THE HAWTHORNE’S FREE SCHOOL
This procedure deals with complaints made by staff, students, parents or other stakeholders. There are separate procedures to deal with staff grievances including allegations of harassment and with parental complaints about admissions and exclusions.
At each stage, possible outcomes include:
• complaint withdrawn
• complaint dismissed
• complaint dealt with under another procedure
• complaint upheld
Informal queries and complaints should be taken up directly with the relevant member of staff either verbally or in writing. Formal complaints should be addressed to the Headteacher in writing.
All complaints will be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible. The length of the period will vary with the gravity and complexity of the complaint and the urgency with which it needs to be settled.
All complaints will be investigated fully, fairly and carefully and complainants will be informed of progress during, as well as at the end of each stage.
At each stage, the purpose will be to secure the resolution of the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant. Where this is not possible, a decision will be made promptly, either to provide an outcome to the complaint or to refer the complaint to the next stage.
At each stage, the complainant may be accompanied by a friend, colleague or other representative. In this case, the complainant should make their own arrangements for such representation. The representative answer questions confer with the complainant and make summary statements but may not answer questions on behalf of the complainant.
The Headteacher will acknowledge receipt of a written complaint within three working days.
At each stage, the complaint will be recorded, together with the outcome and reasons for the outcome. The complainant will be informed of the outcome in writing, together with their entitlement to appeal the outcome by reference to the next stage.
Where the complaint is upheld, any action to be taken in response will also be recorded.
Stage 1: Informal Procedure
The Headteacher will normally direct the complainant to the most appropriate member of staff to deal with it effectively. If the complainant indicates that they would have difficulty discussing the complaint with this member of staff, the Headteacher may direct them to another member of staff. Similarly, if the most appropriate member of staff feels they would have difficulty in dealing with the complaint objectively, the Headteacher may direct the complainant to another member of staff.
The member of staff to whom the complainant is referred will carry out an investigation and decide on the outcome. The complainant and the Headteacher will be informed of the decision and any further action that will be taken in consequence.
In certain circumstances, the Headteacher may choose to deal with the complaint informally in person.
If the complaint has been made in writing, the Headteacher may choose to invoke Stage 2 of the procedure, thereby omitting Stage 1.
If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of this informal stage, they should inform the Headteacher in writing, including details of their complaint. The Headteacher will then invoke Stage 2 of the procedure.
Stage 1 should be completed within 28 working days of receiving the complaint.
Stage 2: Decision by the Headteacher
Where a complaint is received by the Chair of Governors, he or she will refer the complaint to the Headteacher to deal with unless the complaint concerns the Headteacher and has reached Stage 2, in which case the Chair will take the place of the Headteacher throughout Stage 2. Where a complaint is made to the Headteacher but concerns the Headteacher and has reached Stage 2, the Headteacher will inform the complainant in writing that they should direct their complaint to the Chair Governors.
The Headteacher will ensure the complaint is investigated fully. The Headteacher may delegate responsibility for conducting the investigation to another member of staff.
The Headteacher will review all the information and discuss the findings with the complainant with the aim of resolving the complaint to their satisfaction.
The Headteacher will decide on the outcome and inform the complainant in writing of the
decision, together with details of how to appeal the decision if they remain dissatisfied.
Stage 2 should be completed within 28 working days of receipt of written complaint.
Stage 3: Appeal
If the complainant remains dissatisfied, they should write to the Chair of Governors giving details of the complaint.
The Chair may be able to resolve the complaint informally at this stage, with the result that the complainant withdraws their appeal.
If this is not possible, the Chair will convene an appeal hearing by the Governors’ Appeals Committee, which will not include the Chair.
The appeal will be heard by a Governors’ Appeal Committee comprising at least three members, one of whom will act as Chair of the hearing. No member may hear the appeal if he or she has had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the incident to which the complaint refers. At least one of the Appeal Committee will be a member who is independent of involvement in the day to day management or running of the School.
The complainant at the appeal may be accompanied by a friend or advisor.
The Chair of the hearing will decide the procedure to be followed, ensuring that:
• the remit of the Committee is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption
• members of the Committee are objective and open minded, and act independently
• the complainant and any others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease
• the hearing is conducted in an informal though clearly structured manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy
• each side is given the opportunity to state their case and to ask questions
• any written material is seen by all parties. If a new issue arises all parties should be given the opportunity to consider and comment on it
• any witnesses are only required to attend for the part of the hearing in which they give their evidence
• the issues are addressed
• key findings of fact are made
The hearing should generally proceed as follows:
• Introductions and introductory comments from the Chair
• The complainant explains the complaint, followed by questions
• Any witnesses to support the complaint give evidence and are questioned
• The Headteacher explains the outcomes at Stage 1 if applicable and Stage 2, followed by questions
• Any witnesses to support the Headteacher give evidence and are questioned
• The complainant sums up
• The Headteacher sums up
• With the exception of the Committee members and any independent adviser they may have, all persons withdraw while the Committee reviews the evidence and decides the outcome
• The complainant and the Headteacher are informed of the decision
The Appeals Committee may:
• dismiss the complaint in whole or in part
• uphold the complaint in whole or in part
• decide on any further action to be taken
• if appropriate, recommend changes to the School’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur
The complainant will be informed by email and/or in writing within five days of the outcome of the hearing and the reasons for it, and that the decision is final.
It is important that accurate and contemporaneous records are kept throughout the process, including any initial informal process.
Records and the outcome of all hearings should be held in a secure and confidential manner.
Copies of this complaints procedure are available on the Website and from the School reception.
In implementing this policy all members of staff must take into account the School’s Equal Opportunities policy. Staff must ensure that no person is disadvantaged on the grounds of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief.
Monitoring, Evaluation and Review
The Hawthorne’s Free School will review this policy at least every two years and assess its implementation and effectiveness.