THE CEDARS SCHOOL
COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE FOR PARENTS, CARERS AND GUARDIANS
This procedure, which applies to the entire school, including EYFS, incorporates the manner in which complaints are to be managed, in accordance with:
- Section 109, 2008 Education and Skills Act
- Part 7, paragraph 33 (a) to (k) inclusive of The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2014 in force from 5th January 2015; along with
- Part 6, paragraph 32 (3) (f) of the Regulatory Requirements, regarding the provision of information being made
At The Cedars we take pride on our openness and in the quality of our pastoral care. Communication between school and home is important to us.
Parents have daily contact with staff; we welcome them into school each day and they are able to communicate directly, through homework diaries, email or letter, or telephone. In addition, parents receive written reports; they are invited to parent appointments and can attend open Parent Forum meetings. We welcome suggestions and comments from parents/guardians. A weekly newsletter keeps parents informed of what is happening in school.
This policy is available on our website, it is on the Parent Notice Board and a paper copy is available upon request from the School’s Office.
We are committed to providing the highest quality education for the children in our care. All staff members have a responsibility to perform to a satisfactory level and will be given every assistance and encouragement to do so.
We believe it is important that anyone who raises a concern or a complaint is treated seriously and that these are dealt with fairly and in accordance with this policy. Any written complaint relating to the school’s fulfilment of the EYFS requirements will be investigated and the complainants will be notified of the outcome of the investigation within 28 days of receipt of the complaint
This policy does not apply to members of staff and any concerns/complaints should be raised through the Staff Grievance Procedure.
A summary overview of the complaints process:
- Parental concerns and complaints are normally raised informally and directly with the person concerned or through the child’s class teacher, as a Stage 1 Complaint. We aim to resolve the matter with due speed, and at least within one week of the complaint, to the satisfaction of the parents without recourse to any formal
- In some cases parents may wish to invoke the formal complaints process because they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a Stage 1 Complaint or, in instances where the complaint is of a serious nature and therefore they wish to invoke the Stage 2 Complaint process immediately rather than dealing with the complaint informally. Hence, parents are free to invoke the formal process at any time by writing to the Head.
- A Stage 2 Complaint will be dealt with by the Head or a senior member of staff acting on behalf of the Head. The process of dealing with a formal Stage 2 Complaint, in writing, from the moment that it is received by the school to resolution normally will take no more than ten (10) school days, except in circumstances in which the normal timescales are affected by issues that may delay resolution, for example the need for further investigation, school holidays or illness.
- Where parents are dissatisfied with the outcome of a Stage 2 Complaint or because the complaint concerns the Head, the complaint will be treated as a Stage 3 Complaint and will be dealt with through a panel. The panel will be made up of people not directly involved with the complaint and at least one member will be independent of the day to day running of the school. Parents/guardians may bring along a person to accompany them to the panel. The process of dealing with a formal Stage 3 Complaint, in writing, from the moment that it is received by the school to resolution normally will take no more than eighteen (18) school days, except in circumstances in which the normal timescales are affected by issues that may delay resolution, for example the need for further investigation or school holidays.
Note: Throughout this document, the term ‘school days’ refers to days within term-time only. The timescales for dealing with complaints during the holidays is dealt with at 4.14.
The Head Teacher will undertake a formal annual review of the Complaints Procedure for the purpose of monitoring it and the efficiency with which any complaints have been handled.
This review will take place earlier, if significant changes to the systems and arrangements take place, or if legislation, regulatory requirements or best practice guidelines make any amendments necessary to either this document or the guidance therein.
This Complaints Procedure and other school policies and procedures are available through the school’s website www.thecedarsschool.co.uk or from the school office.
- This document is made available to parents, staff and pupils in the following ways: via the school website, on the Parent Notice Board, and on request from the School
- Throughout the policy, the term ‘staff’ is inclusive of all teaching and non-teaching staff and is also inclusive of students on placement, contractors, supply or agency staff and volunteers. The term ‘parents’ is used to apply to all parents, guardians and carers of children in the school
- We will ensure that the quality of teaching and pastoral care offered to our children will be of the highest order. However, if parents have a complaint they can expect it to be treated by the school in accordance with this procedure. We are always willing to listen to concerns and anxieties, parental and children’s concerns being of particular importance. We aim for the closest co-operation between parents and the teachers to whom our children are entrusted. Dealing with parental concerns is a vital part of the ethos and mission of our school. We aim to be open about the decisions we make and the actions we take and will always explain the reasons for making those decisions.
- A complaint may arise when there are issues of physical or emotional well-being or when the school’s stated Aims and Ethos are in question. A breach of the law will always constitute a complaint. If parents of children at the school do have a complaint, they can expect it to be treated by the school in accordance with this procedure.
- Complaints will be resolved either to the complainant’s satisfaction, or with an otherwise appropriate outcome which balances the rights and duties of the child and their parents.
- At every stage of the procedure the handling of the complaint will be carried out with due speed (using the agreed time frame), fairly and necessarily
- Throughout the process the school will be willing to: listen, learn, admit mistakes, apologise if appropriate, address any issues raised and change practices and procedures if appropriate.
- Parents may, if they wish, be accompanied to any meeting, for example by a friend or relative. However, legal representation is not normally appropriate.
2. Stage 1 Complaints: Informal Resolutions
- We hope that parents will feel able to voice most complaints and concerns as soon as they arise and that these will be resolved quickly (within a maximum of a working week), and informally. In most cases, discussion, explanation, further information or an apology, if appropriate, will resolve any issues. Every effort will be made to allay concerns at this stage and with the least possible formality achieving, through open dialogue, a satisfactory resolution.
- If parents have a complaint they should normally contact their child’s class teacher. In most cases the matter will be resolved straight away by this means to the parent’s satisfaction. If the class teacher cannot resolve the matter alone, it may be necessary to consult the Head Teacher or Deputy Head.
- Should the matter not be resolved to their satisfaction, parents will be free to proceed with their complaint in accordance with Stage 2 of this policy.
- Not all written concerns or complaints are intended by parents to be formal and so invoke the formal process. Hence, the person to whom the concern or complaint is addressed will check with the parents whether or not they wish to invoke the formal process at that point. If not, then the written communication will be dealt with informally within the scope of a Stage 1 Complaint.
- Where a complaint is about the Head, parents may choose to speak to the Head directly informally or they may choose to invoke the formal process by registering a Stage 3 Complaint as below either immediately or because they are dissatisfied with the Head’s response to their informal complaint. They may then speak with the school’s appointed panel.
3. Stage 2 Complaints: Formal Resolution
- If the complaint cannot be resolved on an informal basis then the parents should put their complaint in writing to the Head who will decide, after considering the complaint, the appropriate course of action to take.
- In most cases the Head will speak to the parents concerned, normally on the day of receiving the complaint, so as to discuss the matter. If possible, a resolution will be reached at this stage. The Head will:
- Establish what has happened so far and who has been
- Clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains
- Meet with the complainant or contact them clarifying what the complainant feels would resolve the situation
- Interview those involved, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish
- Conduct each interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in investigations
- Keep notes of each interview and any actions or communication
- Normally within five (5) school days of receiving the complaint, the Head will complete the investigation and contact the complainant to arrange a meeting which should normally take place within a further five (5) school days. At any point in the process the Head may decide or agree to commission a further investigation. If this occurs, the timescale may be extended by a further five (5) school days and the complainant will be informed in writing of the extension and the reason for it.
- When the investigation is complete the Head will meet the complainant to try to resolve the complaint. Any of the following may be appropriate at this point:
- An acknowledgment that the complaint is valid in whole or in part; an apology; an explanation; clarification of any misunderstanding; an admission that the situation could have been handled better
- An assurance that the event complained of will not recur; an explanation of the steps that have been taken to ensure it will not be repeated.
- An undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint. A written record of this meeting will be made.
- Once the Head is satisfied that, so far as is practicable, all of the relevant facts have been established, a decision will be made and parents will be informed of this decision and the reasons for it in writing. This will normally be immediately after the meeting specified in 3.4 and 3.5 above. The parents will also be informed at this point that if they are dissatisfied with the outcome they should proceed to Stage 3 of the complaints process.
- Normally the Head will write to parents with her decision on a formal Stage 2 complaint within ten school days (or fifteen school days if any further investigation is required) of the receipt of the formal Stage 2 complaint
- A summary record of the concern or complaint, its resolution and any action taken as a result will be made.
4. Stage 3 Complaints: Action
- If parents seek to invoke Stage 3 (following a failure to reach an earlier resolution of this procedure) they will be referred to the Panel which will be appointed by the school to hear Complaints. This should be in writing and include the nature of the complaint and how the school has handled it so far. The Panel are obliged to investigate the matter and will do everything possible to resolve the issue through a dialogue with the complainant
- Parents may, if they wish, be accompanied to any meeting, for example by a friend or relative. However, legal representation is not normally appropriate.
- The Panel Convenor is: Mrs Prue Matchwick (independent of the management and running of the school). Her contact details will be provided to the complainant.
- The Panel Convenor may contact and speak to the complainant directly should there be any need for clarification of the nature of the complaint.
- The Panel will consist of at least three people appointed by the school and not directly involved in matters detailed in the complaint, one of whom shall be independent of the management and running of the school.
- The Department for Education has given the following guidance on the identity of an independent panel member: “Our general view is that people who have held a position of responsibility and are used to scrutinising evidence and putting forward balanced arguments would be suitable. Examples of persons likely to be suitable are serving or retired business people, civil servants, heads or senior members of staff at other schools, people with a legal background and retired members of the Police Force might be considered.”
- The Panel Convenor, on behalf of the Panel, should agree with all parties the date of the Appeal Meeting within five (5) school days of receipt of the written referral of the complaint. The meeting itself should be held within ten (10) school days of the receipt of the referral. If the complainant or Head wishes to submit information in writing to the Panel this should be sent to the Panel Convenor at least five (5) school days before the date of the appeal
- Complainants are free to make their complaint in writing rather than attend the meeting of the Panel personally
- If the Panel deems it necessary, it may require that further particulars of the complaint or any related matter be supplied in advance of the hearing. Copies of such particulars shall be supplied to all parties not later than five (5) school days prior to the hearing.
- If possible, the Panel will resolve the complaint immediately without the need for further investigation
- Where further investigation is required, the Complaints Panel will decide how it should be carried out
- After due consideration of all facts they consider relevant, the Complaints Panel will, on the basis of its findings, reach a decision and may make recommendations which it shall complete normally within three (3) school days of the Hearing.
- A copy of the Panel’s decision, findings and any recommendation and the reasons for them will be:
- Sent by electronic mail or otherwise given to the complainant and, where relevant, the person or persons complained about; and also to the Head or her Deputy.
- As far as possible the meeting should not be delayed if the referral comes at the end of term, especially at the end of the Summer Term. Since the aim of the procedure is to resolve the issue and effect reconciliation if necessary, it will be best if the matter can come to the Panel as quickly as possible and so a panel hearing may need to take place during the school holiday
- It is not possible to adhere to the same timescales during the school holidays but every effort will be made to ensure that all proceedings, including outcomes, are completed within a period of 25 working days.
- The role of the Panel Convenor is to:
- Confirm to all parties in writing the date, time and venue of the hearing; to receive and distribute any documentation to be read before the hearing; to meet and welcome all parties as they arrive at the hearing
- Make a fair summary record of the proceedings, noting any specific details requested by the complainant or panel.
- Notify all parties of the Panel’s decision.
- Set out appropriate procedures to allow that a full and fair hearing is properly carried out
- The procedure for the hearing of the complaint is explained to all parties and that they have the opportunity to put their case without undue interruption.
- The issues are addressed; all parties are put at ease, especially those who are unfamiliar with such a procedure
- Proceedings are kept as informal as possible and that everyone treats each other with respect and courtesy
- The Panel operates in an open-minded and independent way and time is given for all parties to consider ‘new’ evidence
- The Panel may decide upon one or more of the following actions:
- Uphold the complaint in whole or in part
- Dismiss the complaint in whole or in part
- Decide on an appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint or recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not re-occur.
- After the Panel has come to a decision, the Panel Convenor will agree with the Panel the wording of the letter to be sent to both parties.
- The Panel Convenor will: provide the written record of the meeting, ensure that the letter of decision will normally be sent out within three (3) school days of the hearing and in accordance with the agreed time scales and procedures as stated above. The Convenor will also ensure that any consequent recommendations to change school policies or procedures is put on the agenda for the next staff meeting. However, if a hearing takes place in the school holidays then the decision will be sent to parents as soon as possible after the holidays
- A summary record of the concern or complaint, its resolution and any action taken as a result will be made regardless of the outcome
- There is no further internal stage for any complaint should a parent remain dissatisfied with the outcome. In such a case any aggrieved parent may wish to write to the Independent Schools Inspectorate, CAP House, 9-12 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HA or email: email@example.com
Where the complaint refers to EYFS, Ofsted can be contacted – Ofsted, Piccadilly Gate, Store Street, Manchester, M12WD Tel 0300 123 4666. Or firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Confidentiality, records and other matters
- Parents are assured that all concerns and complaints will be treated seriously and confidentially. Such correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints are to be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the 2008 Education Act requests access to them; or where any other legal obligation exists
- A written record of all Stage 2 and 3 complaints and of whether they are resolved at Stage 2 or 3, is kept by the Head. The record, regardless of the outcome of the complaint, includes at least: the person making the complaint, the date of the complaint, the nature of the complaint, any action taken and the outcome of the complaint. The written record will include the date when a final outcome was reached. The Head will examine this written record on an annual basis. The school will provide, on request to the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Ofsted or to any other inspectorate carrying out an inspection on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, a written record of all complaints that reach the formal part of the procedure which were made during a specified period (usually academic year) and the action that was taken as a result of each
- Any concern or complaint which involves a potential child protection or safeguarding issue must be made in accordance with the school’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy immediately to the Designated Safeguarding Lead or Deputy, or, in the case where the complaint is against the Head Teacher, the complainant should be referred directly to the area Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).
- Any appeal to the Panel against the exclusion of a child will be dealt in accordance with the school’s Positive Behaviour Policy. More general, or other concerns or complaints relating to the application of the Positive Behaviour Policy should be made in accordance with the procedures
- This complaints process does not apply to members of staff who wish to make a complaint against another member of staff: all such complaints must follow the school’s Grievance Procedures
- The number of parental complaints that reached the formal stage in the academic year 2019/20 is:
Stage 2 Complaints: 0
Stage 3 Complaints: 0
Policy adopted by: Jane O’Halloran April 2016
Updated Nov 2018
Reviewed Oct 2019
Reviewed September 2020
Review due October 2021