Complaints Policy

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Contents

This procedure advises how to make a complaint about any service provided by Kingsmead School. We appreciate that sometimes miscommunication or misunderstandings can arise and would hope that these could normally be resolved in discussion with school staff.

 

The school intends to resolve complaints informally where possible, at the earliest possible stage.

There may be occasions when complainants would like to raise their concerns formally. This policy outlines the procedure relating to handling such complaints.

 

This policy does not cover complaints procedures relating to:

  • Admissions
  • Statutory assessments of special educational needs (SEN)
  • Safeguarding matters
  • Exclusion
  • Whistle-blowing
  • Staff Discipline

 

Complaints regarding the above are addressed within the specific policy.

 

If you have a concern, often this can be dealt with by contacting the relevant teacher or member of the Senior Leadership Team. We will always attempt to resolve any issues in discussion with you in the first instance through these means.

 

1.    STAGE 1 – Informal Concerns

  • Most enquiries and concerns can be dealt with satisfactorily by the class teacher, the head of year or other members of staff without the need to resort to the formal procedure. We value informal meetings and discussions and encourage parents to approach staff with any concerns they may have and aim to resolve all issues with open dialogue and mutual understanding.
  • It is always helpful if you can fully explain the nature of the concern and identify the outcome you are looking for. Where appropriate, you may be invited to an informal meeting with the member of staff most appropriate for dealing with that concern. The member of staff dealing with the concern will make sure that you are clear on what action (if any) has been agreed. This may be put in writing if appropriate.
  • If the matter is brought to the attention of the Headteacher, they may decide to deal with your concerns directly at this stage. If the concerns are about the Headteacher these should be referred directly to the Clerk of the local governing committee under Stage 2.
  • There is no suggested timescale for resolution at this stage given the importance of dialogue through informal discussion, although it would be expected that most issues will be resolved within 15 school days. Where no satisfactory solution has been found, you will be advised that if you wish your concerns to be considered further you should write to the Headteacher under Stage 2 of this procedure within 15 school days.

 

2. STAGE 2 – Formal Written Complaints

2.1       If your concerns are not resolved under Stage 1, you should put your complaint in writing and send this to the Headteacher of the school.

 

2.2       It is very important that you include a clear statement of the actions that you would like us to take to resolve your complaint. We strongly encourage you to use the Complaint Form provided at Annex 2 of this procedure. If you require help in completing the form, please contact the school office. You can also ask third party organisations like the Citizens Advice to help you. In all cases your written complaint must include:

  • the nature of the complaint;
  • details of how the matter has been dealt with so far – the names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events and copies of all relevant documents; and
  • a clear statement of the actions that you would like us to take to resolve your complaint.

 

2.3       Your complaint will normally be acknowledged in writing within 5 school days of receipt. The acknowledgement will give a brief explanation of the school’s complaints procedure and a target date for providing a response to the complaint. This will normally be within 15 school days of receipt.

 

2.4       If appropriate, the Headteacher (or someone appointed by them) may invite you to a meeting to clarify your complaints and to explore possible resolutions. If you accept that invitation, you may be accompanied by one other person, such as a friend, relative, advocate or interpreter, to assist you. Where possible, this meeting will take place within 10 school days of receipt of the written complaint.

 

2.5       If necessary, witnesses will be interviewed, and statements taken from those involved. If the complaint centres on a pupil, the pupil should also be interviewed. Pupils should normally be interviewed with their parent present, but if this would seriously delay the investigation of a serious or urgent complaint or if the pupil has specifically said that s/he would prefer that their parents were not involved, another member of staff with whom the pupil feels comfortable should be present. If the matter includes a complaint relating to a member of staff, the member of staff must have the opportunity to respond to the complaint.

 

2.6       Once the relevant facts have been established as far as possible, you will be provided with a response to the complaint, including an explanation of the decision and the reasons for it where appropriate. This will include what action will be taken to resolve the complaint (if any) where confidentiality allows. You will be advised that if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, you may request that your complaint be heard by the Complaints Committee under Stage 3 of this procedure.

 

2.7       If your complaint is about the Headteacher, or the Headteacher has already considered your complaint under Stage 1 then your complaint should be sent to the Clerk to Governors at the school’s address who will arrange for a governor to carry out the Stage 2 procedure.

 

3. STAGE 3 – Review of Complaints By The Governing Body

3.1       If you are dissatisfied with the decision under Stage 2, you may request that a Complaints Committee be convened to consider your complaint.  The committee will not review any new complaints at this stage or consider evidence unrelated to the initial complaint. New complaints must be dealt with from Stage 1 of the procedure.

 

3.2       To request a hearing before the Complaints Committee, you should write to the Clerk to Governors, Kingsmead School, Wiveliscombe, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 2NE within 15 school days of receiving notice of the outcome of Stage 2. Requests received outside of this time frame will only be considered if exceptional circumstances apply. You should ensure that you provide copies of all relevant documents and state all the grounds for your complaint and the outcome that you are looking for.

 

3.3       The Clerk to the Governors will write to the complainant within 5 school days to acknowledge receipt of the written request.  If the exact nature of the complaint, and/or the complainant’s desired outcome(s), are not clear from their letter, clarification should be requested.  A pro forma is attached, which can be used for this purpose. The acknowledgement should inform the complainant that the complaint will be considered by a panel comprising two members of the Governing Body and one person independent of the management and running of the school, within 15 school days of receiving the complaint, and should provide the names of the panel members.  The complainant should be told what papers will be supplied to the panel (usually just the letter of complaint and/or the completed complaint pro forma) and should have the opportunity to provide any further relevant papers for the panel’s consideration if they wish.  The complainant should be provided with copies of any papers provided for the panel at this stage.

 

3.4       The Clerk to the Governors should arrange to convene the panel from members of the Governing Body.  The panel members should be governors who have had no prior knowledge of the complaint. It is also recommended that the clerk seek to address the issue of gender balance in determining the composition of the panel. The Headteacher should not be on the panel and it would usually also be inappropriate for the Chair of Governors to be a panel member.  The advantages of having a governor who is a parent/carer on the panel should be borne in mind, as should the need to be sensitive to any issues of gender, race and religion.

 

3.5       It is inappropriate to include a teacher or staff governor on the panel, as they would be compromised where the complaint is against a fellow member of staff at the school.

 

3.6       The complaint should be considered by the panel, possibly at a venue other than the school, within 15 school days.  Details of the date, time and location of the hearing should be agreed in consultation with the complainant and panel members, and confirmed in writing at least 5 school days prior to the meeting.  The letter should also outline in general terms how the hearing will be conducted and confirm the complainant’s right to be accompanied by a ‘friend’.

 

3.7       The meeting must be properly minuted, either by the Clerk to the Governors or an independent clerk (not another governor) appointed for the purpose. At the meeting, the following procedure should be followed by the Chair of the panel:

 

  1. Welcome all in attendance, and introduce panel members, giving their status (parent governor, etc).
  2. If the complainant is accompanied, check/clarify – if necessary – the name and status of the friend/representative.
  3. Explain purpose of meeting, i.e.
    • to provide the complainant with the opportunity to explain or clarify their written complaint, and to enable the panel to identify any issues for investigation; and
    • to ascertain from the complainant what would, in their view, constitute a satisfactory resolution of the complaint.
  4. Invite complainant to explain their written complaint, with panel members asking questions and/or seeking clarification as necessary.
  5. Agree with complainant the issues to be investigated and/or considered by the panel.
  6. Explain that the panel will undertake any necessary investigations and make a written response to the complainant (copied to the school) within 15 school days.
  7. Thank the complainant for attending and seek confirmation that they feel they have had a full and fair hearing.

 

3.8        After the complainant has left the meeting, the panel should:

  • Produce a letter to go to the complainant confirming the agreed issues for investigation/consideration (see paragraph 5.5, above).
  • Agree the nature/scope and a timetable for any necessary investigations.
  • If appropriate/necessary, agree a date for panel members to meet again, to consider the results of investigations and to draft/agree a written response to the complainant.

 

3.9       The Clerk to the Governors, or other person appointed to act as clerk to the complaints panel, should assist the panel in the production of their written response, once the complaint has been investigated.  This response should confirm:

  • The date and venue of the hearing attended by the complainant.
  • Membership of the Governors’ panel.
  • The issues mutually agreed to be the subject of the panel’s investigations and/or deliberations.
  • The methodology followed by the panel for their investigation (e.g. interviews, written statements obtained, etc).
  • The conclusions reached by the panel.

 

3.10     The nature of the complaint and the outcome of the panel’s investigation should be reported, in general terms, to the next full meeting of the Governing Body, together with any implications for school policies or procedures which require further consideration/action.

 

We will endeavour to abide by the timeframes stated under each stage but, in some circumstances, this may not always be possible. If it becomes apparent that it is not possible to complete any stage of the complaints procedure within the given timeframe, you will be contacted as soon as possible to agree a timeframe that works for all parties involved.

 

We reserve the right not to investigate complaints that have been made six months after the subject of the complaint took place, except in exceptional circumstances. What is meant by exceptional circumstances is where new evidence has come to light, where the complaint is of an exceptionally serious nature, or where there is reasonable justification for why you have been unable to raise the complaint before this time.

 

A written record of all formal complaints will be kept, along with details of whether they were resolved following a formal procedure, or progression to a panel hearing. We will record the action taken as a result of a complaint, regardless of whether it was upheld.

 

Correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints are confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under Section 109 of the 2008 Education and Skills Act requests access to them.

 

4. Further Recourse

4.1       If the complainant is dissatisfied with the complaint review panel’s handling of their complaint, further recourse to other agencies is available to them outside the scope of the School’s own procedures. However, these agencies would be unable to take any action until the School’s own procedures had been completed.

 

4.2       Complainants have a right of appeal to the Education & Skills Funding Agency. The Education & Skills Funding Agency will check whether the complaint has been dealt with properly by the School. It will consider complaints about academies that fall into any of the following three areas:

  • where there is undue delay or the school did not comply with its own complaints procedure when considering a complaint,
  • where the school is in breach of its funding agreement with the Secretary of State, and
  • where the school has failed to comply with any other legal obligation.

 

4.3       The Education & Skills Funding Agency will not overturn the School’s decision about a complaint. However, if it finds that the school did not deal with a complaint properly it will request the complaint is looked at again and procedures meet the requirements set out in the regulations. If the School’s complaints procedure does not meet the regulations, it will ask the School to put this right. It may seek to enforce the decision under the terms of the funding agreement on behalf of the Secretary of State, if appropriate.

 

5. Duplicate Complaints

5.1       There may be some cases where at the end of the complaints procedure, the school receives a duplicate complaint from a complainants spouse, partner, grandparent or child.

 

5.2       Where the complaint is about the same subject, the new complainant will be informed that the school has already considered that complaint and that the local process has been completed. The new complainant will be advised to contact the DfE if they are dissatisfied with the school’s handling of the original complaint.

 

5.3       The school will take care not to overlook any new aspects to the complaint that may not have been previously considered. Any new elements of a complaint will be investigated and dealt with in line with the full complaints procedure.

 

6. Complaint Campaigns

6.1       For the purposes of this policy, “complaints campaigns” are where the school receives large volumes of complaints that are all based on the same subject from complainants that are not connected to the school. Where the school becomes the subject of a complaints campaign, a standard, single response will be published on the school’s website. If complainants remain dissatisfied with the school’s response, they will be directed to the DfE.

 

7. Vexatious and/or Repeated Complaints

7.1       There may be occasions when, despite exhausting the procedure in this Complaints Policy, the complainant persists in making the same complaint to the school. There may also be occasions when a complainant raises unreasonable persistent complaints or raises complaints about matters which do not affect them. In addition, there may be occasions when a complaint is made about a matter which is clearly so trivial that it would be a waste of the school’s resources to deal with it under the formal stages of the procedure. In all of these cases, the school reserves the right to regard the complaint as vexatious and/or repeated and to refuse to investigate it under the procedure in this Complaints Policy if it appears reasonable and fair to do so, having regard to the circumstances surrounding the complaint.

 

7.2       Where the school decides that a complaint is vexatious and/or repeated and will not be investigated, the school will write to the complainant within 5 school/college days of the complaint being raised to notify them of the decision.

 

7.3       If the complainant is unhappy with the decision not to investigate a vexatious and/or repeated complaint, they may write to the Chair of Governors to ask for the decision to be reviewed. The Chair of Governors will be provided with all documentation relating to the current complaint and any previous complaints which were relevant to the decision, together with the letter from the school to the complainant, and will review the decision made. The Chair of Governors will write to the complainant with the outcome of the review within 10 school days of the date that the letter from the complainant seeking the review was received.

 

7.4       If the Chair of Governors quashes the decision not to investigate the concern or complaint, it will be referred to the school to be dealt with under the procedure in this Complaints Policy in the usual way.

 

7.5       If the Chair of Governors upholds the decision not to investigate the concern or complaint, the complainant may refer the concern or complaint to the Education Funding Agency using the procedure stated towards the end of this Complaints Policy.

 

7.6       In exceptional circumstances, the Chair of Governors can delegate the responsibility for the review to the Vice-Chair of Governors.

 

7.7       Appendix 3 sets out the School’s policy in respect of unreasonable complaints and presents a communication plan for persistent correspondents.

8. Anonymous Complaints

8.1       The school will not investigate anonymous complaints under the procedure in this Complaints Policy. Anonymous complaints will be referred to the Principal/Headteacher who will decide what, if any, action should be taken.

 

9. Support for Employees Who Have Been The Subject Of A Complaint

9.1       In the first instance, staff members who have been subject to a complaint should seek support from their line manager. For information on the support and counselling service available to employees of the school please contact the school Finance and Personnel Manager.

 

10. Learning Lessons

10.1     The Governing Body will review any underlying issues raised by complaints with the Headteacher where appropriate, and respecting confidentiality, to determine whether there are any improvements that the school can make to its procedures or practice to help prevent similar events in the future.

 

11. Monitoring Arrangements

11.1     The Governing Body will monitor the effectiveness of the complaints procedure in ensuring that complaints are handled properly. The Governing Body will track the number and nature of complaints, and review underlying issues.

 

Appendix 1: Governing Body Review – Request Form

 

When you have filled in this form, please return it to the Clerk to the Governors, at the school.

 

Name: ……………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Address: …………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Email address: ……………………………………………………………………………

 

Telephone number: (Home) ………………………………………………………….

 

(Mobile)…………………………………………………………

 

Student’s name: ………………………………………………………………………….

 

Your complaint is: ……………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

/         /

 

 

When did you raise this with Headteacher?

/         /

 

 

When did you receive the Headteacher’s response?

 

Your reasons for requesting a review are: ……………………………………..

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

(If you run out of space, please use extra paper)

 

 

 

Governing Body Review – Request Form (continued)

 

What do you want the School Governors’ Panel to do?

  • give an acknowledgement and/or apology
  • give an explanation
  • give an undertaking to recommend revision of school policies or practices

 

  • give a commitment to recommend steps designed to prevent a recurrence
  • other action (please specify)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your signature…………………………………………………. Date………………….

 

What happens next?

 

  • you will receive an acknowledgement that this form has been received
  • you will be invited to discuss your complaint with a Panel of Governors
  • within 15 school days of meeting the Governors’ Panel you will receive a full reply telling you the Panel’s conclusions/decisions, explaining their reasons and informing you of any action that has been taken/recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 2: Vexatious or spurious complaint example letter

 

 

Complainant address

 

Date

 

 

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms

 

Following receipt of your communications and careful consideration of the same, I regret that I am unable to deal with this matter under the School’s Complaints Policy because:

 

(It will be appropriate to include SOME of the following statements)

 

  • You have not identified any specific incidents or actions about which you wish to complain.
  • Your concerns are presented as conclusions rather than identifying specific incidents or actions about which you wish to complain.
  • The concerns that you identify relate to historical actions and any evidence which might have enabled an objective investigation of your complaint is no longer available.
  • The substance of your complaint has been addressed under this procedure already.
  • The concerns that you raise do not fall within the scope of this procedure.
  • You have not identified any potential sources of evidence which might allow the matter to be investigated.
  • Your complaint is considered to be obsessive, harassing, or repetitive.
  • The outcomes you are seeking are considered to be unrealistic or unreasonable.
  • Your complaints are designed to cause disruption and annoyance.
  • The demands for redress lack any serious purpose or value.

 

If you wish my decision to be reviewed then you may take advantage of the procedure set out in the school’s formal Complaints Policy, by referring it to the Chair of Governors. Please find a copy of our Complaints Policy attached to this letter.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

 

Headteacher

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 3: Policy for Unreasonable Complaints

 

Kingsmead School is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially, and to providing a high-quality service to those who complain. Normally the contact complainants have with the school is not limited; however, the school does not expect its staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and will take action to protect staff from that behaviour, including that which is abusive, offensive or threatening.

 

The school defines 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:

  1. refuses to articulate their complaint or specify the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance.

 

  1. refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process while still wishing their complaint to be resolved.

 

iii.         refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of a Complaints Procedure.

 

  1. insists on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the adopted complaints procedure or with good practice.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. makes unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues and seeks to have them replaced.

 

vii.        changes the basis of the complaint as the investigation proceeds.

 

viii.       repeatedly makes the same complaint (despite previous investigations or responses concluding that the complaint is groundless or has been addressed).

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. seeks an unrealistic outcome.

 

  1. makes excessive demands on school time by frequent, lengthy, complicated and stressful contact with staff regarding the complaint in person, in writing, by email and 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:

  1. maliciously;
  2. aggressively;

iii.         using threats, intimidation or violence;

  1. using abusive, offensive or discriminatory language;
  2. knowing it to be false;
  3. using falsified information;

vii.        publishing unacceptable information in a variety of media such as in social media websites and newspapers.

 

Complainants should limit the numbers of communications with an 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 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 an school causing a significant level of disruption, the School may specify methods of communication and limit the number of contacts in a communication plan. This will usually be reviewed after 6 months.

 

A decision to stop responding should never be taken lightly. The Headteacher should be able to answer “yes” to all of the following points:

 

  1. Every reasonable step to address the complainant’s concerns have been taken.

 

  1. The complainant has been given a clear statement of the school’s position and their options.

 

iii.         The complainant makes repeat red contact, making substantially the same points each time.

 

The case to stop responding is stronger if one or more of the following descriptions has occurred:

 

  1. The complainant’s letters, emails or telephone calls are often or always abusive or aggressive;

 

  1. The complainant makes insulting personal comments about or threats toward staff.

 

iii.         There is reason to believe that the complainant is contacting the school with the intention of causing disruption or inconvenience.

 

The Headteacher should not stop responding just because an individual is ‘difficult’ to deal with or asks complex questions.

 

Where a decision to enforce a bar on an individual due to poor behaviour has been confirmed, the individual will be notified in writing, explaining how long the bar will be in place and when the decision will be reviewed. The Headteacher’s decision to bar will then be reviewed by either the chair of governors or a committee of governors. The review will take into account the representations made by the individual.

 

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 the school.

 

Communication Plan for Persistent Correspondents

 

If an individual’s behaviour is causing a significant level of disruption, regardless of whether or not they have raised a complaint, academies should implement a tailored communication strategy. This may include:

 

  1. restricting the individual to a single point of contact via an email address;

 

  1. limiting the number of times they can make contact, such as a fixed number of contacts per term;

 

iii.         suggesting that the complainant asks a third party to act on their behalf, such as the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

 

The Headteacher should note that regardless of the application of any communication strategy, they must provide parents and carers with the information they are entitled to under The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, within the statutory time frame.

 

The Headteacher needs to make sure they act reasonably and consider any new complaint. Anyone has the right to raise a new complaint at any time and failure to respond could result in the school failing to act reasonably.

 

If an individual persists to the point that may constitute harassment, the Headteacher could seek legal advice. In some cases, injunctions and other court orders have been issued to individuals preventing them from contacting academies direct.

 

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KINGSMEAD NEWSLETTER – ISSUE 04 (MARCH 2024)
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