Complaints Procedures

 

 

Mission Statement

 

Here in St. Joseph’s, where every aspect of school life is built upon Gospel values, we seek to create an atmosphere supported through prayer and worship, whereby everyone who has an interest in our community can feel valued and believe their happiness is the pursuit of all as we grow closer to Jesus Christ.

 

Through a curriculum that supports the holistic development of each child by encouraging them to reach their full potential, we will maintain a high quality education within the resources available and seek to develop the necessary partnership links with home and parish so that all are able to participate as members in the wider community.

 

 

  1. Introduction

St. Joseph’s RC Primary School prides itself on its relationship with parents and the quality of teaching provided for its pupils. However, if parents have concerns, they can expect any issues to be treated seriously by the school. A complaint can be brought by a parent of a registered child at the school or any person who has been provided with a service/facility at the school. This person is referred to as the complainant.

  1. Aims

Our procedures aim to reassure complainants that any complaints raised will be dealt with in a fair, open and responsive way with the aim of achieving a speedy and satisfactory resolution. The school recognises a willingness to listen to questions and criticisms and to respond positively and in a way in which improvements can be made to school practices.

In line with the Education Act 2002, St. Joseph’s RC Primary School will:

  • Encourage the resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible.
  • Allow easy access and publication of complaints procedure (see website http://st-josephs-rc-primary.co.uk)
  • Be impartial
  • Ensure the procedure is simple to understand and use
  • Be non-adversarial
  • Allow swift handling with established time-limits for action and keeping people informed of any 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.

 

  1. Legislation

Section 29 of the Education Act 2002 requires every maintained school to establish a procedure for dealing with complaints relating to the school and to publicise the procedure.

Section 39 of the Education Act 2002 defines a maintained school as being a community, foundation or voluntary school, a community or foundation school or a maintained nursery school (a nursery school which is maintained by a local education authority and is not  a special school.

 

  1. Aims

St. Joseph’s RC Primary School Complaints procedure has been created to deal with any general concerns against a member of staff or the school as a whole, relating to aspects of the school or the provision of facilities or services and sets-out the formal procedures should the concern not be resolved informally. The procedures are not intended to cover complaints regarding those aspects of school life for which there are specific statutory requirements such as:

  • Delivery of the National Curriculum and the provision of collective worship and religious education
  • Local Authority decision on special needs assessments
  • School Admissions and exclusions
  • Allegations of child abuse, financial improprieties or other criminal activities
  • Complaints about general matters of policy such as the overall resourcing of a school
  • Teacher performance

Schools may have a nominated member of staff with responsibility for the operation and management of the school complaints procedure.  At St. Joseph’s RC Primary School, the Headteacher is the complaints co-ordinator, although class teachers will normally be the first point of contact.

 

A concern becomes a complaint only when the complainant asserts the school has acted wrongly in some significant decision, action or failure to take action.

 

Even when a complaint has been made it can be resolved or withdrawn at any stage.

 

  1. Time Limits & cut-off points

 

Complaints need to be considered and resolved, as quickly, and efficiently as possible. Parents should therefore make a complaint as soon as possible after an incident and should not leave reporting an incident or making a complaint longer than one week after the incident. Exceptions will be considered where it can be proven that there were good reasons why a complaint was not made earlier (e.g. further information was being gathered before making the complaint or full implications of an incident were not known until a later date).

 

  1. General Principles

St. Joseph’s RC Primary School has a three stage process for dealing with formal complaints. Further details of each stage together with roles and responsibilities of staff involved can be found in Section 7 of this document. The three stages are:

Stage 1- complaint to be heard by a member of staff

Stage 2- complaint heard by the Headteacher

Stage 3 – complaint heard by the Governing Body appeal Panel

 

We will make every effort to resolve a complaint informally in the first instance, without the need to invoke the formal complaints procedure. In most cases this can be achieved by a discussion between a member of staff and the complainant.

 

Anonymous Complaints

 

The Governing Body will not consider anonymous complaints. Any anonymous complaints will be retained and the number reported to Governors to enable Governors to monitor any patterns of complaints.

 

Vexatious Complaints

 

The implementation and adherence to this complaints procedure should reduce the number of complaints that become protracted or vexatious. If a complainant tries to re-open the same issue the Chair of the Governing Body will write to the complainant explaining that the complaint has been through all stages of the procedure, is now exhausted and the matter is now closed. If the complainant writes again on the same issue, then the correspondence may be recognised as vexatious and there will be no obligation on the part of the school to respond.

 

Special Circumstances

If the complaint involves child protection or is of a safeguarding nature – child protection procedures will take precedence over the complaints procedure.

Where a matter can be resolved through a legal appeal, it will not be considered as a formal complaint. The key areas are: admissions decisions; certain decisions relating to formal assessment of special educational needs; and decisions to permanently exclude a child.

 

  1. Formal Complaints Procedure

Stage 1 (Informal) – Complaint heard by staff member (i.e. class teacher/phase leader/Deputy Head)

 

The school recognises that a vast majority of concerns and complaints can be resolved informally. It is expected that in most cases a class teacher or member of staff concerned will be able to resolve your concerns without the need to go any further and it is in everyone’s interest that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage.

 

The complainant must feel able to raise concerns and complaints with members of staff, either in person, by telephone or in writing. A preliminary discussion may be undertaken to help clarify if he or she is making a complaint or expressing an opinion. The discussion is to:

 

  • establish what has happened so far and who has been involved
  • clarify what remains unresolved
  • establish what the complainant feels would put things right
  • determine whether they wish to take it further.

 

Please note that the staff member will require time in order to investigate the matter further themselves and an unreasonable refusal to allow your concern or complaint to be addressed informally may result in the school being unwilling to take the issue any further.

The complaints coordinator i.e. the Headteacher should be informed of any outcome.

If, having raised your concern with the class teacher or member of staff concerned you are still dissatisfied or, the class teacher or member of staff concerned is the subject of your complaint, then you should move on to the next level of the procedure, Stage 2, contacting the Headteacher.

If 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. Governors should 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.

 

Where the complaint concerns the Headteacher, the complaint should be referred to the Chair of Governors.

 

Stage 2 (formal): complaint heard by Headteacher

 

If you think that your complaint has not been resolved then you can take your complaint to Stage 2.  During this stage, the Headteacher will deal with your complaint.  You may be asked to put your concerns in writing, but the Headteacher will usually be able to deal with your concerns face to face.

The Headteacher will attempt to resolve your concerns using any reasonable means that are felt appropriate: this may involve meeting with you to discuss the matter further, or delegating another senior member of staff to investigate and collate the information but not the decision on the action to be taken.

The Headteacher should be allowed reasonable time to investigate the concern or complaint and gather any information that is required, this may be via discussions with all parties involved – this may involve talking to staff members, interviewing witnesses and taking statements from those involved. The Headteacher will keep reasonable written records of meetings, telephone conversation and other documentation. The Headteacher will investigate fully and communicate findings and/or resolutions to the complainant(s) verbally or in writing depending on the nature of the issue.

As far as is reasonable, except in more complex cases, a written response will take place within 30 days of the initial complaint being received by the Headteacher.

If you are dissatisfied with the feedback from the Headteacher, or if the Headteacher is the subject of your concern or complaint, then you may, within 10 school days of the Headteacher’s response, put your complaint, in writing, to the Chair of Governors via the school, in a sealed envelope addressed to:

Chair of Governors

St. Joseph’s RC Primary School

C/o St. Joseph’s RC Primary School

Rutland Street, Millfield

Sunderland, SR4 6HY

It is helpful at this point if the complainant can indicate in writing how they would like the matter to be resolved and what outcome they would like to see achieved. The Chair of Governors will seek to resolve issues informally before, if necessary, moving to Stage 3.

 

Stage 3 (formal): complaint heard by Chair of Governors and/or Complaints Committee.

 

The Chair of Governors will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 5 school days of receipt.

The Chair will investigate the complaint which may involve discussions with those involved. Once all the relevant facts have been established, the Chair will seek to resolve issues and, if deemed necessary, the Chair may refer the complaint to the Complaints Committee for the complaint to be heard further.

The Governing Body has responsibility for ensuring that any complaints formally notified to them are addressed. If you have not raised your concern or complaint with the Headteacher, the Chair may advise you to do so, but otherwise, if you have a complaint and have not already put the details in writing, the Chair will ask you to do so.

The Complaints Committee is usually a designated panel of 3 governors who will be convened to hear your complaint.  One of the governors will be appointed a Chair of the Complaints Panel. This will not necessarily be the Chair of Governors.

St. Joseph’s RC Primary School’s Clerk to the Governors will invite you to attend the Complaints Committee meeting. You will be informed of the time, date and venue for the hearing. The clerk will collate and distribute any relevant information.

The Chair of the Committee will ensure that you are informed of the Committee’s decision in writing, within 15 school days of the meeting.

The Complaints Committee will be held in private and we aim to resolve the complaint, achieve reconciliation between the school and yourself. We can assure you that your concerns are taken very seriously.

The Complaints Committee will aim to reach an outcome in respect of the complaint (i.e. upheld, not upheld, unable to substantiate) decide and agree on appropriate action to be taken as a result of the complaint and make recommendations to change processes/procedures to ensure problems of a similar nature do not recur.

It is recognised, however, that you might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in your favour, and therefore it may only be possible for the hearing to establish the facts and make recommendations.

Following the investigation you will receive written feedback from the Chair of Governors or Clerk to the Governing Body including any decisions, recommendations and the reasons for them and, if appropriate, the next steps. This should be issued within 10 working school days after the investigation has concluded.

Please note: if the outcome might lead to action under another procedure or is an internal management issue for the school and therefore the responsibility of the Headteacher, you may only be told that appropriate action will be taken.

If you are dissatisfied with the response from the Chair of Governors/Chair of Complaints Committee you should move on to step four of the formal stage, i.e. to appeal against the decision to the Governing Bodies Complaints Appeal Panel.

 

Stage 4 (formal): complaint heard by Governing Bodies Complaints Appeal Panel

 

The complainant usually needs to write to the Clerk to the Governing Body giving details of the complaint and asking that it is put before the appeal panel. The Chair, or if the Chair has been involved at any previous stage in the process, a nominated governor, will convene a Governing Body complaints appeal panel.

The governors’ appeal hearing is the last school-based stage of the complaints process and is not convened merely to 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 appeal panel can be drawn from the nominated members and may consist of three or five people. The panel may choose their own Chair.

The panel will aim to reach an outcome in respect of the complaint (i.e. upheld, not upheld, unable to substantiate) decide and agree on appropriate action to be taken as a result of the complaint and make recommendations to change processes/procedures to ensure problems of a similar nature do not recur.

The Chair of the Panel needs to ensure that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision, in writing, with the panel’s response (including the reasons for the decision); this is usually within 30 days of the Appeal being received by the Appeal Panel

This is the final step of the process for the school (except for carrying out agreed actions) and there is no more that the school can do – trying to raise the issue further through the school may lead to your complaint being treated as vexatious.

 

  1. Monitoring and recording complaints

At all stages of the complaints procedure the following information should be recorded:

  • Name of the complainant.
  • Date and time at which complaint was made.
  • Details of the nature of the complaint.
  • Desired outcome of the complainant.
  • How the complaint is being investigated (including written records of any interviews held).
  • Results and conclusions of investigations.
  • Any action taken.
  • The complainant’s response.
  • Record of any subsequent action if required.

 

  1. Escalation of School Complaints Following Stage 4

 

Should a complainant remain dissatisfied following a Stage 4 complaint they will be advised of their right to escalate their complaint to the following bodies:

 

City of Sunderland Local Authority

The Local authority MAY consider complaints in relation to school admissions and allocations, school transport, some aspects of Special Educational Needs, school exclusions, non- delivery of the curriculum, religious worship and tuition at home.

 

Children’s Services Complaints and Feedback Manager

Commercial and Corporate Services

Civic Centre

Sunderland, SR2 7DN

Email: children.complaints@sunderland.gov.uk

 

Secretary of State for Education

If a complainant feels that the school has or is proposing to act unreasonably, or has failed to discharge a duty under certain legislation they can contact the Secretary of State for Education. Complainants should be advised to write to The School Complaints Unit (SCU) at:

 

Department for Education

2nd floor

Piccadilly Gate

Store Street

Manchester

M1 2WD

Tel: 0370 000 2288

Website: www.education.gov.uk/school complaints

 

 

  1. Monitoring of Procedures

 

Governors will review procedures on a three year cycle (or updated sooner if required) and monitor the number of complaints received, how these were addressed and any action taken.