Procedures for dealing with complaints
At Urmston Grammar, we undertake to provide a friendly and safe environment in which students will be helped to achieve their potential, both academically and socially.
We do however recognise that sometimes things can go wrong and parents, carers and members of the public may need to make a complaint or raise concerns they have with the school. This policy tells you what to do if this happens.
This policy refers to ‘parents/carers’ but this should be regarded as referring equally to a member of the public who makes a complaint. This policy is available on request to parents of students and prospective students as well as members of public.
STAGE ONE: INFORMAL COMPLAINT
Most complaints/issues can and are resolved informally and fairly quickly by discussion or through a telephone call with the member of staff concerned or the relevant Vice-Principal, (Head of Sixth Form or Head of School).
Alternatively parents/carers can write to the member of staff or the Vice-Principal outlining the issue clearly.
Any complaint/issue that is put in writing should be written clearly outlining all of the issues and what it is hoped the preferred outcome should be. All complaints will be acknowledged in writing within 3 to 5 working days.
Parent/carers should in the first instance make an appointment to discuss their concerns with the member of staff who knows about the issue or incident. If the complaint relates to a student, ideally the member of staff concerned should be directly involved with the student, for example, class teacher or centrally the Head of School/Vice-Principal.
Should the complaint be serious the relevant Vice-Principal should be in attendance. The Principal would in all circumstances require the matter to have been fully discussed with the Vice-Principal before becoming involved.
A member of staff will usually write notes during the meeting. Parents/carers can ask for a copy of these notes.
STAGE TWO: FORMAL COMPLAINT
There are three formal stages and these should be used if a matter is so serious that the Vice-Principal is unable to resolve the complaint satisfactorily:
Formal Stage 1
If a parent/carer is still dissatisfied after the informal stage and their meeting with the Vice-Principal, they, or the member of staff can refer the matter to the Principal. This should be done in writing, as this will often make the situation clear to all involved parties. The Principal would not normally be involved in students’ disciplinary processes as these are the responsibility of the Heads of School.
The Principal will upon receipt offer a formal meeting with the parent/carer or other complainant at a mutually convenient time, this would normally involve the relevant Vice-Principal responsible for the child. At the meeting, and through discussion, the Principal will clarify what the issues are. What the parent/carer hopes to achieve will also be discussed. Together all parties will agree an acceptable outcome. This should be to the satisfaction of all parties involved. These should be written down and agreed by all parties so there is no misunderstanding. Again parents/carers should be given a copy of this.
If the issue is complex the Principal may need to speak to other staff and students to investigate the concerns. This should happen within 15 school days. If this timescale cannot be met the Principal should inform the parent/carer that this will take longer, explain the reasons for this and give a timescale for when the investigation will be completed.
Formal Stage 2
After meeting with the Principal if the complaint is still not resolved to the parent/carer’s satisfaction, the complaint can be referred to the Chair of Governors. This can either be in writing to the Chair at the school address, or alternatively the school can ask the Chair of Governors to contact the parent/carer direct. The Principal can also refer the complaint to the Chair of Governors.
If the Principal is the subject of the complaint, the complaint should go straight to the Chair of Governors and miss out Stage 1. The Chair of Governors may ask for the complaint to be put in writing (if this has not already happened).
The Chair of Governors will offer to meet with the parent/carer or other complainant, at a mutually convenient time.
The Chair of Governors has 20 school days to investigate the complaint. If it cannot be resolved within this time, the Chair will inform the complainant and explain why it is taking longer. Reasons for this may be that the complaint is complex and needs more time or someone involved is absent through sickness or holidays. The Chair of Governors should, however, give a realistic timescale for when the complaint should be resolved. The Chair should inform the complainant of when it is expected that the investigation should be completed.
Formal STAGE 3
If the complaint is still not resolved to the parent/carer’s satisfaction, or Chair of Governors feels that it is necessary, s/he can set up a Complaints committee to consider the complaint. The Chair of Governors will decide if this is appropriate.
If the Chair of Governors can resolve the complaint there is no need to hold a Complaints Committee meeting.
As far as possible it is recommended that Complaints committees are a last resort.
The Chair of Governors can appoint an investigating officer to gather evidence and conduct preliminary interviews on the Chair’s behalf. The investigating officer will provide a detailed report of his/her investigation of the complaint. Parents/carers should be given a copy of this report. It is important that the investigating officer is seen as impartial, so if the investigating officer is another governor, s/he cannot be a member of the associated Complaints committee.
The Complaints committee is made up of three members of the school’s Governing Body.
The Complaints committee should meet at a time convenient to all parties. The complainant, the Principal, the Chair of Governors and any member of staff the complaint is about will be invited to the meeting. Any person invited can bring a friend or supporter if they wish. The Complaints committee will consider any written material, and also give the person making the complaint and the Principal, Chair of Governors and staff an opportunity to state their case and to question others present. The committee will ensure that all present are treated fairly. The meeting will be minuted by the Clerk to Governors and everyone present will be given a copy of the minutes.
The committee will give its decision, in writing, within five school days after the meeting, along with the reasons for their decision.
If after this school based process the complaint is still not resolved to the parent/carer’s satisfaction, they should write to the Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT.
If a complaint is not from a parent/carer of a student of the school (an example being a member of the public) these should be made directly to the Principal, preferably in writing.
All correspondence, statements and records of complaints are to be kept confidential.
It should be noted that schools do not need to consider complaints made more than one year after the incident/situation. If a complaint is made about an issue that is over a year old the school will write to the complainant explaining this is the case.