|’I pray that you……may have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ’ Ephesians 3:18|
Countess Anne School
A Church of England Academy
Last reviewed: Summer 2019
How we will deal with your concerns
Countess Anne School firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO COMMENT OR COMPLAIN
We care about what you think.
Each day this school makes many decisions and tries hard to do the best for all the children. Your comments - either positive or negative - are helpful for future planning.
You may want to talk to us about a particular aspect of this school, though not actually make a complaint - you just want to get something ‘off your chest’.
If you are dissatisfied about the way your child is being treated, or any actions or lack of action by us, please feel free to contact us using the details listed above.
• Your complaint will be dealt with honestly, politely and in confidence.
• Your complaint will be looked into thoroughly and fairly.
• If your complaint is urgent we will deal with it more quickly.
• We will keep you up to date with progress at each stage.
• You will get an apology if we have made a mistake.
• You will be told what we are going to do to put things right.
• You will get a full and clear written reply to formal complaints within 28 school days (5½ weeks).
Why does the school need a complaints procedure?
Section 29 of the Education Act 2002 requires all maintained School Governing Bodies to adopt and publicise a complaints procedure for Parents. This includes complaints about any community facilities or services that the school provides.
Previous legislation still applies. In particular, 1991 SEN Information Regulations require Governing bodies of schools to publicise their complaint procedures in relation to SEN and the 1996 Education Act requires the LA to establish procedures for disputes between schools and Parents about SEN provision.
How will these guidelines help you?
The Model Procedures include:
• Guidelines for Headteachers and Governing Bodies for handling complaints.
• A Toolkit for Governors – Hearing Stage 2 Formal Complaints (Appendix 1).
Also included is:
• HCC school complaints information factsheet entitled ‘Complaints regarding schools’ (Appendix 2).
These procedures are now well-established in Hertfordshire and have been formally adopted or followed by the vast majority of schools. They were drawn up following consultation with Headteachers, Governors, the Diocesan Authorities, the Teacher Associations and Representatives of Parent groups in 1995. The Diocese of St Albans commended the adoption of these procedures for Church of England Schools. For Roman Catholic schools the Diocese of Westminster has also provided its own guidelines for dealing with complaints.
The Department for Education (DFE) has confirmed that these model procedures are well ordered. They have, however, issued guidance in the form of a School Complaints Procedure Toolkit. The document is intended to help schools draw up a complaints procedure if they have not already done so, or to review their existing procedure if they wish. However, the good news is that the DFE acknowledges that the vast majority of schools already have a complaints procedure in place, based on LA or Diocesan Board models.
The DFE guidance broadly reflects what this LA has for many years commended to
schools. To obtain a copy of the guidance, download it from www.governornet.co.uk (go to Publications and search for School Complaints Procedure Toolkit) or telephone 08000 722 181.
By following the updated procedures set out here, schools can ensure complaints are handled effectively.
How should schools handle complaints made about or by:
• A member of Staff about another member of Staff or the Headteacher?
• A member of the Governing Body about a member of Staff? A member of Staff about a member of the Governing Body?
• A member of Staff about the action/decision of the Governing Body?
• Members of the public (not Parents)?
• A Parent whose child no longer attends the school?
• Data Protection and Freedom of Information related matters
This model procedure essentially covers complaints made by Parents or Carers of children who attend the school, but it is important that schools do have in place written procedures for the above eventualities. It would not normally be necessary for schools to consider complaints made 12 months or more after the events complained of.
Complaint made by one member of Staff against another (including the
Complaints from members of Staff are not covered by this procedure. They should be dealt with by the Headteacher (where appropriate) or the Chair of Governors informally in the first instance. If this approach fails to resolve the issue, the next step would be for the Staff Grievance Procedure to be invoked (by the person bringing the grievance). A full transcript of the Model Grievance Procedure for Schools is available on www.thegrid.org.uk
The Schools HR Advisory Team can be contacted for advice on (01438) 844875.
Complaint made by a Governor about a member of Staff
This should be dealt with through the complaints process outlined in this document. Clearly the Governor concerned would have to withdraw from any meeting at which the complaint or its outcome was being discussed. If the complaint is related to the conduct of a member of Staff, it would be more appropriate to invoke the School's Disciplinary Procedures.
Complaint by a member of Staff against an individual Governor acting in a personal capacity
The Chair of the Governing Body (or the Vice-Chair if the complaint is against the Chair) should attempt to resolve the matter informally. If such a resolution is not possible, and with the agreement of the Governor concerned, a Panel of Governors could be set up to consider the matter as per the complaints process outlined in this document.
Complaint by a member of Staff against the action/decision of the Governing
If the decision was taken at a meeting of the full Governing Body the matter would have to be put on the agenda for review at another meeting and if the decision was then confirmed, that would be the end of the matter. (For this reason it is important that matters that could potentially lead to a complaint or appeal are routinely dealt
with by a committee with delegated authority, in order to allow for an appeal or a rehearing by an unprejudiced second group of Governors). If a committee or individual with delegated authority took the original decision then a Panel of Governors who were not involved in the decision should review the matter, ensuring that the member of Staff concerned was given an opportunity to state his/her case to the Panel. Any decision by the Panel would be final.
Complaint by a member of the public (not a Parent)
Complaints from members of the public are most likely to be dealt with by the Headteacher and beyond that the Chair of Governors.
Complaint by a Parent whose child no longer attends the school
The purpose of this complaints process is to ensure that if an error has been made, or an injustice done, some action can be taken to remedy matters for the injured party. Where Parents have removed their child from the roll of a school it is clearly impossible for the Governing Body to put things right for that child. However, the Governing Body has a duty of care to the pupils who remain on roll and it would be advisable for Governors to investigate the circumstances to satisfy themselves that no-one had acted inappropriately and that procedures and policies had been followed correctly. Whilst it is not necessary to convene a Governor’s Complaint Panel, it would be good practice to inform Parents whether the complaint had been upheld or otherwise and of any changes to practice and procedures which have been agreed by the Governing Body.
Complaints regarding compliance with Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation
All schools are responsible for their own compliance with the Data Protection and
Freedom of Information Acts, regardless of their status. Hertfordshire County
Council is not responsible, even if the school is a Community or VoluntaryControlled school. Should your school receive a complaint concerning Data Protection or Freedom of Information compliance, the complaints process outlined in this document should be followed.
Advice and guidance about DP and FOI can be found at www.ico.org.uk
What complaint/appeal procedures are NOT covered by this document?
This document does not cover:
• Complaints by Governors about other Governors – contact School Governance for advice – email email@example.com
• Child Protection Procedures – see www.hertsdirect.org/childprotection
• Appeals about admissions – see www.hertsdirect.org/schoolappeals
• Complaints about fixed term or permanent exclusions from school – see www.hertsdirect.org/schoolappeals
• Staff Disciplinary Procedures –see www.thegrid.org.uk
Complaints about Academies
Whilst they are required to have a complaints procedure in place, Academies operate independently of the Local Authority. As such, the Local Authority is unable to investigate complaints regarding Academies. Parents wishing to escalate a complaint about an Academy which has not been satisfactorily resolved through the Academy’s complaints procedure should contact the Education Funding Agency. The contact details for the Education Funding Agency are as follows:
Academies Central Unit (Academy Complaints)
Education Funding Agency
53-55 Butts Road Coventry
What is the position of Staff complained about?
Any member of school Staff who is the subject of a parental complaint will have the opportunity to respond to the complaint during its investigation. They should also be able to see any response sent to the complainant as a result of the investigation.
There is an entirely separate procedure for schools to follow in dealing with Staff disciplinary matters. Therefore, if in the course of considering a complaint the Governing Body concludes that disciplinary procedures should be initiated, they will take separate action.
Where can the school get further help?
There is a "Toolkit" to help Governors with practical arrangements for Stage 2 complaints to the Governing Body contained in Appendix 1. Available to Governors from school office.
For specific guidance on the materials in the "Toolkit" and for the practical arrangements for carrying out Governor investigations and hearings, please contact School Governance at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01438 843082.
How long should the school take in dealing with concerns and complaints?
Schools should aim to deal with these quickly and efficiently at Stage 1, so avoiding the formal Stage 2 procedure wherever possible. All complaints should be acknowledged within 5 school days (1 week).
The Governing Body should deal with and respond fully to Stage 2 formal complaints within 28 school days (5½ weeks) of the written complaint being received. If this is not possible Parents need to be given the reasons for the delay and to be kept informed of progress.
What is the FIRST stage in dealing with a complaint?
Most concerns, or potential complaints, can be resolved informally by offering Parents a full discussion with the member of Staff who is best able to help.
Should this approach not resolve matters, a formal complaint should be made to the Headteacher at Stage 1. The Headteacher should carry out an investigation. Governors approached by Parents at this stage should steer parents in this direction initially.
Governors need to be aware that if they do become involved closely with complaints at Stage 1, they cannot be involved with Stage 2 of the complaints process.
If the complaint is about the provision the school is making for a child's Special
Educational Needs, then a Parent might find it helpful to talk to the named SEN
Officer where this applies. SENDIASS (Special Educational Needs & Disability
Information Advice & Support Service – formerly known as the Parent Partnership Service) will be able to provide advice on the procedures the LA has in place for resolving disputes between schools and Parents over SEN provision.
Schools should give Parents wishing to complain further a copy of the school’s complaints procedure and ask them to set out their complaint in a letter or by completing the formal complaint form (see Annex A).
What is the SECOND stage in dealing with a complaint?
Please see "Hearing Stage 2 Formal Complaints - A Toolkit for Governors” (Appendix 1) for detailed guidance on all the practical steps for investigating and hearing Stage 2 complaints.
The Chair of Governors will arrange for the complaint to be investigated and considered under the arrangements approved by the Governors for this purpose. This will usually involve a Panel of Governors appointed to act on behalf of the
Governing Body. In the case of Special Educational Needs complaints, the
Chair of Governors must inform the Children’s Services Complaints Manager at the Local Authority.
If the Chair of Governors, or other Governors, have been involved in earlier discussions to try and help settle the disagreement at Stage 1, then arrangements should be made for another Governor with no prior involvement to take charge of the investigation and consideration of the complaint.
It may be helpful to offer the Parent an opportunity to talk about the complaint in the course of the investigation, prior to the complaint hearing. This might clarify the outstanding matters of complaint which remain unresolved and what outcome is sought by the complainant. Please note that neither a pre-meeting nor an
investigation in advance of the Panel are a requirement. They are optional and it is up to Governors to decide whether to conduct them.
Parents should be provided with full details of how the Governors' Complaint
Panel will conduct the further investigation, if there is to be one, (please see page 16, paragraph 3 entitled ‘Complaint by a Parent whose child no longer attends the school’ for the exception to this rule). A formal hearing is the best way for both Parents and the Headteacher and Staff to be satisfied they have had a proper opportunity to be listened to by Governors. Everyone should also be informed in advance of the order of proceedings for complaint hearings.
Both parties should make available to the Panel, in advance, any written information they wish to be considered in the formal hearing.
Who can attend a Stage 2 hearing?
At any meeting Parents may be accompanied by a friend or representative who may speak on their behalf. This person could be an interpreter of their choice and Parents should be encouraged to do this where necessary.
The Chair of the Panel may invite to the meeting any person who may help establish the facts of the complaint. Parents need to be told who this person is before the meeting.
Any member of Staff required by Governors to attend any meeting or the hearing will have the opportunity to be accompanied or represented.
A member of Staff named by Parents in the complaint may also choose to attend even if not required to do so by Governors and may be represented. If this happens, Parents should be told beforehand.
What happens after the investigation/hearing?
When the complaint has been fully investigated and the hearing has taken place, Parents should be notified of the findings in writing by the Chair of the Panel hearing the complaint or the Governor responsible for the investigation within 5 school days (1 week) of the hearing date.
The report, with findings, should, at the same time, be published to the Governing Body as a confidential item and will, in addition, include any recommendations. A meeting of the Governing Body must accept the findings but can accept, reject or reject in part, the recommendations. Personal details should not be disclosed, but an outline of the complaint hearing and findings should be given.
The Chair of Governors should write to the Parents to confirm any actions agreed by the Governing Body. Any agreed actions must be implemented by whoever it applies to - this could be the Governing Body as well as the Headteacher.
Parents should also be informed whether and how they can take their complaint further.
A copy of the report must be sent to the Headteacher and the Children’s Services Complaints Manager in the case of a Special Educational Needs complaint, where there is a possibility of a third stage of complaint to the County Council.
What can Parents do if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the second stage of investigation?
In most cases it is expected that Parental complaints will be satisfactorily resolved following a formal complaint to the Governing Body. However, should Parents remain dissatisfied, the following sections explain the circumstances in which complaints can be taken further.
It should be noted that if Parents remain dissatisfied following the outcome of their Stage 2 hearing and wish to take their complaint further, they must do so within 20 working days (4 weeks) of receiving the written outcome of the hearing.
After 20 working days (4 weeks), neither the school nor the Local Authority (where appropriate) are under any obligation to investigate or progress the complaint any further.
When is there a THIRD stage of complaint to the County Council and how does it work? (THIS APPLIES TO VERY FEW COMPLAINTS AS SET OUT BELOW)
When it is a complaint about the way a school is providing for a child's Special Educational Needs.
Parents may complain further to the LA by writing to the Children’s Services Complaints Manager.
The CS Complaints Manager will acknowledge the letter and will notify the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher. The CS Complaints Manager will arrange for the complaint to be investigated. The Investigator will seek the comments of the Governing Body and any other information or advice as necessary.
When the complaint has been fully investigated and considered the CS Complaints Manager will notify Parents of the outcome in writing, giving the reasons for it, any action or proposed action to be taken and the further recourse available. A copy of this will be sent to the Headteacher, the Chair of Governors and to anyone else concerned in the investigation. This brings the third stage for Special Educational Needs complaints to a conclusion.
Parents who remain dissatisfied following further investigation of their Special Educational Needs complaint by the Local Authority have the right to complain to
the Secretary of State who may decide to conduct an additional investigation.
The contact details for the Secretary of State are as follows:
The Secretary of State
Department for Education
Great Smith Street
Telephone: 0370 000 2288
For almost all complaints there is no right of further complaint or appeal to the LA beyond the school's Governing Body.
Parents may contact the complaints helpline for further advice but will be told there is no right of a further stage of formal investigation by the LA.
If parents who have not yet complained to their child’s school contact the Local Authority, Council Officers will ask the complainant for their written consent to share information regarding their complaint with the school in question. If the complainant declines to provide their consent, the matter will not normally be taken any further. If consent is provided, the Council will pass the complainant’s concerns onto the school, whilst ensuring that the complainant is made aware that this will not necessarily result in the complaint against the school being resolved or the complainant achieving the outcome they were seeking.
Can Parents complain to anyone other than the County Council?
Parents have the right to complain to the Secretary of State at the Department for Education (under the Education Act 1996), if they believe that the Governing Body or the LA is acting or proposing to act unreasonably (section 496), or is failing to carry out a statutory duty (section 497). This has to mean that the LA or the Governing Body is acting outside its powers, or misusing them. Only then would the Secretary of State follow up the complaint.
The Secretary of State will then contact the Governing Body or LA for information.
The contact details for the Secretary of State are as follows:
The Secretary of State
Department for Education
Great Smith Street
Telephone: 0370 000 2288
What kind of record will be kept about complaints?
The County Council will monitor Special Educational Needs complaints escalated to it under the statutory third stage of the complaints procedure.
Schools should, as good practice, formally record and monitor all Stage 2 complaints to the Governing Body.
Statistics may be published from time to time about the number and nature of complaints about individual schools. Publications will not include reference to any named individual. This is used to identify complaint trends and whether individual schools need particular guidance or support.
Hearing Stage 2 Formal Complaints A Toolkit for Governors - available to governors from school office.
The material contained in this appendix is designed to guide Governors through all the practical steps required by the complaints process. It is for the use of Headteachers and Governors only.