Complaints Policy and Procedures

Introduction
FCAT is a multi-cultural and community federation.  We believe that everyone in the school is of equal value and should have equal opportunities in the school, in the community and in life.  The purpose of all policies is to ensure that all members of the school community are treated fairly, equitably and have recourse to procedures which are in line with legal requirements. 

1. Purpose and aims
1.1 The Academy’s intention is that parents and children will experience the highest quality of service, educational provision and communication.  However, we recognise that sometimes things can go wrong.  We take complaints extremely seriously and will try to resolve them as effectively and efficiently as possible within the guidelines below.

1.2 We aim both to put things right and to learn from complaints. 

1.3 This policy aims to ensure that the person best able to do so deals with all complaints from parents, students and others as quickly and sensitively as possible.  There are three possible stages, which are described in the procedures which follow.  Stage One is informal, Stages Two and Three are formal. 

1.4 As far as possible all concerns should be dealt with informally.  You should be able to expect to have a response, even if not the final response, within 48 hours of having made the complaint. 

1.5 If a solution is not found through informal discussion and you wish to register a formal complaint, this should be put in writing and addressed to the Executive Principal or Vice Principal/Head of School. 

1.6 The way to do this is set out in the procedure described below with further details and guidance in the Appendices. 


2. This diagram shows what happens at each Stage of the Complaints Procedure:

All complaints should be made to the Vice Principal, Head of School in the first instance unless the complaint is against the Vice Principal. The Executive Principal may intervene in any investigation in place of the Vice Principal. The Executive Principal, where possible, will not be involved unless as part of the appeals panel.

Stage One:     Informal complaints 

I.    Who should you speak to if you have a complaint? 
a) If you have any concerns that we have not met the expected standards, please contact Reception who will put you in touch with the relevant member of staff, give you their contact telephone number and their email address.  The Academy expects all staff to return calls or emails speedily.  Correspondence, statements and records of complaints are considered confidential. 
b) If you are unable to get a satisfactory response, then please do not hesitate to contact Reception to arrange a meeting with a member of the Senior Leadership Team. 

II.    If you have any concerns about a particular subject or lesson, please contact your child’s subject teacher or the Subject Leader.

III.    If you have any concerns about attendance, punctuality or your child’s welfare, please contact your child’s Tutor or Learning and Progress Coordinator. 

IV.    At the meeting arranged to discuss your concerns informally; 
o    You can bring a friend to any discussion, please advise the school should you wish to do so and state their role.
o    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. 

V.    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 Vice Principal which will take matters on to Stage Two 


Stage Two:     Formal Complaint to the Vice Principal for investigation 

NB: The Head’s Personal Assistant will act as Complaints Co-ordinator for formal complaints. 

I.    Vice Principal will acknowledge your complaint in writing.

II.    Vice Principal will consider providing an opportunity to meet with you to supplement any information previously provided. 

III.    If the complaint is against a member of staff, the Executive Principal or Vice Principal will talk to the staff member against whom the complaint has been made. 

IV.    If necessary, the Vice Principal will interview witnesses and take statements from those involved. 

V.    The Vice Principal will keep reasonable written records of meetings, telephone conversations and other documentation. 

VI.    Once all the relevant facts have been established, the Vice Principal will produce a written response for you.  S/he may wish to meet with you to discuss/resolve the matter before confirming the outcome in writing. 

VII.    The written response will include a full explanation of the decision and the reasons for it. Where appropriate, it will include what action the school will take to resolve the complaint and what has been learned from it. 

VII 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 Executive Principal or Chair of the Board of Directors within three weeks of receiving the letter. 

VIII. Stage Two 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 Vice Principal should write to you giving a revised target date. 

Stage Three:     Formal Complaint heard by a Panel appointed by the Board of Directors

I.    If you are not satisfied with the outcome of Stage Two, you will be advised to write to the Chair of the Board of Directors through the Complaints Co-ordinator giving details of the complaint.  The Vice-Chair, or a nominated director, will convene a meeting of the Complaints Panel. 

II.    The Complaints Panel will consist of three people appointed by the Board of Directors not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint.  At least one member of the panel will be independent of the management of the school.  The Board of Directors may give the panel delegated powers.  These powers can include: 
a) drawing up its terms of reference and procedures; 
b) hearing individual complaints; 
c) making recommendations on policy as a result of complaints. 

III.    Individual complaints will not be heard by the whole Board of Directors 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.  However, the Complaints Panel will report its findings to the next meeting of the Board of Directors. 

IV.    Appendix Two sets out what happens at a Complaints Panel hearing.  Appendix Three gives guidance on how a Panel meeting should be conducted.  Appendix Four describes the roles of the different people involved. 

V.    In exceptional circumstances the Panel may decide after taking advice not to proceed to consider the complaint on the grounds that the complaint has already been dealt with or is malicious. 

3.   Complaints against the Executive Principal or Vice Principal

3.1 If the complaint is wholly, or mainly, about the Executive Principal or Vice Principal, the Board of Directors will consider the complaint, in accordance with the Stage Three procedure. However, before Stage Three is instigated, the Chair of the Board of Directors will invite the Executive Principal or Vice Principal to respond to the complaint in writing within ten school days. 

3.2 The Chair will send a copy of the Executive Principal’s or Vice Principal’s response to the complainant, who will be asked to indicate within five school days of receipt of the response whether s/he is satisfied with it. 

3.3 If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, Stage Three should start as described above.

Person responsible for policy: Executive Principal 

Summer 2014
Date of next review: August 2016


Appendices


Appendix 1
Compensation

The Academy 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). 

Appendix 2
What happens at a Complaints Panel hearing? 

a)    The Complaints Panel meeting will allow for:- 
•    the person complaining to explain his or her complaint and the Executive Principal or Vice Principal to explain the reasons for his or her decision; 
•    the or Vice Principal to question the complainant about the complaint and the complainant to question the or Vice Principal; 
•    panel members to have an opportunity to question both the complainant and the or Vice Principal; 
•    any party to have the right to bring witnesses (subject to the approval of the Chair of the Panel) and all parties having the right to question all the witnesses;
•    final statements by the or Vice Principal and complainant.
The Chair of the Panel should explain to the complainant and the Executive Principal or Vice Principal that the Committee will consider its decision, and a written response will be sent to both parties as soon as possible.  The complainant, Executive Principal or Vice Principal and any witnesses will then leave. 

The Panel will consider the complaint and all the evidence presented, and reach a unanimous, or at least a majority, decision on the complaint. 

b)    The panel can: 
•    dismiss the complaint in whole or in part; 
•    uphold the complaint in whole or in part; 
•    decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint; 
•    recommend changes to the Academy’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not happen again. 

c)    Notification of the Panel’s Decision: 

•    The Chair of the Panel will ensure that the complainant and the Vice Principal are notified of the Panel’s decision, in writing, within 5 days of the hearing. 
•    The complainant will 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.
•    Stage Three complaints 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 Panel should write to the parent giving a revised target date. 

Appendix Three
Guidance for the Stage Three Complaints Panel

There are several points which any Complaints Panel member needs to remember: 

a)    It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so.  No one may sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it.  In deciding the make-up of the panel, Directors need to try and ensure that it is sensitive to the diversity of the Academy’s pupils (including race and ethnicity, gender and religious affiliation). 
b)   The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant.  However, it has to be recognised the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour.  It may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously. 
c)   An effective panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting.  Parents often feel emotional when discussing an issue that affects their child. The panel chair will ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible.  The layout of the room will set the tone and care is needed to ensure the setting is informal and not adversarial. 
d)   Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child.  Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child does not feel intimidated.  The panel needs to be aware of the views of the child and give them equal consideration to those of adults.  Where the child’s parent is the complainant, it would be advisable to give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend. 
e)   Panel members need to be aware of the Complaints Policy and Procedure. 

Appendix Four
Roles and Responsibilities 

a)    The Role of the Chair of the Board of Directors or the Nominated Director
The nominated director will: 
•    check that the correct procedure has been followed; 
•    if a hearing is appropriate, notify the clerk to arrange the panel.

b)    The Role of the Clerk in Stage Three complaints
The Clerk to the Directors will act as Clerk to the Complaints Panel and would be the contact point for the complainant and will: 
•    set the date, time and venue of the hearing, ensuring that the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible; 
•    collate any written material and send it to the parties in advance of the hearing; 
•    meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing; 
•    record the proceedings; 
•    notify all parties of the Panel’s decision.
 
c) The Role of the Chair of the Panel 

The Chair of the Panel has a key role, ensuring that: 
•    the remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption; 
•    the issues are addressed; 
•    key findings of fact are made; 
•    parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease; 
•    the hearing is conducted in an informal manner, with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy; 
•    the panel is open minded and acting independently; 
•    no member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure; 
•    each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions; 
•    written material is seen by all parties.  If a new issue arises it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to consider and comment on it. 

Appendix 5

Safeguarding children
Any complaint brought to the attention of the Executive Principal or Vice Principal that suggests that a child has been at risk of significant harm through violence, emotional abuse, sexual interference or neglect may be referred without further notice to Hammersmith and Fulham Social Services and/or the social services authority for the area in which the child lives.  If a social services authority decides to investigate a situation this may postpone or supersede investigation by the Executive Principal or Vice Principal or Board of Directors.