Gallow Field Road
Foxton
Market Harborough
Leicestershire
LE16 7QZ

Telephone: 01858 545 328

Complaints

(Reviewed July 2012)

Foxton Primary School welcomes any suggestions for improving the work of the school and views complaints positively as one way for the school to learn and progress.

It is the policy of the school to deal with complaints fairly and objectively.

Parents should always know how they can raise concerns or lodge a formal complaint. The following is printed in the Prospectus:

We value parents’ involvement in school and we aim to keep you informed about school policy and your child’s progress. However, there may be times when you have queries or complaints to make about your child’s education. Firstly, speak to your child’s teacher or the head teacher. The majority of questions and anxieties can be dealt with in this way. However, if your concerns can not be resolved you have the right to formally contact the Chair of Governors and ultimately the matter can be taken up with Leicestershire County Council.

A leaflet for parents, explaining how problems are dealt with and how the complaints procedures work, is given to all parents and is available from the school office.

School staff are familiar with procedures so that they can advise parents. The Staff Handbook contains details of how to listen to complaints.

Governors receiving a complaint should refer it to the Head Teacher immediately, without discussion, so as not to compromise the governor’s later involvement in a Complaints Panel hearing.


Procedure

Stage One: Complaint Heard by Staff Member

The vast majority of concerns and complaints can be resolved informally. There are many occasions where concerns are resolved straight away through the class teacher, school secretary, or Head Teacher, depending on whom the complainant first approached. 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.

Parents must feel able to raise concerns with members of staff without any formality, either in person, by telephone or in writing. On occasion it may be appropriate for someone to act on behalf of a parent. In some cases a complainant may have difficulty in discussing a complaint with a particular member of staff. In this case the Head Teacher should refer the matter to another member of staff.

Parents have an opportunity for discussion of their complaint with the appropriate member of staff, who clarifies with the parent the nature of the complaint, and reassures them that the school want to hear about it. The member of staff may explain to the parent how the situation happened. It can be helpful to identify at this point what sort of outcome the parent is looking for.

If the member of staff first contacted cannot immediately deal with the matter, she/he makes a clear note of the date, name, contact address or phone number.

Any member of staff will know how to refer, if necessary, to the person with the responsibility for the particular issue raised by the parent. She/he will check later to make sure that the referral has been successful.

On major issues the Head Teacher may decide to deal with the complaint directly at this stage.

If the complaint relates to the conduct of a member of staff, this should be referred to the Head Teacher immediately without discussion.

If the complaint relates to the conduct of the Head Teacher, this should be referred to the Chair of the Governing Body immediately without discussion.

If a complaint is received by a governor this should be referred to the Head Teacher immediately without discussion, so as not to compromise the governor’s later involvement in a Complaints Panel hearing.

The person dealing with the complaint should make sure that the parent is clear what action (if any) or monitoring of the situation has been agreed, putting this in writing if this seems the best way of making things clear.

Where no satisfactory solution has been found within ten days, complainants are asked if they wish their complaint to be considered further. If so, they are given clear information, both orally and in writing, and how they proceed and about any independent advice available to them, and are advised to put their complaint in writing.

Stage Two, Part 1: 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 may delegate the task of collating the information to another staff member but not the decision on the action to be taken.

Stage Two, Part 2: Complaint Heard by Chair of Governors

The complainant should formally raise the issue with the Chair of Governors who will investigate the matter and respond accordingly. If the Chair of Governors feels there maybe a conflict of interests and his/her intervention could be seen as having bias the Chair should refer the complainant to the Vice Chair of Governors. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, they should be referred to Stage 3 (Complaints Committee).

Stage Three: Complaint Heard by Governing Body's Complaints Appeal Panel

The complainant needs to 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 would normally be part of the school’s complaints procedure. 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 to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.

There are several points which any governor sitting on a complaints panel needs to remember:

  1. It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen 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 it is a cross-section of the categories of governor and sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.
  2. The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it has to be recognised 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child. Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child does not feel intimidated. The panel needs to be aware of the views of the child and give them equal consideration to those of adults. Where the child’s parent is the complainant, it would be helpful to give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend.
  5. The governors sitting on the panel need to be aware of the complaints procedure. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The Role of the Clerk

The Department strongly recommends that any panel or group of governors considering complaints be clerked. The clerk would be the contact point for the complainant and be required to:

  • Set the date, time and venue of the hearing, ensuring that the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible;
  • Collate any written material and send it to the parties in advance of the hearing;
  • Meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing;
  • Record the proceedings;
  • Notify all parties of the panel’s decision.

The Role of the Chair of the Governing Body or the Nominated Governor

The nominated governor role:

  • Check that the correct procedure has been followed;
  • If a hearing is appropriate, notify the clerk to arrange the panel.

The Role of the Chair of the Panel

The Chair of the Panel has a key role, ensuring that: 

  • The remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption;
  • The issues are addressed;
  • Key findings of fact are made;
  • Parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease;
  • The hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy;
  • The panel is open minded and acting independently;
  • No member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure;
  • Each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions;
  • Written material is seen by all parties. If a new issue arises it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to consider and comment on it.

Notification of the Panel's Decision

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; this is usually within a set deadline which is publicised in the procedure. The letter needs to explain if there are any further rights of appeal and, if so, to whom they need to be addressed.