South Pennine Academy

Handling Complaints

INTRODUCTION AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

South Pennine Academies takes any concerns raised by students, parents and members of the local community seriously. This policy (which meet the Standards set out in the Education (Independent Academy Standards (England) Regulations 2010 Schedule 1, Part 7) identifies the structures that will ensure that any issues are resolved in a fair, balanced and transparent manner in line with our aim of providing a safe environment for learning.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

  • The resolution of a complaint provides the potential opportunity for the trust to improve its practice and develop further a strong partnership with parents.
  • The complaints procedure should be easily accessible and well publicised, so that parents know how to raise concerns.
  • It is desirable for any concern/complaint to be addressed by a member of staff/ governor at a level closest to the cause for the concern.
  • Procedures should be as speedy as possible, consistent with fairness to all
  • A complaint is distinct from any formal disciplinary procedure. Staff who may be questioned as part of a complaints procedure must be treated fairly and have an opportunity to put their case. They should be offered support in responding to any investigation into a complaint.
  • If it becomes apparent to the CEO or Chair of Trustees that concern/complaint has the potential to be a disciplinary issue, advice should be sought from South Pennine Academies Head of HR.
  • Confidentiality is important in securing the confidence of all concerned. Conversations and correspondence must be treated with discretion. Parents need to feel confident that a complaint will not disadvantage their child. However, the parties to a complaint should realise that some information may have to be shared to carry out a thorough investigation.
  • If the investigation of a complaint shows that it is justified, then the trust should consider how to make amends in an appropriate way.
  • Staff and Trustees should have the opportunity to take part in training or briefing to raise their awareness of the procedures and develop their skills in dealing with people who wish to complain.
  • All complaints should be recorded and monitored to identify issues and allow any lessons to be learned by the trust.
  • All records pertaining to complaints should be stored by the trust for a period of 6 years, and should be available for inspection when requested.
  • The findings and recommendations of the panel will be available for inspection at the trust head office by the CEO and Operations Director.
  • A written record will be kept of all complaints made along with details of whether they were resolved following a formal procedure, or progression to a panel hearing.
  • The trust will record the action it takes as a result of complaints (regardless of whether they are upheld).
  • Every complaint should be acknowledged as "genuinely felt" by the complainant.

ANONYMOUS COMPLAINT(s)

  • The trust will not investigate anonymous complaints under the procedure in this Complaints Policy. Anonymous complaints will be referred to the CEO who will decide what, if any, action should be taken. This is then being communicated back to the Operations Director for appropriate action.

RESOLUTION PRINCIPLES

It is in everyone’s interest that concerns, difficulties and complaints are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties at the earliest possible stage. The way in which the concern, difficulty or complaint is dealt with after the matter is first raised by the Complainant can be crucial in determining whether the complaint will escalate. To that end, members of staff will be periodically made aware of the procedure in this Complaints Policy, so that they will know what to do when a concern or difficulty is raised with them.

At each stage of the complaints procedure, the investigator will consider how the complaint may be resolved. In considering how a complaint may be resolved, the investigator will give due regard to the seriousness of the complaint. It may be appropriate in order to bring the complaint to a resolution for the investigator to offer:

  • an explanation
  • an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better
  • an assurance that we will try to ensure the event complained of will not recur
  • an explanation of the steps that have been or will be taken to help ensure that it will not happen again and an indication of the timescales within which any changes will be made
  • an undertaking to review academy policies in light of the complaint
  • an apology.

None of the above will constitute an admission of negligence or an acceptance of liability on behalf of the Trust.

CONFIDENTIALITY

All correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints will be kept confidential except where access is requested by the Secretary of State, a school’s inspector, or under another legal authority, and will be shared in accordance with our GDPR policy

TIME SCALES

You must raise the complaint as soon as possible, and within three months of the incident or, where a series of associated incidents have occurred, within 3 months of the last of these incidents.  We will consider complaints made outside of this time frame if exceptional circumstances apply.

COMPLAINTS RECEIVED OUTSIDE OF TERM TIME

We will consider complaints received made outside of term time to have been received on the first day after the holiday.

SCOPE OF THIS COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

This procedure covers all complaints about any provision of community facilities or services by South Pennine Academies, other than complaints that are dealt with under other statutory procedures, including those listed below.

Exceptions

Who to contact

  • Admissions to schools
  • Statutory assessments of
    Special Educational Needs
  • School re-organisation proposals

Concerns about admissions, statutory assessments of Special Educational Needs, or school re-organisation proposals should be raised with the relevant Local Authority

 

  • Matters likely to require a Child Protection Investigation

Complaints about child protection matters are handled under our child protection and safeguarding policy and in accordance with relevant statutory guidance.

If you have serious concerns, you may wish to contact the local authority designated officer (LADO) who has local responsibility for safeguarding or the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

  • Exclusion of children from school*

 

Further information about raising concerns about exclusion can be found at: www.gov.uk/school-discipline-exclusions/exclusions.

*complaints about the application of the behaviour policy can be made through the individual academy’s complaints procedure, which is available on their website.

  • Whistleblowing

We have an internal whistleblowing procedure for all our employees, including temporary staff and contractors.

The Secretary of State for Education is the prescribed person for matters relating to education for whistle-blowers in education who do not want to raise matters direct with their employer. Referrals can be made at: www.education.gov.uk/contactus.

Volunteer staff who have concerns about our academy should complain through the academy’s complaints procedure. You may also be able to complain direct to the LA or the Department for Education (see link above), depending on the substance of your complaint.

  • Staff grievances

Complaints from staff will be dealt with under the academy’s internal grievance procedures.

  • Staff conduct

Complaints about staff will be dealt with under the academy’s internal disciplinary procedures, if appropriate.

Complainants will not be informed of any disciplinary action taken against a staff member as a result of a complaint. However, the complainant will be notified that the matter is being addressed.

  • Complaints about services provided by other providers who may use academy premises or facilities

Providers should have their own complaints procedure to deal with complaints about service. Please contact them direct.

  • National Curriculum - content

Please contact the Department for Education at:
www.education.gov.uk/contactus

 If other bodies are investigating aspects of the complaint, for example the police, local authority (LA) safeguarding teams or Tribunals, this may impact on our ability to adhere to the timescales within this procedure or result in the procedure being suspended until those public bodies have completed their investigations.

If a complainant commences legal action against South Pennine Academies or any of it’s academies in relation to their complaint, we will consider whether to suspend the complaints procedure in relation to their complaint until those legal proceedings have concluded.

PUBLICATION

This Complaints Policy has been ratified by the Trustees, and will be reviewed regularly. It will be published on the Trust’s website and provided to parents and students on request by the Trust office. A copy of this Complaints Policy will be provided to a complainant when a concern, difficulty or complaint is first raised.

An annual summary of complaints and resolution, at which ever stage will be provided for Trustees.  This summary will not include and names, or breach data protection.

WITHDRAWAL OF A COMPLAINT

If a complainant wants to withdraw their complaint, we ask them to confirm this in writing

Academy Concern and Complaints Procedure

Complaints from members of the Local Community

Complaints from the local community, should be made in writing and addressed to South Pennine Academies, the Operations Director or CEO will respond in writing within 10 working days.  Should longer be needed to investigate this will be communicated to the complainant within 10 working days.

Stage 1: Informal Concern heard by staff member

It is in everyone’s interest that concerns and complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. The experience of the first contact between the complainant and the academy can be crucial in determining whether the complaint will escalate.

However, the trust respects the views of a complainant who indicates that he/she would have difficulty discussing a concern or complaint with a particular member of staff. In these cases, the member of staff receiving the complaint should refer the complainant to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  Where the complaint concerns the CEO, the complainant should be referred to the Chair of Trustees.

Where the initial approach is made to a governor, the next step would be to refer the complainant to the CEO to initiate either Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the complaints procedure. Governors must not act unilaterally on an individual complaint outside the formal procedure or be involved at the early stages in case they are needed to sit on a panel at a later stage of the procedure.

Any member of staff i.e. reception staff who receive a concern/complaint should direct the complaint to the Operations Director.

  • An Initial Record of Concern form [Appendix 2] will be completed. The complaint is acknowledged by telephone and any action to be taken will be explained to the complainant.
  • Informal concerns will be dealt with as quickly as possible and the academy will communicate with the complainant within 3 working days of receiving the concern. Should this stage take longer to resolve their will be ongoing communication between the complainant and the Trust.

Should the issue not be resolved within Stage One or if the issue is of a particularly serious nature, such as a child protection issue, the CEO will be informed and an initial assessment/first evidence trawl will be completed

Should the issue not be resolved within stage 1, the complainant will be asked to put the complaint in writing and this will move to the formal stage.

Stage 2: Formal Complaint reviewed by the Principal

Should the issue not be resolved within Stage One or if the issue is of a particularly serious nature, the CEO will be informed and the complaint will be investigated further. The CEO will delegate the task of collating the information to another staff member (nominated person), who will feedback to the CEO who will make the decision on the action to be taken.  If the complaint is about the CEO, then the complaint will be heard by the Chair of Trustees.

  • The complainant will be asked to put the complaint in writing (email is acceptable however we require a postal address to respond) and will then receive an acknowledgement of the complaint, and will be provided with a timescale for the completion of the investigation and reporting back to them with the outcomes, within 2 working days of receipt of the complaint, there will then be ongoing communication with the complainant in line with the agreed timescales.
  • Within this response the trust will seek to clarify the nature of the complaint, ask what remains unresolved and what outcome the complainant would like to see. The academy can consider whether a face to face meeting is the most appropriate way of doing this.
  • An initial trawl of evidence will be conducted by the nominated person using the Handling Complaints (“Yellow”) form [Appendix 3].
  • The nominated person will then report the findings to the CEO
  • The CEO will then make a decision based upon the evidence presented, if the CEO is unable to make a decision based on the information provided they should instruct further investigations to take place.

Once the Principal is satisfied that they have enough evidence to conclude the complaint, they should write to the complainant detailing any actions taken to investigate the complaint and provide a full explanation of the decision made and the reason(s) for it.  Where, appropriate, it will include details of actions South Pennine Academies will take to resolve the complaint.

The Principal will advise the complainant of how to escalate their complaint should they remain dissatisfied with the outcome at stage 2.

Stage 3: Complaint heard by Trustees

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome at Stage 2 and wishes to take the matter further, they can escalate the complaint to Stage 3 – a meeting with members of the Board of Trustees.

A request to escalate to Stage 2 must be made to the Clerk, via the trust office, within 15 academy days of receipt of the Stage 2 response.

The Clerk will record the date the complaint is received and acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing (either by letter or email) within 5 academy days.

Requests received outside of this time frame will only be considered if exceptional circumstances apply.

  • The panel can be drawn from the nominated members and may consist of three or five people and will include at least one member that is independent of the management and running of the trust.
  • A date for a meeting of the Trusts complaints panel meeting will be arranged. If the complainant refuses 3 proposed meeting times, without good reason, the clerk will decide when to hold the meeting. It will then proceed in the complainant’s absence on the basis of written submissions from both parties.
  • The panel will nominate their own chair.
  • The complainant will receive a letter inviting the complainant to the meeting giving 7 days’ notice of the meeting, along with any written material that will be reviewed at the hearing. 
  • The complaint has the right to be accompanied at this meeting.

The committee will consider the complaint and all the evidence presented. The committee can:

  • uphold the complaint in whole or in part
  • dismiss the complaint in whole or in part.

If the complaint is upheld in whole or in part, the committee will:

  • decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint
  • where appropriate, recommend changes to the academy’s systems or procedures to prevent similar issues in the future.

The Chair of the Committee will provide the complainant, the Trust and where relevant, the person complained about, with a full explanation of their decision and the reason(s) for it, and any recommendations made, in writing within 5 academy days. The letter to the complainant will give details on how to progress to stage 4 should the complainant still not be satisfied.

A record of the panel’s decision will be retained by the trust and will be acted upon accordingly

The appeal hearing of the Board of Trustees Complaints Panel is representative of the whole Governing Body. The hearing therefore forms the last trust-based stage of the complaints process.

This is the final stage of the complaints procedure.

The response will also advise the complainant of how to escalate their complaint should they remain dissatisfied.

Next Steps

If the complainant believes the Trust did not handle their complaint in accordance with the published complaints procedure or they acted unlawfully or unreasonably in exercise of their duties under education law, they can contact the Department for Education after they have completed stage 3.

The Department for Education will not normally reinvestigate the substance of the complaints or overturn any decisions made by the Trust.  They will consider whether the Trust has adhered to education legislation and any statutory policies connected with the complaint.

The complainant can refer their complaint to the Department for Education online at:
www.education.gov.uk/contactus, by telephone on: 03703332288, or by writing to:

Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1 2WD

The full procedure for handling complaints can be accessed HERE.