: more difficult or complex concerns may take more than one discussion. The school is happy to receive suggestions and to talk about concerns which help us to identify areas of success and areas in which we could improve. Where a concern is brought to the school’s attention it can often be resolved with a single conversation.
All concerns are taken seriously. It may be appropriate to:
- offer an explanation or apology
- admit that the situation could have been handled differently
- give an assurance that the event will not recur
- give an explanation of the steps take to ensure this
- give an undertaking to review school policy/practice
Occasionally despite the best efforts of all parties these discussions do not resolve the concern, which then may become a complaint.
If the matter has not been satisfactorily resolved after 10 working school days, the matter will proceed to Stage 2.
Stage 2 – Investigation by Headteacher or Chair of Governors
The headteacher will make an investigation and respond to the complainant. If the complaint is directed at the headteacher, then the chair of governors (or other named governor) should take on this stage.
The Headteacher or Chair of Governors will:
- establish what has happened so far, and who has been involved
- clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved
- meet with the complainant or contact them (if unsure or further information is necessary)
- clarify what the complainant feels would put things right
- interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish
- conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning;
- keep notes of the interview
If the complaint has still not been satisfactorily resolved after 10 further working school days, the matter will proceed to Stage 3.
Stage 3 – Complaint to the Governing Body
This can be made only if the complainant has:
- sought to resolve the concern through approaches to the school as described in Stages 1 and 2
- allowed reasonable time (normally no more than four school weeks) for investigation of the concern
- accepted any reasonable offer by the school to discuss the result of the investigation
- taken part in any process of mediation offered by the school
- put the complaint clearly in writing (normally within two months of the event)
- The governing body has an established Complaints Committee. Two governors who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint and who have not previously been involved in the investigation plus one other person independent of the management and running of Woodside School will form an appeal panel
The panel’s responsibility is to hear and decide about formal complaints which have not been resolved at the earlier stages. The headteacher is not a member of the panel.
The complainant should write to the Chair of Governors or the Clerk to the Governing Body requesting a meeting of a complaints Panel. No new complaint may be included at this stage.
The Chair or Clerk will respond to the complainant within 24 hours of receipt of the letter. The clerk will contact the complaints panel members nominated by the governing body and will be responsible for making all the arrangements for the meeting, including time and place. The clerk will immediately send the text of the formal complaint to the headteacher and the chair of governors. The headteacher may have up to 10 school days from receipt of this notification to submit a response to the clerk. The meeting will be arranged as soon as possible, and not later than 20 working school days after receipt of the complainant’s request for a formal meeting. If there is difficulty agreeing a date the chair of the panel makes the final decision.
Any documents from either the complainant or the headteacher to be considered by the panel, and the names of any witnesses or friends who might attend, must be received by the clerk at least seven school days before the meeting. Copies of all papers submitted plus the agenda will be sent to the complaints panel members, complainant, headteacher, chair of governors and the Attached Inspector at least five school days before the meeting date. The headteacher will copy relevant papers to any member/s of staff named in the complaint.
If the complainant does not wish to attend the hearing, following ‘natural justice’ guidelines, the headteacher will also not attend and the panel will make their decisions and recommendations based on the paperwork circulated by both parties.
The complainant may bring a friend, interpreter or advocate to the meeting. The headteacher may bring a friend or professional representative.
If teachers or other members of staff are asked by the headteacher to be present at a complaints panel meeting, they have a right to bring a friend or professional representative. It is not appropriate for a child/pupil to attend.
The panel will consider the complaint on the basis of the papers they receive and what is said at the meeting. In the event of either party not attending the meeting, the chair of the panel has discretion to proceed or to adjourn at any stage.
The panel chair controls the meeting and will aim to complete all the business at a reasonable hour without the need to adjourn to another day. It is important that all participants help by being clear about the points they wish to make, by keeping to the point, and by being courteous throughout. The clerk should take full minutes which must be confidential.
The clerk will send the complainant, headteacher, chair of governors and any other person about whom complaint has been made a letter with the outcome of the meeting within seven days of the meeting.
No further appeal to the governing body is available in the matter of the complaint.
Stage 4 – Complaint to the Education Funding Agency (EFA)
If a complainant wishes to pursue the complaint, he/she has recourse to the EFA. The clerk to the governing body will inform the complainant of this option and how to contact the EFA when writing to him/her following the decision of the panel.
- Every effort is made to resolve issues at the earliest possible stage.
The role of the governing body
As well as our responsibility for the general conduct of the school, a key role of the governing body is to influence the ethos of the school, its general atmosphere and philosophy. This influence carries with it an equivalent responsibility to support the headteacher and the staff and to ensure fairness to them as well as to pupils, parents and those in the community who come into contact with the school. Complaints, if dealt with properly, can enhance the reputation of the school. The governing body has an important role to play in handling complaints well.
Information about the complaints procedure is included in our School Prospectus. The governing body should not deal with complaints until the headteacher has had an opportunity to resolve them.
The Remit of the Complaints Panel
Every effort should be made to help the complainant feel relaxed and comfortable. The membership of the panel should be seen as fair to all. It is important that everyone understands that the panel is acting for the governing body, and that the governing body will not re-hear the case.
The panel can:
- dismiss the complaint in whole or in part;
- uphold the complaint in whole or in part;
- decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint;
- recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
There are several points which any governor sitting on a complaints panel needs to remember:
- It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. In deciding the make-up of the panel, the complaints committee needs to ensure that the complaints panel is a representative group, sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
- The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it has to be recognised the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour. It may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously.
- An effective panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting. Parents often feel emotional when discussing an issue that affects their child. The panel chair will ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible. The layout of the room will set the tone and care is needed to ensure the setting is informal and not adversarial.
- The governors sitting on the panel need to be aware of the complaints procedure.
The Role of the Chair of the panel
The Chair of the panel has a key role, ensuring that:
- the remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption
- the issues are addressed
- key findings of fact are made
- parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease
- the hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy
- the panel is open minded and acts independently
- no member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure
Checklist for a panel hearing
It is the responsibility of the Clerk to ensure that the hearing is conducted properly and fairly and that all parties are given adequate opportunity to present their case and ask questions. The panel needs to take the following points into account:
- The hearing is as informal as possible.
- If witnesses are called they are only required to attend for the part of the hearing in which they give their evidence.
- After introductions, the chair should explain that none of the panel has had any previous involvement with the complaint. He or she should reassure the complainant that whatever is said will be done in complete confidence. The complainant is invited to explain their complaint, and be followed by their witnesses if they wish to call any.
- The headteacher and the panel may question both the complainant and the witnesses after each has spoken.
- The headteacher is then invited to explain the school’s actions and be followed by the school’s witnesses if any are called.
- The complainant and the panel may question both the headteacher and the witnesses after each has spoken.
- The complainant is then invited to sum up their complaint.
- The headteacher is then invited to sum up the school’s actions and response to the complaint.
- The chair explains that both parties will hear in writing from the panel within a set time scale.
- Both parties leave together while the panel decides on the issues.