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POLICY FOR DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS AGAINST COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

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POLICY FOR DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS AGAINST COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

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									Education, Children’s Services & Leisure




Policy for Dealing with Complaints Against
             Community Schools

           Revised September 2005
CONTENTS


1.      Policy for dealing with complaints against community schools

        1.1      Aims & objectives                                               4
        1.2      Definition of a complaint against a school                      4
        1.3      Who can complain?                                               5
        1.4      Role & responsibilities                                         5
        1.5      The role of the member of school staff at point of contact      5
        1.6      The role of the headteacher                                     5
        1.7      The role of the governing body                                  6
        1.8      The role of the LA                                              6
        1.9      The role of the Secretary of State for Education                7
        1.10     The role of the Local Government Ombudsman                      7
        1.11     Complaints about LA policy, its units and service centres, or
                 Education, Children’s Services & Leisure employees              7
        1.12     Complaints about schools with voluntary aided and foundation
                 status                                                          8


Appendices

1.      List of contacts for advice and support to complainants




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1.      POLICY FOR DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS AGAINST
        COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

        1.1      Aims and Objectives

        A key sign of quality in an organisation is its willingness to listen to criticism
        and challenge from the users of its services and its ability to respond
        positively to these in order to bring about improvement. The way in which
        complaints are handled is a crucial indicator of success and in a context
        where complaints are welcomed, high numbers of complaints do not mean
        necessarily that a school is performing badly. A school which has an
        effective complaints system reaps the benefits from the goodwill of its
        community, from savings in time and resources and from high staff
        satisfaction and morale.

        The aims and objectives of the complaints scheme are:

              to enable complainants to express dissatisfaction
              to ensure that anyone making a complaint about a school is dealt with
               sympathetically and courteously
              to take complaints seriously and investigate them fairly and thoroughly
              to ensure that if there is a fault it is remedied to the satisfaction of the
               complainant
              to ensure that complaints are dealt with in a just and fair manner for
               both the school and complainant
              to learn from complaints and make improvements to practice and
               procedures.

        It is not intended that these complaints procedures should replace the normal
        discussion that takes place regularly in schools when problems or concerns
        arise. A formal procedure need be used only on those rare occasions when
        a complainant is still dissatisfied and wishes further steps to be taken.

        1.2      Definition of a complaint against a school

        A complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction about something which the
        school, its pupils or its governing body have or have not done or about its
        policies, and which requires a response.

        Some matters fall outside the definition of a complaint, for example a request
        for information or an explanation about something which has happened.
        However, a complaint could result if a parent is unhappy with the response to
        such a request.

        There are also some exceptions to the scope of this policy when statutory
        procedures apply (see Appendix 1). These include School Admission
        Appeals, the SEN Tribunal and complaints about the curriculum.

        NOTE: Where an exception applies, the complainant must be informed of
        this as soon as possible with an explanation about how the complaint will be
        dealt with.



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        1.3      Who can complain?

        Those entitled to use the complaints policy include: parents, guardians and
        carers, pupils, members of the local community, Councillors, Members of
        Parliament, or a translator or friend representing a parent or child. All
        complainants should be treated seriously, although it is sensible to ensure
        that the aggrieved party has given their agreement to another person
        representing their case.

        Most complaints by pupils can be dealt with through, for example, the School
        Council or the involvement of parents. Schools may wish to consider how
        they might adapt the complaints procedure to deal with complaints from
        pupils.

        These procedures do not apply where an employee has a complaint about
        any aspect of their own employment. He or she should be advised on how to
        use the school's grievance procedures.

        1.4      Roles and responsibilities

        All school staff should have clear information about which staff have which
        responsibilities at school so that parents and other complainants do not get
        continually passed from one to another.

        1.5      The role of the member of school staff at point of contact
                 for a complaint

        If the member of staff first contacted by a complainant cannot immediately
        deal with the matter, she/he should make a clear note of the date, name,
        contact address or phone number. Every member of staff should know who
        to refer a complaint to, if necessary, and should check later to make sure the
        referral has been successful (see Appendix 2 'How to Listen to Complaints').

        1.6      The role of the headteacher

        The headteacher has overall day to day responsibility for the implementation
        of a complaints system which is compatible with the ethos of the school and
        the directions of its governing body.

        The headteacher is responsible for formulating a clear strategy to review the
        school's policy and practice for dealing with complaints at regular intervals.

        The school must decide whether the headteacher will consider all complaints
        at the informal stage or initial stage. The alternative is to appoint designated
        staff to investigate or to hear complaints initially, with the headteacher
        becoming involved at the next stage if the complainant remains dissatisfied
        with the school's response.




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        1.7      The role of the governing body

        It is the responsibility of the governing body, together with the headteacher,
        to ensure that there is an effective complaints procedure within the school
        and to keep the operation of this system under review.

        Ultimately, the governing body may be called upon to consider, adjudicate or
        resolve complaints if they are referred to it by the headteacher or a
        complainant. In preparation for this, the governing body should establish a
        standing panel from which three members can be drawn to perform this role
        on behalf of the whole governing body.

        It is important that at stage 2 of the complaints process, the investigation by
        the governors' complaints panel is not only independent and impartial but is
        also seen to be so.

        1.8      The role of the LA

        The role of the Local Authority (LA) in relation to complaints is to:

             provide an agreed and consistent policy framework
             provide advice and guidance to schools on good practice
             provide advice to complainants on how to complain
             operate its own complaints system for the services it provides which are
              in addition to those provided by schools.

        The majority of decisions about the day to day operation of a school are the
        responsibility of the headteacher and, ultimately, the governing body. The LA
        will not usually intervene in a complaint until the school's processes, including
        a hearing by the governors' complaints panel, have been exhausted and the
        complainant is still dissatisfied.

        At this stage, if the complaint is referred on to it by the complainant, the
        LA will investigate the complaint but will be concerned mainly with
        ensuring that the procedure has been properly followed, rather than the
        acceptability of the outcomes to the complainant, unless there is a clear
        need for redress. Although its power to impose solutions on schools is often
        limited, the LA may make recommendations for change and improvement.
        Whether making positive comments on or criticisms of a school's practices,
        the LA will do so to the school and to the complainant only and, as part of its
        quality assurance activities, will pass any relevant information to appropriate
        colleagues within the Education, Children’s Services & Leisure. This role is
        similar to that of the Local Government Ombudsman in that a school can
        choose not to accept or implement the findings of the LA, but would need to
        be aware of how this might affect its future public image.

        If a complainant approaches the LA directly in the initial stages, she/he will be
        referred to the school by the Customer Services Officer. In order to ensure
        confidentiality for complainants, the LA does not tell schools of complaints
        notified to them unless permission is given by the complainant to do so.
        Complainants will be given advice on how to complain, information about the




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        complaints policy and what they need to do to make their complaint direct to
        the school (Appendix 3).

        The LA may on occasion need to intervene more fully as part of its quality
        assurance role if there seems to be a growing number of complaints about a
        particular issue or if the complaint is of such a serious nature that the LA
        must express a view. This might be, for example, a health and safety matter,
        an issue of 'public interest' or when a school asks for help.

        1.9      The role of the Secretary of State for Education

        Complaints can be taken to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills
        under section 496 of the Education Act 1996, on the grounds that a
        governing body or LA is acting or proposing to act unreasonably, or under
        section 497 of the same Act, on the grounds that either the governing body or
        LA has failed to discharge its duties under the Act. The Secretary of State
        may contact the governing body or LA for more information in order to
        consider the complaint. These powers relate to community, voluntary aided
        and foundation schools.

        1.10     The role of the Local Government Ombudsman

        Complaints about the maladministration of local authority services including
        the way it operates any general school complaints procedures could be made
        to the Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsman does not look at internal
        school management issues and usually expects that thorough attention has
        been given to a complaint locally before investigation by the Ombudsman.

        1.11     Complaints about LA policy, its units and service centres,
                 or Education, Children’s Services & Leisure employees

        Education, Children’s Services & Leisure has its own complaints procedure
        for dealing with complaints about what it has or has not done or the services
        it provides. Those who can complain include schools and governors as well
        as members of the public, companies and anyone affected by the Group's
        activities.

        All staff working within centrally managed education services centres are
        required to follow these procedures. The principles and the practice adopted
        to deal with complaints against direct LA services are similar to the
        procedures for schools, so that the local community can expect a consistent
        and effective response wherever a complaint is made about the provision of
        services from the LA.

        When a complaint is made about an LA employee who works regularly on a
        school site, but who is not employed by the governors of the school, the LA
        will work closely with the school's management to ensure that the matter is
        handled appropriately.




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        1.12     Complaints about schools with voluntary aided and
                 foundation status

        Complaints about these schools do not fall within the scope of this policy and
        procedure and will be referred on to the school. Complainants will be given
        advice on how to complain, on their statutory rights and on what the LA
        considers to be good practice in relation both to the nature of the complaint
        and how it should be handled by the school.




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                      APPENDIX




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                                                                                        Appendix 6


       LIST OF CONTACTS FOR ADVICE AND SUPPORT TO
                     COMPLAINANTS

For further advice or information, contact:

Education Welfare Service
London Borough of Enfield
Education, Children’s Services & Leisure
P.O. Box 56
Civic Centre
Silver Street
Enfield
EN1 3XQ

Tel: 020 8379 3341 or 020 8379 3336

The Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and specialist voluntary organisations may also
be able to offer advice or act on your behalf.

Citizens Advice Bureau                     www.adviceguide.org.uk
Palmers    Town Hall                       0870 126  palmersgreencab@dial.pipex.com
Green      Green Lanes                     4664
           Palmers Green
           London
           N13 4XD

Organisation    Address                       Tel              Email
Enfield Parents Community                     020 8373 6209    Info@enfieldparents.org.uk
& Children      House
                311 Fore Street
                London N9 0PZ
Enfield Racial Community                      020 8373 6271
Equality        House
Council         311 Fore Street
                London N9 0PZ

In certain circumstances, the Local Government Ombudsman may investigate
a complaint with has been through the Review Stage. Complaints about the
maladministration of Local Authority services including the way it operates
any general school complaints procedures could be made to the Ombudsman.
However, the Ombudsman does not look at internal school management
issues and usually expects that thorough attention has been given to a
complaint locally before investigation by the Ombudsman.

You can ring the Ombudsman’s Advice Line on 0845 6021983 or write to:

The Local Government Ombudsman
  th
10 Floor
Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP
Email: enquiries.london@lgo.org.uk                  Web: www.lgo.org.uk


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                                                                                      Appendix 6




A Leaflet giving full details of how to complain to the Local Government
Ombudsman can be obtained from the Civic Centre, local libraries or the
Citizens Advice Bureau.

Local Councillors can be contacted via the Civic Centre. A list of their names and
addresses and the wards they represent is available from the Civic Centre and local
libraries. Web: www.enfield.gov.uk.

Local Members of Parliament can be contacted at:
The House of Commons,
London SW1A 0AA.

National Addresses

Organisation  Address                      Tel    Email/Web
              The Department               0870   info@dfes.gsi.gov.uk
The Secretary for Education and            000
of State for Skills                        2288   www.dfes.gov.uk
Education and Sanctuary
Skills        Buildings
              Great Smith Street
              London
              SW1P 3BT

Advisory      1c      Aberdeen 0808               www.ace-ed.org.uk
Centre    for Studios           800
Education     22       Highbury 5793
(ACE)         Grove
              London
              N5 2DQ

Equal         Arndale House                0845   info@eoc.org.uk
Opportunities Arndale Centre               601
Commission    Manchester                   5901   www.eoc.org.uk
              M4 3EQ
London        Diocesan House               020    www.london.anglican.org
Diocesan      36 Causton Street            7932
Board     for London                       1100
Schools       SW1P 4AU
Catholic      39      Eccleston            020
Education     Square                       7828
Service       London                       7604
              SW1V 1BX

Jewish               8     Westcombe 0870         jeb@jewisheducationbureau.co.uk
Education            Avenue          800
Bureau               Leeds           8532         www.jewisheducationbureau.co.uk
                     LS8 2BS

National             20     Grosvenor 020         www.ncc.org.uk
Consumer             Gardens          7730
Council              London           3469
                     SW1W 0DH


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