Complaints Policy

Cecil Gowing Infant School Complaints Procedure and Policy

Approved by Staff: March 2020


Approved by Governors: 26.3.20


Review date: March 2023

Signed: Headteacher Isabel Stubbs Date 26.3.20

Signed Chair of Governors Fiona Hardman Date 26.3.20

All schools in Norfolk want their pupils to be healthy, happy and safe, and to
achieve. They recognise that parents, guardians or carers play an important part
in making this happen. Cooperation between parents, staff and governors leads
to a shared sense of purpose and a good atmosphere in the school.
Each level of the procedure set out below offers the opportunity for concerns and
complaints to be resolved as quickly as possible.

Level 1 – informal
Parents, carers or guardians should, in the first instance, make an appointment to
speak to the class teacher or a head of year about the concern. It is best to
resolve issues at this point. Any member of the public wishing to make a
complaint regarding school related issues should be directed to the headteacher.


Guidance on informal level 1:
• Concerns should initially be handled informally in a manner that offers the best
way of resolving issues
• A class teacher or head of year should offer an appointment to discuss the issue
as quickly as possible, as this will give both parties time to talk about it calmly
and politely without being interrupted. This can allow parties to remain calm. It
will also show a commitment to resolving issues
• It is important for parents to recognise that schools are busy organisations and
that it may not be possible to offer an appointment straight away
• The parties involved should be encouraged to offer their view of what would be a
realistic resolution to the problem.


Level 2 – informal
Parents, carers or guardians dissatisfied with the result of the discussions with
the class teacher or head of year should ask for an appointment to meet with the
headteacher or, in a larger school, a member of the leadership team, a deputy
headteacher or assistant headteacher. For complaints raised with the
headteacher at level 1, the next step should be to write to the Chair of Governors.
If a resolution to the issue is proving difficult to find, the headteacher, a member
of the leadership team, a deputy headteacher or assistant headteacher can speak
to one member of the governing body about the issue who may be willing to offer
informal intervention. However, there is no obligation on any governor to become
involved at this level.
If everyone involved is unable to resolve the issue then it may be necessary to
ask for information or support from a Children’s Services Representative. The
issue that is the focus of the complaint will determine the person contacted. The
headteacher, member of the leadership team, deputy headteacher or assistant
headteacher should know who to ring or the Customer Service Centre will be able
to offer information on 0344 800 8020 or e-mail:information@norfolk.gov.uk
Guidance on informal level 2:
• It is always best to resolve issues informally at the earliest possible time but if the
person is not satisfied with the result of the talk with the teacher or head of year
then he/she can ask for an appointment to meet with the headteacher or, in a
larger school, a member of the leadership team, a deputy head or assistant
headteacher
• It is in everyone’s interest, particularly the child or children, for concerns and
complaints to be sorted out quickly and smoothly
• The aim should be that discussions end on a positive note with no bad feeling
• It is good practice for headteachers or member of the leadership team, a deputy
head or assistant headteacher to write a letter to parents summarising what has
been agreed regarding the issue
• The headteacher, a member of the leadership team, a deputy head or assistant
headteacher may feel that a particular governor’s input would be helpful in
bringing about a resolution but there is no obligation on any governor tobecome
involved at this level
• The advice from a Children’s Services Representative will be designed to help
facilitate a resolution to the problem as quickly as possible
It is hoped that most problems will have been resolved by now.


Level 3 – formal complaint letter to headteacher
An issue that has not been resolved through the informal levels 1 and 2 can
become an official complaint.
Complainants wishing to move to level 3 must write a formal letter of complaint to
the headteacher. The letter will need to set out clearly the issues which have
previously been discussed and why they consider the issue to be unresolved.
Headteachers should consider the complaint and discuss a resolution with the
complainant. The headteacher should offer a resolution to the complainant in
writing within 10 school days of receipt of the letter.


Guidance on level 3 – formal
An unresolved issue can now move to a formal complaint. This is a serious step to be
taken. In consideration of future home/school relationships everyone concerned will
need to negotiate an agreement and concentrate on finding a resolution to the issue.
Concerns or complaints specifically about the headteacher
The decision that the headteacher has made as a result of the complaint does not
become a complaint about the headteacher. If the complainant feels the
complaint has not been resolved he/she should put the complaint in writing to the
Chair of Governors asking them to investigate.
If, the concern or complaint is specifically about the headteacher and is unable to
be resolved at the informal stage, then it will be necessary for the complainant to
formally complain to the Chair of Governors. The school will provide the Chair of
Governor’s name and the complainant should write to him or her at the school
address marking the envelope ‘urgent, private and confidential’. The Chair of
Governors should acknowledge the complainant’s letter in writing within 5 school
days of receipt and contact a Governor Support Service Officer for advice.


Level 4 – formal complaint requesting a Governors’ Complaints Panel
Complainants wishing to move to level 4 of the formal complaints procedure will
need to write a letter to the Chair of Governors to request that a Governors’
Complaints Panel meets to hear the complaint. This formal complaint letter must
be received within 10 school days of the last meeting with the headteacher
concerning the issue. The complainant should write to the Chair of Governors at
the school address marking the envelope ‘urgent and confidential’. The letter
will need to set out the complaint that has previously been formally discussed
with the headteacher and show why the matter is notresolved.


Time Scales:

Receipt of complainant’s letterAcknowledgement within 5 school days
Receipt of complainant’s letterReceipt of complainant’s letter Governors’ Panel meeting within 15 school days (unless this goes into
school holidays)
Written documentation sent to
Governors’ Panel Members and
complainant and headteacher
5 school days before meeting.
5 school days before meeting.
Governors’ Panel members
decision communicated to all
concerned
As soon as possible but within 10 school days of meeting.


Before the meeting:

The chair of governors should appoint a clerk to the Governors’ Complaints
Panel, acknowledge the complainant’s letter in writing within 5 school days of
receipt and arrange for a panel of governors to meet within 15 school days of
receipt. It must be recognised that if the letter is received within 14 school days
to the end of term it may not be possible to organise the governors’ panel
meeting. In this case the matter should be dealt with within 10 school days of the
school reopening.
The headteacher should be given a copy of the complainant’s letter and written
documentation should be requested from the school. The clerk should send both
the complainant’s letter and the school documentation to the Governors’
Complaints Panel members, complainant and headteacher (and anyone else
involved in the meeting) at least 5 school days before the date of the meeting.
The complainant and headteacher will be invited to attend the Governor’s
Complaints Panel meeting to give a verbal statement in support of their
documentation. Each of them can bring someone to support them if they wish.


At the meeting:
The complainant and headteacher (or his representative) should provide all the
relevant information they wish and the Governors’ Complaints Panel members
should clarify any points. After the complainant and headteacher (or his
representative) have provided all the information they wish, the chair will ask all
parties to leave except the panel members and the clerk.


After the meeting:
The Governors’ Complaints Panel will write to all concerned within 10 school
days to explain their decision and suggest a resolution to the problem, if
appropriate. The decision of the Governor’s Complaints Panel is final.
The decision of the Governors’ Complaints Panel will not be investigated. If,
however, the complainant feels that the School and Governors have not followed
the school’s complaints procedure correctly, he/she can contact a Children’s
Services Officer for assistance. In this case he/she should ring Customer
Services on 0844 800 8001 who will arrange for an officer to get back to him/her.
Taking your complaint further
If you believe that your school’s governing board is acting ‘unreasonably’ you
can complain in writing to the Secretary of State for Education.


Guidance on level 4 – formal:


Before the meeting:
• The formal complaints letter should be passed to the vice-chair if the chair will be
unable to receive the letter within 5 days
• Members of the Governors’ Complaints Panel should have no prior knowledge of
the complaint and it is, therefore, unlikely that staff governors will be members of
the panel
At the meeting:
• The Complaints Panel must be made up of at least three members and a clerk
• Although this is a formal meeting, every effort should be made to make it as
informal as possible for all concerned
• Everyone attending should be in the room at the same time
• Consideration may need to be given to the seating arrangements to make
everyone feel equal and comfortable
• The clerk should take notes of the meeting, listing who is present:
o Governors, stating who is the Chair of the Governors’ Complaints Panel
o Headteacher (or his/her representative) and any other members of school
staff
o Parents and anyone accompanying them e.g. friend
o Clerk
• The chair of the Governors’ Complaints Panel should open the meeting stating
the purpose and the format of the meeting to clarify this to all in attendance
• People present should introduce themselves stating their reason for being at the
meeting
• The chair of the Governors’ Complaints Panel should request a verbal statement
from the complainant in support of his or her written letter of complaint and why
s/he feels the issue has not been resolved. The Governors’ Complaints Panel
members can ask questions to make sure they understand the issue from the
parent’s point of view
• The chair of the Governors’ Complaints Panel should request a verbal statement
from the headteacher (or his representative) in support of his/her written account
of the complaint and the steps taken to resolve the issue. The Governors’
Complaints Panel members can ask questions to make sure they understand the
issue from the headteacher’s point of view
• The members of the Governors’ Complaints Panel should make sure they fully
understand the issues and ask any further questions to clarify any points that are
still not clear to them
• The chair of the Governors’ Complaints Panel must ask the complainant and the
headteacher (or his representative) if they are satisfied that they have provided
all the information they wanted or if there is something they wish to add and if
they feel they have had a fair hearing
• When the Governors’ Complaints Panel members understand all the issues, the
chair will ask all parties to leave except the panel members and the clerk
After the meeting:
• The Governors’ Complaints Panel members then discuss the issues in private
and the clerk remains to record the decision
• The Panel members will need to consider the information, come to a decision
and suggest a way to resolve the issue taking into account the best interests of
the child or children
• When the Panel have reached a decision the Clerk will inform everyone
concerned in writing as soon as possible, but in any event, within 10 schooldays
of the panel meeting
The decision of the Governor’s Complaints Panel is final. However if the complainant
feels the school’s governing board is acting ‘unreasonably’ they can complain in writing
to the Secretary of State for Education.
Once a Governor’s Complaints Panel has heard a complaint, and it is clear that
correct procedures have been followed, that specific complaint cannot be
reopened. If a request is received in this respect, the chair of governors should
inform the complainant that the matter is closed.
Any complaints concerning the conduct of school staff will be handled in
accordance with the schools internal disciplinary procedures. The details of such
an investigation will remain confidential.
Some complaints regarding admissions, the curriculum or special educational
needs are covered by statutory regulations. The headteacher or deputy
headteacher can give information about these issues or advice can be sought
from the Customer Service Centre on 0344 800 8020 or e-mail:
information@norfolk.gov.uk
Extended Schools: the governing body should ensure that any third party
provider offering activities and services through the extended schools
programme has their own complaints procedure in place. Governors would need
to have a discussion around, and make a decision about, what happens when the
third party provider’s complaints process is exhausted and the matter is not
resolved and whether it should then be referred to a Governors’ Complaints
Panel. This would ensure that the Governors are kept aware of complaints about
provision.


Appendix A (using DFE advice)


Policy for Unreasonable Complainants
Cecil Gowing Infant School is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially,
and to providing a high quality service to those who complain. We will not normally limit the
contact complainants have with the school. However, we do not expect our staff to tolerate
unacceptable behaviour and will take action to protect staff from that behaviour, including that
which is abusive, offensive or threatening.
Cecil Gowing Infant 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:-
• refuses to articulate their complaint or specify the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes
sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance;
• refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process while still wishing their
complaint to be resolved;
• refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of a complaints procedure;
• insists on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the adopted
complaints procedure or with good practice;
• 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;
• makes unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and seeks to
have them replaced;
• changes the basis of the complaint as the investigation proceeds;
• repeatedly makes the same complaint (despite previous investigations or responses
concluding that the complaint is groundless or has been addressed);
• 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 including
referral to the Department for Education;
• seeks an unrealistic outcome;
• 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:-
• maliciously;
• aggressively;
• using threats, intimidation or violence;
• using abusive, offensive or discriminatory language;
• knowing it to be false;
• using falsified information;
• publishing unacceptable information in a variety of media such as in social media websites
and newspapers.


Complainants should limit the numbers of communications with a 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 or Chair of Governors 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 Cecil Gowing Infant School causing a significant level of disruption, we may specify
methods of communication and limit the number of contacts in a communication plan. This
will usually be reviewed after 6 months.
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 Cecil Gowing Infant School.
Barring from the School Premises
Although fulfilling a public function, schools are private places. The public has no automatic
right of entry. Schools will therefore act to ensure they remain a safe place for pupils, staff
and other members of their community.
If a parent’s behaviour is a cause for concern, a school can ask him/her to leave school
premises. In serious cases, the headteacher or the local authority can notify them in writing
that their implied licence to be on school premises has been temporarily revoked subject to
any representations that the parent may wish to make. Schools should always give the
parent the opportunity to formally express their views on the decision to bar in writing.