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Larwood School

Part of Larwood Academy Trust

Complaints Procedure

Full details are attached as a PDF at the bottom of this page

OUTLINE

The procedure outlined below essentially covers complaints made by parents, carers, pupils or members of the public. A simplified version of the Complaints Procedure is available for pupils. Complaints between members of staff or members of staff and the governing body will be dealt with through the Grievance or Disciplinary Procedures if they cannot be resolved through day-to-day interpersonal management activity.
These complaint procedures do not cover:

  • Child protection procedures.
  • Appeals to the Governors' Discipline Committee relating to exclusion matters.
  • Staff Disciplinary Procedures.
  • Complaints from members of the public about individual or groups of pupils.
  • These are dealt with through the School Discipline Policy. 

POSITION OF STAFF WHO ARE THE SUBJECT OF A COMPLAINT

Under these complaint procedures, any member of the school staff who is complained about will have the opportunity to respond to the complaint during its investigation. They will also be able to see any response sent to the complainant as a result of the investigation. The above process is unrelated to staff disciplinary procedures.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

Initial Concerns

The Governing Body takes the view that taking informal concerns seriously at the first opportunity will reduce the number of formal complaints. The underlying principle is that, if at all possible, concerns should be handled without the need for formal procedures. In many cases, staff directly involved will receive the first approach. Staff will, where possible, resolve concerns on the spot.

Formal Procedures

Formal procedures should be involved when initial attempts to resolve a concern have been unsuccessful and the individual raising the concern remains dissatisfied and wishes to take the matter further.
The Home/School Liaison Officer is nominated as 'Complaints Coordinator' and will, in the first instance; manage the investigation of the complaint unless complaint is about the post holder, in which case the Head teacher will investigate. Complaints against the Head teacher will be referred to the Chair of Governors.

FRAMEWORK OF PRINCIPLES

The School's Complaints Procedure aims to:

  • Encourage resolution of problems by informal means where possible.
  • Be easily accessible and publicised.
  • 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.

INVESTIGATING COMPLAINTS

  • At each stage, the person investigating the complaint will aim to ensure that they:
  • 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 if further information is necessary).
  • Clarify what the complainant feels would put things right
  • Interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained about 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. All notes are stored in a 'Complaints File' held by the Head Teacher.

RESOLVING COMPLAINTS

Once the Coordinator has conducted the investigation and the conclusion is reached that the complaint is valid in whole or in part, it may be appropriate that the complainant is offered 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 about 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.

A complainant will be encouraged to state what actions they feel might revolve the problem at any stage.
Effective procedures will identify areas of agreement between parties It is also of equal importance to clarify any misunderstandings that might have occurred as this can create a positive atmosphere in which to discuss any outstanding issues.

THE THREE STAGE APPROACH TO DEALING WITH FORMAL COMPLAINTS

Stage One: Complaint heard by Staff Member (Complaints Coordinator)

It is in everyone s interest that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. The experience of the first contact between the complainant and the school can be crucial in determining whether the complaint will escalate To that end, if staff are made aware of the procedures, they know what to do when they receive a complaint.
It would assist the procedure if the school respected the views of a complainant who indicates that he/she would have difficulty discussing a complaint with a patcular member of staff. In these cases, the complaints coordinator can refer the complainant to another staff member

Similarly, if the member of staff (complaints coordinator) directly involved feels too compromised to deal with a complaint. the complaints coordinator may consider referring the complainant to another staff member. The member of staff may be more senior but does not have to be. The ability to consider the complaint objectively and impartially is crucial.
Where the first approach is made to a governor, the next step would be to refer the complainant to the appropriate person and advise them about the procedure. It is imperative that governors do not act unilaterally on an individual complaint outside the formal procedure or be involved at the early stages in case they are needed to sit on a panel at a later stage of the procedure.

Stage Two: Complaint heard by Head Teacher

The Head Teacher's influence will already have shaped the way complaints are handled in the school. At this point, the complainant may be dissatisfied with the way the complaint was handled at Stage One as well as pursuing their initial complaint. 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.

Stage Three: Complaint heard by Governing Bodies Complaints Appeal Panel

The complainant should write to the Chair of Governors giving details of the complaint. The Chair, or a nominated governor, will convene a Governing Body complaints panel.
The Governors' appeal hearing is the last school-based stage of the complaints process, and is not convened to merely rubber-stamp previous decisions
Individual complaints would not be heard by the whole Governing Body at any stage, as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up for a disciplinary hearing against a member of staff following a serious complaint.

The governing body may nominate a number of members with delegated powers to hear complaints at that stage and set out its terms of reference. These can include:

  • Drawing up its procedures.
  • Hearing individual appeals.
  • Making recommendations on policy as a result of complaints.

The procedure adopted by the panel for hearing appeals is outlined below. The panel can be drawn from the nominated members and may consist of three or five people. The panel may choose their own chair

THE REMIT OF THE COMPLAINTS APPEAL PANEL

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 or ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.

There are several points which any Governor sitting on a complaints panel should remember:

It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that is seer, to be so. No Governor 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 is a cross-section of the categories of governor and is 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 to achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it has to be recognised that 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,

UNRESOLVED COMPLAINTS

There are some specific circumstances where if a complainant remains dissatisfied with the Governing Body's adjudication, the complaint may be directed to the Local Education Authority (LEA). This would relate to complaints about the National Curriculum, collective worship or about the way the school is providing for a pupil's special educational needs. Such complaints should be addressed to:

Head of Conciliation and Appeals
County Hall
Hertford SG13 8DF

Parents have the right to complain to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if they believe the Governing Body or the LEA is acting or proposing to act unreasonably or is failing to carry out a statutory duty.

Parents and pupils also have the right to make a complaint directly to the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) The Commission can, be contact via:

National Care Standards Commission Hertfordshire Area Office
Wilson Connolly House
1 Broadwater Road
Welwyn Garden City AL7 3BQ

The school has a statutory duty to inform the NCSC of all Stage Two and Three complaints.

If you have a serious concern to raise with respect to our residential provision you can complain directly to:

Ofsted
Royal Exchange Buildings,
St. Anna's Square,
Manchester. M2 7LA

Telephone: 08456 404045 Email: enquiries@ofsted.gov.uk