South Pennine Academies

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, local communities and other professionals.
  • The complaints procedure should be easily accessible and well publicised, so that individuals 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 the concern/complaint has the potential to be a disciplinary issue, professional advice should be immediately sought. Advice is also available from the Education Funding Agency.
  • 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 academy.
  • All records pertaining to complaints should be stored by the academy for a period of 6 years, and should be available for inspection when requested.
  • 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.

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 apology;
  • Reassurance that steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence of events which led to the complaint;
  • Reassurance that the Trust will undertake a review of its policies and procedures in light of the complaint.

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 schools inspector, or under another legal authority, and will be shared in accordance with our GDPR policy

PUBLICATION

This Complaints Policy has been ratified by the Trustees, and will be reviewed annually. It will be published on the Trust’s website and provided on request by the 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.

South Pennine Academies Concern and Complaints Procedure

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 trust 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 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 trustee, the next step would be to refer the complainant to the Director of Operations to initiate either Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the complaints procedure. It would be useful if trustees did 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 who receive a concern/complaint should direct the complaint to the Director of Operations

  • 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 trust 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 CEO

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
  • 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 to either:
  1. a) Close the investigation; (nominated person informs complainant of any action to be taken); or
  2. b) Direct further investigation.

Stage 3: Investigation is extended

After the initial assessment/first evidence trawl is completed by the nominated person and summarised for the CEO, she will decide whether the investigation should be extended and will delegate the task of further formal investigation to a senior member of staff who will then feedback to her. The CEO will then decide on any action to be taken at this stage and the complainant will be informed of the outcome.

The senior member of staff will be allocated to investigate further and will extend the investigation.

  • The complainant will receive a formal letter within 10 working days outlining the outcome of the investigation and the steps taken to ensure that the issue raised has been addressed
  • The issue is then either (a) resolved to the satisfaction of the party raising the concern or (b) not resolved.

Should the issue still not be resolved within Stage Three the complaint will be heard by the Trustees Complaints Appeal Panel.

Stage 4: Concern heard by Trustees

Following a decision at Stage 3, the complainant needs to write to the Chair of Trustees giving details of the complaint and stating that they are not satisfied with the decision made at Stage 3.

  • 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. The panel will nominate their own chair.
  • A date for a meeting of the complaints panel meeting will be arranged
  • The complainant will receive a letter inviting the complainant to the meeting giving 7 days’ notice of the meeting
  • The complaint has the right to be accompanied at this meeting.
  • Following the meeting a letter will be issued within 5 working days confirming the panel’s decision

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

The appeal hearing of the Complaints Panel is representative of the whole board. The hearing therefore forms the last trust-based stage of the complaints process. Individual complaints would not be heard by the whole Board at any stage, as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up for a disciplinary hearing against a member of staff following a serious complaint.

Notification of the Panel’s Decision

The Director of Operations will ensure that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision, in writing, with details of the panel’s response within 5 working days of the hearing. The letter will explain any further rights of appeal and to whom they need to be addressed.

Stage 5: Appeal stage 2

Following a decision at Stage 4, if the complainant remains dissatisfied they need to write to the CEO giving details of the complaint and why they remain dissatisfied. The CEO will review the previous appeal and respond to the complainant within 20 working days.

Only after exhausting the arrangements set out in this procedure for handling complaints will a complainant be able to progress the matter further to the Secretary of State. Complainants that are not satisfied with the way in which their complaint has been handled by the academy, are to be made aware of the Education Funding Agency’s complaints system which can be found at the following:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/557407/Complain_about_an_academy.pdf

 The full complaints policy can be accessed HERE.