Communication And Complaint Policy

September 6, 2016

Circulation: this policy is addressed to the Senior Management Team; to all members of the teaching and pastoral staff, and, on request, to parents.

Policy status: the policy has been approved by the Principal (Director) of Ashbourne College (College). It provides guidelines for handling concerns and complaints. It takes account of paragraph 7 of the Schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1910). The procedures set out below may be adapted as appropriate to meet the policy aims and circumstances of each case. Certain procedures can only be carried out during term time.

Application: separate procedures apply in the event of a child protection issue or if the Principal expels or asks a student to leave and the parents seek a Review of that decision.

Parent/s / You: includes a current or prospective parent or legal guardian or education guardian, and may at our discretion include a parent whose child has recently left the College.

Four stages:

this policy describes a four stage procedure:

  • Stage 1: informal raising of a concern or difficulty notified orally or in writing to a member of staff;
  • Stage 2: a formal complaint in writing to the Complaints Co-ordinator;
  • Stage 3: a renewed complaint in writing to the Principal;
  • Stage 4: a referral in writing to the Complaints Panel.

Complaints made directly to the Principal will be referred to the appropriate member of staff.

Timescales: We aim to resolve any complaints in a timely manner. Timescales for each stage are set out below in the relevant paragraphs. When we refer to “working days” we mean Monday to Friday, when the College is open during term time. The dates of terms are published on the College’s website.

A concern about the safety of a student/young person should be notified immediately to the person you believe is best placed to take urgent action and should be confirmed in writing to the Principal.

Policy aim and statement

Aim: the aim of this policy is to ensure that a concern or complaint is managed sympathetically, efficiently and at the appropriate level, and resolved as soon as possible. Doing so is good practice, it is fair to those concerned and it helps to promote parents’ and students’ confidence in our ability to safeguard and promote welfare. We will try to resolve every concern or complaint in a positive way with the aim of putting right a matter which may have gone wrong and, where necessary, reviewing our systems and procedures in light of the circumstances.

Policy statement: we need to know as soon as possible if there is any cause for dissatisfaction. We recognise that a difficulty which is not resolved quickly and fairly can soon become a cause of resentment, which would be damaging to relationships and also to our school culture. Parents and students should never feel – or be made to feel – that a complaint will be taken amiss or will adversely affect a student or his/her opportunities at this College. The policy however distinguishes between a concern or difficulty which can be resolved informally and a formal complaint which will require investigation.

Management of complaints

Complaints Co-ordinator: the Principal has appointed a senior member of staff (Complaints Co-ordinator) to be responsible for the co-ordination and administration of the Complaints Procedure. The Complaints Co-ordinator is the Director of Studies, Mr. Lee Kirby, who can be contacted on 0207 937 3858. If the Complaints Co-ordinator is unavailable or is the subject of the complaint, his/her duties will be carried out by another senior member of staff. The main responsibilities of the Complaints Co-ordinator are to:

  • be the first point of contact while the matter remains unresolved and keep records;
  • co-ordinate the complaints procedures in the College;
  • monitor the keeping, confidentiality and storage of records in relation to complaints;
  • provide, on behalf of the College, a response to complaints following an investigation at Stage 2;
  • report regularly to the Principal with respect to the complaints procedure.

Complaints Records & Form: every concern or complaint notified to a member of staff will be noted, together with the action taken. All formal complaints will also be noted on a standard internal form, kept securely by the Complaints Co-ordinator.

Stage 1: concerns and difficulties

Concerns: we expect that most concerns, where a parent or student seeks intervention, reconsideration or some other action to be taken, can be resolved informally. Examples might include a dissatisfaction about some aspect of teaching or pastoral care, or about allocation of privileges or responsibilities, or about a timetable clash or some other aspect of the College’s systems or equipment, or a billing error.

Notification: please raise the concern initially as follows:

  • education issues – if the matter relates to the classroom, the curriculum or special educational needs, please speak or write to the student’s Personal Tutor, Head of Year, Director of Studies or Assistant Director of Studies;
  • pastoral care – for concerns relating to matters outside the classroom, please speak or write to the student’s Personal Tutor, Head of Year, Director of Studies or Assistant Director of Studies;
  • disciplinary matters – a problem over any disciplinary action taken or a sanction imposed should be raised first of all with the member of staff who imposed it, and, if not resolved, with the Director of Studies;
  • financial matters – a query relating to fees or extras should be stated in writing to the Director of Operations;

Complaints made directly to the Principal will be referred to the appropriate member of staff.

Acknowledgement: Ashbourne College will acknowledge a written notification by e-mail or letter within two working days of receipt during term time and as soon as practicable in the holidays. A matter raised orally will not necessarily be acknowledged in writing. Information pertaining to the informal complaint will be kept on a secure internal database.

Unresolved concerns: a concern which has not been resolved by informal means within 15 working days shall be considered a formal complaint which will be dealt with in accordance with Stage 2 below.

Stage 2: formal complaint

Notification: an unresolved concern under Stage 1, or a complaint which needs investigation, or a dissatisfaction with some aspect of the College’s policies, procedures, management or administration should be set out in writing with full details and sent with all relevant documents and your full contact details to the Complaints Co-ordinator. Your complaint will be acknowledged by telephone or in writing within two working days during term time, indicating the action that is being taken and the likely time scale. A Complaints Form will be completed by the Complaints Co-ordinator at the start of the Stage 2. All further records/information regarding the complaint will be kept on a secure internal database.

Investigation: the Complaints Co-ordinator may ask a senior member of staff to act as “investigator”. The investigator/s may request additional information from you and will probably wish to speak to you personally and to others who have knowledge of the circumstances. The outcome of the investigation will be reported to the Complaints Co-ordinator who will then notify you in writing of his decision and the reasons for it. Written records will be kept of all meetings and interviews held in relation to your complaint.

Outcome: The Complaint Co-ordinator’s aim would be to inform any complainant of the outcome of an investigation and the resolution to the complaint within 28 working days from the receipt of the complaint. Please note that any complaint received within one month of the end of term or half term is likely to take longer to resolve owing to the presence of school holidays and the unavailability of personnel.

Stage 3: reference to the Principal

Further steps: if you are dissatisfied with the Complaints Co-ordinator’s decision under Stage 2, your complaint may be renewed in writing to the Principal. Please note that this is an optional stage. It may be more appropriate for your complaint to be referred to the Complaints Panel, in which case you are invited to follow the procedure set out in Stage 4. In particular, if the Principal has been involved in the complaint at Stage 2, it may be more appropriate to refer to the Complaints Panel.

Notification: You should write to the Principal within five working days of receiving the Complaints Co-ordinator’s decision. Your letter to the Principal should give full details of your complaint and enclose all relevant documents and your full contact details. Your letter will normally be acknowledged by telephone or in writing within four working days during term time, indicating the action that is being taken and the likely time scale.

Action by the Principal: the Principal will arrange for your complaint to be investigated following procedures equivalent to those described in Stage 2. When the Principal is satisfied that he has established all the material facts and relevant policies, so far as is practicable, he will notify you in writing of his decision and the reasons for it. He will aim to provide a response within ten working days of receiving your letter. If you are not satisfied with the Principal’s decision you may ask for the complaint to be referred to the Complaints Panel, by writing to the Administration Manager.

Stage 4: reference to the Complaints Panel

A Panel hearing is a review of the decisions taken by the Complaints Co-ordinator and/or the Principal. The Panel will not consider any new areas of complaint which have not been previously raised as part of the complaints procedure.

The role of the Panel: the Panel’s task is to establish the facts surrounding the complaints that have been made by considering:

  • the documents provided by both parties; and
  • any representations made by you, the Complaints Co-ordinator and the Principal.

If, after establishing the facts, the Panel consider that the complaint is made out, they will uphold the complaint. If the Panel consider that the complaint is not made out, they will dismiss the complaint. They will make these decisions on the balance of probabilities.

It is not within the powers of the Panel to make any financial award, nor to impose sanctions on staff, students, or parents. The Panel may make recommendations on these or any other issues to the Principal as appropriate.

Composition: we have constituted a Complaints Panel (Panel) comprising of at least three people who are independent of the governance, management and running of the College

Notification: to request a hearing before the Complaints Panel please write to the Administration Manager within five working days of the decision complained of. Your request will only be considered if you have completed the procedures at Stages 1 and 2 and, where appropriate Stage 3. Please ensure that a copy of all relevant documents and your full contact details accompany your letter to the Administration Manager. Please state in your letter the outcome that you desire and all the grounds of your complaint. Please also send the Administration Manager a list of the documents which you believe to be in the College’s possession and wish the Panel to see. The Administration Manager will acknowledge your request in writing within two working days.

Convening the Panel: the Administration Manager will convene the Complaints Panel as soon as reasonably practicable but the Panel will not normally sit during half terms or school holidays. The Panel will consist normally of a minimum of three individuals who have no detailed prior knowledge of the circumstances of the complaint. You may ask the Administration Manager to tell you who has been appointed to sit on the Panel.

Notice of hearing: Every effort will be made to enable the Panel hearing to take place within 10 working days of the receipt of your request. As soon as reasonably practical and in any event, at least five working days before the hearing, the Administration Manager will send you written notification of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with brief details of the Panel members who will be present.

Attendance: you will be asked to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by your parent and one other person such as a relative, teacher, or friend. It is not necessary for that person to be legally qualified but if you do wish to be accompanied by a legally qualified person, acting in their professional capacity, please notify the College at least seven working days before the hearing. The student may attend part or all of the hearing at the discretion of the Chair. Copies of additional documents you wish the Panel to consider should be sent to the Administration Manager at least three clear working days prior to the hearing.

Chair: the hearing will be chaired by one member of the Panel (chosen by themselves) and will be conducted in an informal manner.

Hearing: all statements made at the hearing will be unsworn. All present will be entitled, should they wish, to write their own notes for reference purposes. The Administration Manager will be asked to take a handwritten minute of the proceedings.

Evidence: the Chair will conduct the hearing in such a way as to ensure that all those present have the opportunity of asking questions and making comments in an appropriate manner. The hearing is not a legal proceeding and the Panel shall be under no obligation to hear oral evidence from witnesses but may do so and/or may take written statements into account.

Conduct: all those attending the hearing are expected to show courtesy, restraint and good manners or, after due warning, the hearing may be adjourned or terminated at the discretion of the Chair. If terminated, the original decision will stand. Any person who is dissatisfied with any aspect of the way the hearing is conducted must say so before the proceedings go any further and his/her comment will be minuted.

Adjournment: the Chair may, at his/her discretion, adjourn the hearing for further investigation of any relevant issue. This may include an adjournment to take legal advice.

Decision: after due consideration of the matters discussed at the hearing, the Panel shall reach a decision unless there is an agreed position. The Panel’s decision, findings and any recommendations may be notified orally at the hearing or subsequently and shall be confirmed in writing to you by electronic mail where appropriate within seven working days. If you do not wish to receive the decision by electronic mail, a copy will be given or posted to you. The decisions, findings and any recommendations will be made available for inspection on the College premises by the Proprietor, Principal and Head Teacher. Reasons for the decision will be given. The decision may include recommendations and will be sent to you, the Complaints Co-ordinator, the Principal and, where relevant, any person about whom the complaint has been made.

Private proceeding: a hearing before the Complaints Panel is a private proceeding. No notes or other records or oral statements about any matter discussed in or arising from the proceeding shall be made available directly or indirectly to the press or other media.

Confidentiality: A written record will be kept of all complaints, and of whether they are resolved at Stage 1 or proceed to a panel hearing. The written record includes any actions taken by the school as a result of the complaint, whether it was upheld or not. The number of complaints registered under the formal procedure during the preceding school year will be supplied to parents on request. Correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints are to be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the 2008 Act requests access to them. In accordance with data protection principles, details of individual complaints will normally be destroyed following each school inspection. In exceptional circumstances some details will be retained for a further period as necessary.

 

Authorised by The Principal
Date September 2016
Effective date of the policy September 2016
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request
Review date September 2017