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Priory Woods School & Arts College

Priory Woods School & Arts College A Special Place to Learn

Complaints Policy

Adopted by: Priory Woods School - Date: 11-03-2021


This document aims to reassure parents / carers and others with an interest in school that:

  • Any complaint against the school will be dealt with in a fair, open and responsive way, with the aim of achieving a speedy and satisfactory resolution: and
  • The school recognises that a willingness to listen to questions and criticism and to respond positively, can lead to improvements in school practices and provision for pupils.

The procedure for dealing with any complaint has an informal stage and then a further formal 3 stages.

Informal Stage (Stage 1)

On occasions, a parent may raise a concern directly with school staff without any formality. This can be done either in person, by telephone or in writing.  At this stage we may need to clarify whether you are making a complaint, seeking information or have misunderstood a situation. At this stage a parent will be given a copy of this policy.

Stage 2 - Complaint heard by Head Teacher

If your concern is not resolved immediately and you confirm that you wish to make a complaint, the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Head Teacher will be given. If your complaint is against the Head Teacher then this will be heard by the Chair of Governors.  Complaints can be made either verbally or in writing. 

Stage 3 – Complaint heard by Chair of Governors

If the complaint is not resolved at stage 1 then a written complaint should be submitted to the chair of governors. 

Stage 4 - Complaint heard by Governing Body's Complaint's Committee

If the complaint is not resolved by the chair of governors then a letter should be written to the chair or clerk of governors requesting that the complaint be heard by the complaints committee. This will be made up of three school governors.

Serial and Unreasonable Complaints:

There may be occasions when, despite all stages of the procedures having been followed, the complainant remains dissatisfied. If the complainant tries to reopen the same issue, the chair of governors is able to inform them in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed.

Priory Woods 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 our 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. Priory Woods School defines unreasonable behaviour as that which hinders our consideration of complaints because of the frequency or nature of the complainant’s contact with the school, such as, if the complainant:

  • refuses to articulate their complaint or specify the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance
  • seeks to circumvent the published complaints processes and procedures
  • refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process
  • refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the complaints procedure
  • insists on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the complaints procedure or with good practice
  • introduces trivial or irrelevant information which they expect to be taken into account and commented on
  • 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 and complicated contact with staff regarding the complaint in person, in writing, by email and by telephone while the complaint is being dealt with
  • uses threats to intimidate
  • uses abusive, offensive or discriminatory language or violence
  • knowingly provides falsified information
  • publishes unacceptable information on social media or other public forums.

Complainants should try to limit their communication with the school that relates to their complaint, while the 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 Head Teacher or Chair of Governors will discuss any concerns with the complainant informally before applying an ‘unreasonable’ marking.

If the behaviour continues, the Head Teacher will write to the complainant explaining that their behaviour is unreasonable and ask them to change it. For complainants who excessively contact Priory Woods 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 be reviewed after six months.

In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, we will immediately inform the police and communicate our actions in writing. This may include barring an individual from Priory Woods School. 

Further Recourse:

Where complainants can provide written grounds that the Governing Body may have acted unreasonably or failed to follow this procedure they may request that the Local Authority review the situation. It is anticipated that the LA would intervene only in very rare cases where the reviewing officer believed that the Governing Body may have acted procedurally incorrectly or arrived at an outcome which appeared, in all the circumstances, to be unreasonable.

Informal stage

  • You can bring a friend to any discussion. 
  • The member of staff dealing with the concern should make sure that you are clear as to what action (if any) or monitoring of the situation has been agreed.
  • This stage should be completed speedily and concluded in writing with appropriate detail. 
  • Where no satisfactory solution has been found, you should be informed that you can consider making a formal complaint in writing to the Head Teacher which will take matters to Stage 1 on the complaints procedure.

STAGE 1 – Complaint to the Head teacher for investigation 

  1. The Head Teacher should acknowledge your complaint in writing within 5 working days.  In some cases the Head Teacher will have already been involved in looking at the matter; in others it will be his/her first involvement. 
  2. The Head Teacher should consider providing an opportunity to meet with you to supplement any information previously provided.
  3. If the complaint is against a member of staff the Head Teacher should talk to the staff member against whom the complaint has been made.
  4. If necessary, the Head Teacher should interview witnesses and take statements from those involved.
  5. The Head Teacher should keep reasonable written records of meetings, telephone conversations and other documentation.
  6. Once all the relevant facts have been established, the Head Teacher should produce a written response to you.  The Head Teacher may wish to meet with you to discuss/resolve the matter before confirming the outcome in writing.
  7. The written response should include a full explanation of the decision and the reasons for it.  Where appropriate, it should include what action the school will take to resolve the complaint.
  8. You should also be advised that if you are not satisfied with the response and wish to take the matter further, you can do so, by writing to the Chair of the Governing Body within three weeks of receiving the outcome letter.
  9. Stage 1 should be completed in ten school days.  However, it is recognised that this timetable is likely to prove impossible for complaints which are complex.  In such cases, the Head Teacher should write to you giving a revised target date.
  10. Schools will not pay financial compensation as a response to complaints, though may spend money on a relevant educational purpose (e.g. paying a fee for a repeat examination).

Complaints against the Head Teacher

If the complaint is wholly or mainly about the Head Teacher the Governing Body should consider the complaint in accordance with Stage 2 of the procedure described below.  However, before Stage 2 is instigated the Chair of the Governing Body will invite the Head Teacher to respond to the complaint in writing within ten school days.  The Chair will send a copy of the Head Teacher’s response to the complainant and the parent will be asked to indicate within five school days of receipt of the response whether s/he is satisfied with the response.  If the parent is not satisfied with the response stage 2 should commence as described below. 

Stage 2 – A written complaint is submitted to the Chair of Governors

The Chair of Governors must acknowledge the complaint within 5 school days and provide a full written response within 15 school days.

The Chair of Governors will investigate the complaint and the written response will include what action if any the school proposes to take to resolve the matter.   Information will be provided to the complainant of how to progress the complaint to stage 3.

Stage 3 – Consideration by the Governing Body Complaint's Committee

  1. If the complainant decides to take the matter further, the Chair of the Governing Body should write to the parent to acknowledge the complaint within five school days of receipt of the complaint.  A copy of the acknowledgement and the complaints form should be sent to the Head Teacher and the Clerk to the Governing Body. 
  2. Investigating the complaint – If the complaint has been investigated at Stage 1 and 2 the result of the investigation must be made available to the Clerk/Chair by the Head Teacher.  However, where the complaint is against the Head Teacher and the complaint is referred to Stage 3, the Chair of the Governing Body must decide, in consultation with the Chair of the Complaints Committee (see c below) whether and how the complaint should be investigated. 
  3. Governing Bodies are advised to establish a complaints panel from which three governors can be drawn by the Clerk to constitute a Committee.  The Head Teacher should not serve on the committee.
  4. The Committee should consider the complaint on the basis of the written evidence and usually also set up a hearing and hear both parties. Governors may also take evidence on their own initiative.  Governors should reconsider the issues raised in the original complaint and not confine themselves to consideration of procedural issues.  If they decide to set up a hearing, the Committee should follow the procedure set out below.

The Chair of the Committee should take a decision at the beginning of Stage 3 on whether to seek the services of a clerk from the Local Authority's service offer or other source to:

  • deal with the administration of the procedure;
  • provide independent advice on procedure and evidence;
  • ensure that the relevant facts are established;
  • minute the meeting and
  • draft the decision letter.
  1. The Clerk/Chair of the complaints committee should write to the parent to explain how the review will be conducted.  The letter should be copied to the Head Teacher.
  2. The Clerk/Chair of the Complaints Committee should confirm the date of the meeting with the other governor(s).
  3. The parent and Head Teacher should be invited to attend the meeting.  The date and time of the meeting should be convenient to the parent and Head Teacher, within reason.  The meeting will be within twenty school days of receiving the complaint. The notification should inform the parent of his/her right to be accompanied to the meeting by a friend/representative.  It should also explain how the meeting will be conducted and of the parent’s right to submit further written evidence to the committee and that these must be made available to the clerk of the committee within five school days of the acknowledgment letter.
  4. The Head Teacher should also be invited to prepare a written report for the Committee in response to the complaint.
  5. All relevant correspondence regarding the complaint should be circulated to the committee members; the parent and the Head Teacher at least 5 days in advance of the meeting.
  6. If the Head Teacher and/or the parent wish to call witnesses, the agreement of the Chair of the Committee should be obtained in advance of the meeting.
  7. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that the meeting is properly conducted.  However, the proceedings should be as informal as possible.
  8. The aim of the meeting should be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant.  However, at the end of the meeting the Committee will need to issue a finding in writing either upholding or not upholding the complaint or upholding some parts and not others.
  9. If either party wishes to introduce previously undisclosed evidence or witnesses, it is in the interest of natural justice to adjourn the meeting so that the other side has time to respond to the new evidence.  Late evidence of witnesses should not be accepted unless there is a good reason for the lateness. 
  10. The meeting should allow for:-
  • the parent to explain his or her complaint and the Head Teacher to explain the reasons for his or her decision;
  • the Head Teacher to question the complainant about the complaint and the complainant to question the Head Teacher;
  • panel members to have an opportunity to question both the complainant and the Head Teacher;
  • any party to have the right to bring witnesses (subject to the approval of the Chair) and all parties having the right to question all the witnesses.
  • final statement by the Head Teacher and parent.
  1. The Chair of the Committee should explain to the parent and the Head Teacher that the Committee will consider its decision, and a written response will be sent to both parties as soon as possible.  The complainant, Head Teacher and any witnesses will then leave.
  2. The panel will consider the complaint and all the evidence presented and reach an unanimous, or at least a majority, decision on the complaint.  Where appropriate the Committee can decide on the action to be taken to resolve the complaint and/or suggest recommended changes to the school’s system or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not happen again.
  3. As in Stage 1 Governors will not pay financial compensation as a response to a complaint, though may spend money on an appropriate educational purpose.
  4. The Clerk/Chair will send a written statement outlining the decision with reasons to both the complainant and the Head Teacher.
    1. The complainant should be advised that if s/he is dissatisfied with the response s/he has the right to take the matter further by complaining to the Secretary of State for Education.
    2. Stage 3 should be completed in 15 school days.  However, it is recognised that this timetable is likely to prove impossible for complaints which are complex. In such cases the Chair of the Complaints Committee should write to the complainant giving a revised target date.
  5. In exceptional circumstances the Committee may decide after taking advice from the Local Authority not to proceed to consider the complaint on the grounds that the complaint has already been dealt with or is malicious.

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