|Last Reviewed:||September 2023||Next Review:||September 2024|
|Committee Responsibility:||Strategic and Pupil||Approved on:||September 2023|
|Approved By:||Trustees and Governing Body|
This policy applies to all concerns and complaints other than those relating to Child Protection issues, and appeals against a decision to permanently exclude a pupil from The Academy.
We aim to resolve any complaints in a timely manner. Timescales for each stage of the Complaints Procedure are set out below in the relevant paragraphs. For the purposes of this policy, a "working day" is defined as a weekday during term time, when the Academy is open. The definition of "working day" excludes weekends and Bank Holidays. For the avoidance of doubt, term dates are published on the Academy's website, and information about term dates is made available to parents and students periodically.
Policy Aim and Statement
The aim of this policy is to ensure that a concern or complaint by a parent (including a prospective parent) or a member of the public using the Academy facilities is managed sympathetically, efficiently and at the appropriate level and resolved as soon as possible. Doing so is good practice and good customer relations, it is fair to those concerned and it helps to promote parents’ and students’ confidence in our ability to safeguard, promote welfare and offer quality service. We will try to resolve every concern or complaint in a positive way with the aim of putting right a matter which may have gone wrong and, where necessary, reviewing our systems and procedures in the light of circumstances.
We need to know as soon as possible if there is any cause for dissatisfaction. We recognise that a difficulty which is not resolved quickly and fairly can soon become a cause of resentment, which could be damaging to relationships and also to our Academy culture. We intend that parents, students and visitors should never feel – or be made to feel – that a complaint will be taken amiss or will adversely affect a student or his/her opportunities at Academy. The policy, however, distinguishes between a concern or difficulty which can be resolved informally and a formal complaint which will require investigation.
Stage 1: Concerns and Difficulties
We expect that most concerns, where a parent seeks intervention, reconsideration or some other action to be taken, can be resolved informally. Examples might include dissatisfaction about some aspect of teaching or pastoral care, or about allocation of privileges or responsibilities, visits, interpretations of equal access, religious provision, lunches or some other aspect of the Academy’s systems or equipment, or a billing error.
Please raise the concern initially as follows:
1. Education issues
a) if the matter relates to the classroom or the curriculum please speak or write to the Head Teacher responsible for teaching or Deputy Head Teachers .
b) if the matter relates to a child with Special Educational Needs or in, please speak or write to the SENCO at the primary school .
2. Pastoral care
For concerns relating to matters outside the classroom, please speak or write to the designated senior leader.
3. Disciplinary matters
A problem over any disciplinary action taken or a sanction imposed should be raised first of all with the class teacher or head of key stage, and with the relevant senior leader at the school. If not resolved, it should be raised with the Head teacher.
4. Financial and administrative matters
A query relating to fees or extras or to other administrative matters should be raised either with the Office or Head of Business & Finance.
If the problem arises through an external booking please speak or write to the Booking and Events Manager via The Office.
Should an informal concern or complaint be raised with a member of staff other than those designated at item 2.1 to 2.5 above, he or she is asked to redirect it to the appropriate individual under this policy.
A concern which has not been resolved by informal means within ten working days from the receipt of the complaint can be notified as a formal complaint in accordance with Stage 2 below.
Record of concerns
In the case of concerns raised under Stage 1 of this procedure, the only record of the concern and its resolution will be file notes by the person dealing with the complaint and/or file correspondence between the person raising the concern and the respondent.
Concerns & Complaints falling outside of the school's complaints procedure
Some complaints fall outside the school’s complaints procedure
- Staff grievances or disciplinary procedures are defined in the dedicated policies
- Complaints about Third party providers offering community facilities or services through the school premises should be contacted directly to deal with complaints about their services.
Stage 2: Formal complaints – Complaints co-ordinator
An unresolved concern under Stage 1, or a complaint which needs investigation, or a more serious dissatisfaction with some aspect of the Academy’s policies, procedures, management or administration must be set out in writing with full details and sent with all relevant documents and your full contact details for the attention of the Complaint’s co-ordinator (the Headteacher). Should a formal written complaint be received by another member of the Academy’s staff, he or she will immediately pass it to the Complaints co-ordinator.
If a complaint is made against the Headteacher, the Chair of Governors will assume the role of Complaints Co-ordinator.
Your complaint will be acknowledged by telephone or in writing normally within five working days of receipt during term time and as soon as practicable during the holidays. The acknowledgement will indicate the action that is being taken and the likely timescale for resolution.
Investigation and resolution
The Complaints Co-ordinator may deal with the matter personally or may ask a senior member of staff to act as "investigator" and/or may involve one or more staff. The investigator may request additional information from the complainant and may wish to speak to the complainant personally and to others who have knowledge of the circumstances. Following appropriate investigation, the Complaints Co-ordinator will then notify you in writing of the decision and the reasons for it.
The aim of the Complaints Co-ordinator is to fully investigate the complaint then report the findings to the Principal. The Complaints Co-ordinator will then inform the complainant of the outcome of the investigation and the resolution to the complaint within 15 school days.
Record of complaints
The Complaints Co-ordinator is responsible for keeping a log of all complaints received by or referred to them under this stage of the procedure. The log should provide a brief written summary of the name of the complainant, the date the complaint was received, the matter complained of, and the manner and date of its resolution. Written records may be kept of any meetings and interviews held in relation to the complaint. The complainant has no rights to access of these records/findings.
Stage 3: Formal complaints – Directors & Independent
If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Complaints Co-ordinator under Stage 2, your complaint may be renewed in writing to the Governors. Only if you have been through the earlier stages of this procedure, and are dissatisfied with the decision may you request a hearing by the Governors and at least one panel member independent of the management and running of the school. To request a hearing before this panel, please write to the Clerk to the Board of Governors within five working days of receiving the decision that you wish to appeal. Your request will only be considered if you have completed the relevant procedures at Stages 1 & 2. Please ensure that copies of all relevant documents accompany your letter to the Clerk and state all the grounds for your complaint and the outcome that you desire. The Clerk will acknowledge your request in writing within five working days.
Directors & Independent Complaints Review Panel
The review will be undertaken by a panel of at least three people. This will consist of Governors appointed on behalf of the Board of Governors, and selected by the Clerk to the Board of Governors, alongside at least one panel member independent of the management and running of the school. The Panel members will have no detailed previous knowledge of the case. Fair consideration will be given to any bona fide objection to a particular member of the Panel.
Convening the Panel
The Clerk to the Board of Governors will convene the Review Panel as soon as is reasonably practicable. The Panel will not normally sit during Academy holidays.
Notice of hearing
Every effort will be made to enable the Panel hearing to take place within fifteen working days of the receipt of your request. As soon as reasonably practical and in any event at least five working days before the hearing, the Clerk to the Board of Governors will send you written notification of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with any paperwork to be discussed at the meeting.
You will be asked to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by one other person such as a relative, teacher, or friend, who should not be legally qualified. Your child may attend part or all of the hearing at the discretion of the Chair/Parent. The Clerk to the Board of Governors or nominated deputy will also attend the hearing in order to keep a record of the proceedings. Copies of additional documents you wish the Panel to consider should be sent to the Clerk to the Board of Governors at least three clear days prior to the hearing.
The Chair of the Review Panel will conduct the hearing in such a way as to ensure that all those present have the opportunity of asking questions and making comments in an appropriate manner. The hearing is not a legal proceeding and the Panel shall be under no obligation to hear oral evidence from witnesses but may do so and/or may take written statements into account.
The Chair may at his/her discretion adjourn the hearing for further investigation of any relevant issue. This may include an adjournment to take legal advice.
After due consideration of the matters discussed at the hearing, the Panel shall reach a decision. The Panel's decision, findings and any recommendations shall be confirmed in writing to the complainant within three working days.
Recording of the complaint
The complainant will receive written confirmation of the findings and recommendations, along with any details of action taken by the school as a result of those complaints (regardless of whether they are upheld).
A copy of those findings and recommendations along with any details of action taken by the school as a result of those complaints, where relevant, will also be provided to the person complained about.
These findings, recommendations and actions will be available for inspection on the school premises by the proprietor and the head teacher.
A written record will be kept of all complaints, and of whether they are resolved at Stage 1 or proceed to a panel hearing (in accordance with sub-paragraph (e), Part 7 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (the regulations)).
The number of complaints registered under the formal procedure during the preceding Academy year will be supplied to parents on request.
A written record of the complaint, all correspondence, statements and records relating to the individual complaints will be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the 2008 Act requests access to them (in accordance with sub-paragraph (k), Part 7 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (the regulations)).
In accordance with data protection principles, details of individual complaints will normally be destroyed following each Academy inspection. In exceptional circumstances some details will be retained for a further period as necessary.
The Remit of the Complaints Appeal Panel
The Board of Governors may nominate a number of members with delegated powers to hear complaints; these can include:
hearing individual appeals;
making recommendations on policy as a result of complaints.
The procedure adopted by the panel for hearing appeals would normally be part of the Academy’s complaints procedure. The panel may choose their own chair.
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 Academy’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
There are several points which any director sitting on a complaints panel needs to remember:
a. It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. No Governor or independent panel member may sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it. In deciding the make-up of the panel, Governors need to try and ensure that it is a cross-section of the categories of Governor and sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
b. The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the Academy 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.
c. 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.
d. Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child. Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child does not feel intimidated. The panel needs to be aware of the views of the child and give them equal consideration to those of adults. Where the child’s parent is the complainant, it would be helpful to give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend.
e. The people sitting on the panel need to be aware of the complaints procedure.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Role of the Clerk
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;
meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing;
record the proceedings;
notify all parties of the panel’s decision.
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;
the complainant may not be used to speaking at such a hearing and 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 acting 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;
each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions;
written material is seen by all parties. If a new issue arises it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to consider and comment on it.
Notification of the Panel’s Decision
The chair of the panel needs to ensure that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision, in writing, within 3 working days. The letter needs to explain if there are any further rights of appeal and, if so, to whom they need to be addressed.
Checklist for a Panel Hearing
The panel needs to take the following points into account:
Stage 4 – Appeal to the Board members of The Barnby Road Academy
If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Governors under Stage 3, your complaint may be renewed in writing to the Board Members. Only if you have been through the earlier stages of this procedure, and are dissatisfied with the decision may you request a hearing by the Board Members. To request a hearing before the Members, please write to the Clerk to the Board of Governors within five working days of receiving the decision that you wish to appeal. Your request will only be considered if you have completed the relevant procedures at Stages 1, 2 & 3. Please ensure that copies of all relevant documents accompany your letter to the Clerk and state all the grounds for your complaint and the outcome that you desire. The Clerk will acknowledge your request in writing within five working days.
The same procedures will be followed as for the hearing with the Governors. This will be the final stage for a complaint to be heard at the Academy and it is hoped that by this stage an amicable outcome will have been reached.
Serial, Persistent and Unreasonable Complainants
Barnby Road Academy is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially, and to providing a high quality service to those who contact us with a concern, a complaint or a request for information. However, in cases where the school is contacted repeatedly by an individual making the same points, or who asks us to reconsider their position, we will act appropriately.
If a complainant remains dissatisfied, despite all stages of the complaint procedure having been followed, the school will consider whether we have done everything we can in response to a complaint. It is a poor use of schools’ time and resources to reply to repeated letters, emails or telephone calls making substantially the same points. If a complainant tries to re-open the same issue, the Chair of Governors will inform them that the procedure has been completed and that the matter is now closed. If the complainant contacts the school again on the same issue, then the correspondence may be viewed as ‘serial’ or ‘persistent’ and the school may choose not to respond.
The school will not normally limit the contact complainants have with the 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.
We define unreasonable complainants as ‘those who, because of the frequency or nature of their contacts with the school, hinder our consideration of their or other people’s complaints’.
A complaint may be regarded as unreasonable when the person making the complaint:-
- refuses to articulate their complaint or specify the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance;
- refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process while still wishing their complaint to be resolved;
- refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of a complaints procedure;
- insists on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the adopted complaints procedure or with good practice;
- introduces trivial or irrelevant information which the complainant expects to be taken into account and commented on, or 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 makes the same complaint (despite previous investigations or responses concluding that the 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, complicated and stressful contact with staff regarding the complaint in person, in writing, by email or by telephone while the complaint is being dealt with.
A complaint may also be considered unreasonable if the person making the complaint does so either face-to-face, by telephone or in writing or electronically:-
- using threats, intimidation or violence;
- using abusive, offensive or discriminatory language;
- knowing it to be false;
- using falsified information;
- publishing unacceptable information in a variety of media such as in social media websites and newspapers.
When we will stop responding
The decision to stop responding will never be taken lightly. Barnby Road Academy will make the decision to stop responding when:
- The school has taken every reasonable step to address the complainant’s needs;
- The complainant has been given a clear statement of the school’s position and their options (if any); and
- They are contacting the school repeatedly but making substantially the same points each time.
We will consider a complainant to be unjustified, inappropriate or improperly using the formal procedure when:
- The school has reason to believe the individual is contacting them with the intention of causing disruption or inconvenience
- Their letters/emails/telephone calls are often or always abusive or aggressive
- They make insulting personal comments about or threats towards staff.
Complainants should limit the numbers of communications with a school while a 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. Whenever possible, the headteacher or Chair of Governors will discuss any concerns with the complainant informally before applying an ‘unreasonable’ marking. If the behaviour continues the headteacher will write to the complainant explaining that their behaviour is unreasonable and asking them to change it. For complainants who excessively contact Barnby Road Academy, causing a significant level of disruption, we may specify methods of communication and limit the number of contacts in a communication plan (via a tailored communications strategy).
Tailored Communications Strategy
When an individual’s behaviour is causing a significant level of disruption, we will implement a tailored communications strategy (such as restricting them to a single point of contact via an email address or by limiting the number of times they make contact; e.g. a fixed number of contacts per term).
The Governing Body will ensure that the school is acting reasonably and that any genuine complaint can still be heard. If school staff find it difficult to deal directly with a complainant because of their unreasonable behaviour and other strategies are not working, we will approach the governor services team at Nottinghamshire LA to ask for assistance. If this is agreed, complainants may be advised not to contact the school, but to communicate instead with the LA, or through the school’s legal representative, who will co-ordinate any response. Complainants who may have been restricted in their communications with the school will also be advised to ask a third party to act on their behalf, such as the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Ultimately, if a complainant persists to the point that the school considers it to constitute harassment, legal advice will be sought as to the next steps. The school will consider injunctions and other court orders being issued to complainants because of their behaviours.
In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, the concerns and actions taken will be put in writing immediately and the police informed. This may include banning an individual from Barnby Road Academy.
Barring from the School Premises
Although fulfilling a public function, schools are private places. The public has no automatic right of entry. The school will therefore act to ensure it remains a safe place for pupils, staff and other members of our community. If a parent’s behaviour is a cause for concern, the school will ask him/her to leave school premises. In serious cases, the headteacher will notify them in writing that their implied licence to be on school premises has been temporarily revoked subject to any representations that the parent may wish to make. The school will always give the parent the opportunity to formally express their views on the decision to bar in writing.
The decision to bar will then be reviewed, taking into account any representations made by the parent, and either confirmed or lifted. If the decision is confirmed the parent will be notified in writing, explaining how long the bar will be in place. Anyone wishing to complain about being barred can do so, by letter or email, to the headteacher or Chair of Governors. However, complaints about barring cannot be escalated to the Department for Education. Once the school’s own complaints procedure has been completed, the only remaining avenue of appeal is through the Courts; independent legal advice must therefore be sought.