Since 1 September 2003, governing boards of all maintained schools and maintained nursery schools in England have been required, under section 29 of the Education Act 2002, to:
- Have in place a formal procedure to deal with complaints relating to the school and to any community facilities or services that the school provides.
- Tailor the policy to the individual school.
- Publicise the procedure.
- Have regard to any guidance given by the Education Secretary.
The Headteacher should ensure that records are kept of the progress of all complaints and the final outcomes, and hold these records centrally, since complainants have a right to copies of these records under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts.
At New York Primary School we;
- Have in place a formal written procedure to deal with complaints relating to the school.
- Keep a written record of all complaints and at which stage they are resolved.
- Allow for a complaint to be made and considered initially on an informal basis.
- Make the policy/procedure available to parents of pupils.
- Set out a clear time scale to the management of a complaint.
- Make provision, where a complainant is not satisfied with the response to a complaint, for a hearing before a panel of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint.
- Ensure that at least one member of that panel is independent of the management and running of the school.
- Allow the complainant to be accompanied at a panel hearing if they wish.
- Provide that the findings and recommendations of the panel are:
- Sent by electronic mail or otherwise to the complainant and the person complained about (where relevant).
- Available for inspection on the school premises by the Headteacher.
- All documentation relating to individual complaints should be retained and kept confidential. Ofsted inspectors will make a judgement of the complaints procedure statement that the school issues and information from any upheld complaints about the school from parents to Ofsted.
Any complaint relating to a child protection matter should immediately be raised with the local authority (LA) for them to handle, whatever the status of the school.
This policy does not include dealing with any of the matters listed below, all of which are addressed in separate policies and procedures:
- Staff grievances.
- Internal disciplinary matters relating to staff or pupils.
- Admissions appeals.
- SEN appeals.
- Pupil exclusions
- Appeals to the staff dismissal committee.
- Whistle blowing (matters of impropriety eg a breach of law, school procedures or ethics. These complaints should be directed to the LA or, for academies, the school’s auditor).
- School re-organisation proposals.
- Complaints about services provided by third party hirers of the school premises.
- Typical matters that might be considered under this policy include:
- To the tutor, year head or designated deputy headteacher about suspected bullying.
- Detention and out-of-school activity arrangements.
- Complaints about matters such as facilities, lack of supervision etc.
- Support for pupils with medical conditions.
- School website.
- Dress code.
From the general public:
- Local residents complaining about the behaviour of pupils coming to, and going from, the school.
- Local community leaders concerned that the school is not involving itself sufficiently in particular aspects of community life.
If the complainant is still not satisfied after all the processes of the school’s complaints procedure have been undertaken, it may be possible to take the complaint to the LA if they have a complaints procedure. If that is not the case, the complaint may be taken to the School Complaints Unit (SCU) of the DFE itself in the case of all maintained schools. For academies and free schools, complaints can be made to the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
Neither the SCU nor the EFA will consider complaints from unsatisfied complainants who have not exhausted the school’s procedures.
The process for complaining to the SCU or the EFA is to use the online school complaints form available here
A series of answers to preliminary questions is asked before the online form can be completed and submitted online to the appropriate organisation.
If, after all the school’s processes for handling complaints have been completed, the complainant comes back to the school with the same issue, the complaint may be ignored and viewed as ‘serial or persistent’. Note that it is the complaint that is ‘serial or persistent’, not the complainant. If the complainant comes back with a different complaint then a new complaints procedure must be started for the new complaint.
Ofsted’s role in complaints
If at any time a complaint about a school is made by a parent to Ofsted, and Ofsted considers it appropriate for the purpose of investigating a complaint, the board of governors or the LA must co-operate in arranging the meeting. There may not be an inspection due, in which case Ofsted may choose to write a report upholding or dismissing the complaint which will be sent to the board of governors. A copy of this must be passed on by the governors to all registered parents.
In preparation for an inspection, an Ofsted inspector will look at any upheld complaints against the school. During the course of an inspection, emerging findings must be discussed at regular intervals as the inspection progresses with the Headteacher and other senior staff. The Headteacher will be given every opportunity to provide further evidence should he/she wish to do so. The Headteacher can and must convey to the lead inspector any complaints or concerns about the inspection process.