Complaint to a school maintained by the Local Authority
The Complaints Procedure
There are three stages to the complaint procedure. In order to protect the rights of all parties it is important that the various stages of the procedure are adhered to as far as possible. Should a complaint, therefore, be reported to a governor, Chair of Governors or the LA, the complainant will be directed to the school for the matter to be considered by the appropriate member of staff in the first instance.
Initially, it may be helpful to speak informally with the appropriate or designated member of staff, for example, the class teacher in the primary sector or, the form tutor / subject teacher or head of year in the secondary sector. This is usually the first step for a parental concern and, due to the first-hand information that the teacher has about the pupil, many concerns can be resolved at this point.
If this is not possible for any reason, ideally you should put your complaint in writing to the Headteacher. This would be the first formal stage of the complaint procedure.
The Headteacher may provide an opportunity to meet with you in order to supplement any information previously provided. You can be accompanied to the meeting by a friend, relative or representative and arrangements for any interpreting facilities should be considered, where appropriate. It may be your complaint is resolved in whole or in part at the meeting. However, if there are outstanding issues these should be highlighted and the headteacher will advise you of the date at which his/her written response will be sent to you. The headteacher’s written response will signify the school’s response at stage 1.
If you do not wish to meet with the Headteacher, or the Headteacher does not consider it necessary to convene a meeting, you will receive a written response after your complaint has been investigated and this will also signify the school’s response at stage 1.
If you remain dissatisfied, you have the right to progress the complaint to the next stage. To do this, you should write to the Chair of Governors, via the school, within fifteen school days of receipt of the response letter from the headteacher.
Your letter to the Chair should outline the complaint, the reasons for your dissatisfaction and your preferred outcome. It should be in an envelope marked private and confidential for the attention of the Chair of Governors and sent via the school, or handed in at the school office. This will help to ensure s/he fully understands the issues when investigating the matter.
Following completion of the investigation, the Chairperson will write to you, outlining their decision, any actions that have been or will be taken, and any recommendations to the school or Governing Body.
If you remain dissatisfied you have the right to progress the complaint to the next stage. You should do this by writing to the Complaints Resolution Service (CRS) within a maximum of 15 school days of receipt of the response letter from the Chairperson. Your letter should outline the elements of the chair’s response you remain dissatisfied with and your preferred outcome. The CRS will commence arrangements for the meeting of the Governing Body Complaints Panel.
Stage 3: Appeal to the Governing Body Complaints Panel
Within 5 school days of receipt of the request to proceed to stage three, the CRS will write to you, the headteacher, Chair of Governing Body, any relevant witnesses and members of the appeal panel to advise of the date, time and place of the meeting, which should take place within 20 school days of receipt of your request. In addition the letter will explain the main issues relating to the complaint, how the meeting will be conducted and the parent’s and school’s right to submit further written evidence to the panel. This evidence should be returned to the CRS in sufficient time to enable it to be circulated to all parties at least 5 school days prior to the meeting. The complaints panel is made up from elected members of the governing body (excluding Associate Members) who have had no significant involvement with the complaint. This may include the Chair of Governors if not previously involved.
You can be accompanied to the meeting by a friend, relative or representative and arrangements for any interpreting facilities should be considered where necessary.
It should be noted that the standard of proof applied by the Panel will be the civil standard of, ‘balance of probabilities’ and not the criminal standard of, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as generated under Police or Court processes.
Only in exceptional circumstances should any party introduce previously undisclosed information or witnesses. If this happens it may be in the interests of natural justice to adjourn the meeting so that all parties have time to consider and respond to any new information. The panel will also consider whether any additional material is appropriate to the complaint under consideration, and not relating to matters other than the parents original concern: NB: - no new complaints should be raised.
A decision letter will be produced and sent to the parent and Headteacher within 15 school days of the meeting stating the decision(s) of the panel and the basis on which the decisions were made. The complaints panel is the final stage of the schools’ complaint procedure and you will be advised that if you remain dissatisfied, you can forward the complaint to The Secretary of State.
Withdrawal of a Complaint
Parents can withdraw a complaint at any stage. This should preferably be done in writing.
Closing a Complaint
It is reasonable that complaints be considered to have lapsed if no response or contact has been received from you within the prescribed timescales of the complaint procedure. Where a complaint is not officially withdrawn but you have not been in contact or fail to attend a complaint panel meeting with no apology or due cause, it will be within the jurisdiction of the complaints panel and / or the LA to decide whether to proceed with the complaint. Guidance should be sought from the LA prior to any decision being taken.
Where the decision is taken to close the complaint, a letter will be sent from the school advising you forthwith.
Complaints against the Headteacher
Where a complaint relates specifically to the actions / inactions of the headteacher the complaint should be directed in the first instance, via the school, to the Chair of the Governing Body. The letter should specify the nature of the complaint, the actions which you are dissatisfied with and an indication of what outcome is being sought. These complaints do not cover the following, where more specific procedures apply and should be followed:
- Allegations of child abuse
- Financial impropriety
- Other criminal activity
Further information should be sought from the Complaints Resolution Service.
Depending on the nature of the complaint the parent, or Chair, may request the involvement of the LA to advise them in the resolution of the complaint.
On receipt of the letter the Chair will notify the LA immediately and seek advice to establish whether the complaint falls within the scope of the schools’ complaint procedure, or other existing Council procedures. If the complaint does fall within the school’s procedure the Chair will act as complaints officer.
The Chair will acknowledge the letter and confirm their understanding of the exact nature of the complaint itself. They will give a description of the complaints procedure and a target date for providing a response. A full response will be made within 15 school days. However, if the complaint requires an in-depth investigation, the Chair will acknowledge this and let you know that a full response will take longer than usual.
The Chair may decide to contact or meet with you in order to obtain / clarify specific points or gather additional information to assist in the investigation. You can be accompanied to the meeting by a friend, relative or representative and arrangements for any interpreting facilities should be considered where necessary.
The Chair will write to both you and Headteacher to indicate the outcome of the investigation: that the complaint is:
- Unsubstantiated and no further action will be taken or,
- Justified in whole or in part and what action / recommendation will result
In addition, you will be advised of your right to make a representation to the LA against either the decision or, the conduct of the investigation.
Representation to the Local Authority
Should you or the Headteacher remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the Chair’s investigation, a representation can be made in writing to the Corporate Director, Services to People. The matter will be allocated to a senior officer with no previous involvement, who will then write to all parties outlining the process to be followed. The senior officer will carry out a review of the Chair’s investigation and response letter, relevant paperwork and any other submissions pertinent to the complaint and, if necessary arrange meetings with the parties involved. Once any meetings have taken place, and allowing time for deliberation, a response will be sent to all parties within 20 school days from the date of the final meeting.
It should be noted that the LA has no power to re-investigate the complaint or, to overturn the decision of the Chair. Its role is to review the rigour applied to the investigational process. Parents will be advised of their right of appeal to the Secretary of State or Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) if appropriate.