Leadership Group Responsibility:
Type of Policy:
Every 1 years
GREENWICH ENGINEERING AND MEDICAL SCHOOL
31 Thomas Street, Woolwich, London SE18 6HU
This Policy is for Parents/Carers, Pupils and Stakeholders.
What Constitutes a Complaint?
The Independent School Standards and the Department for Education do not distinguish between ‘concerns’ and ‘complaints’. Any matter about which a parent of a pupil is unhappy and seeks action by the School is a complaint and is in the scope of this Policy whatever the School labels it as. I
In GEMS we recognize that everyone occasionally makes mistakes. What is important, however, is that when mistakes are made there is a clear and fair approach to putting things right again. The company’s stance on complaints is so vital to our ethos of openness, transparency and the importance of the voice of the pupil, parent/carers, stakeholders and staff.
The aim of this Complaints Policy is to ensure that every parent/carer, pupil and Stakeholder involved in GEMS understands this policy and has access to a procedure that supports and enables them to raise concerns or complain about any aspect of the school or services.
Staff members who have concerns or complaints relating to their contract or employment or employee relationships, are expected to raise these through the school staff grievance policy and procedure. Any other concern or complaint should be raised through this complaints procedure.
The GEMS Complaints Policy will:
• be easily accessible and publicised;
• be simple to understand and use;
• be impartial;
• allow swift handling with established time-scales for action and keep people informed of the progress;
• ensure a full and fair investigation by an independent person where necessary;
• respect people’s desire for confidentiality;
• address all the points at issue and provide an effective response and appropriate redress, where necessary;
Aims and objectives of the policy
This complaints policy aims to:
• Encourage the resolution of concerns by informal means wherever possible;
• Ensure that concerns and complaints are dealt with quickly, fully and fairly and within clearly defined time scales;
• Provide effective responses and appropriate redress;
• Maintain good working relationships between all people involved with the school.
Who is allowed to complain?
This policy may be used by pupils, the parents/carers and stakeholders of the school’s pupils that has a concern or complaint about any aspect of the school.
At all stages of the formal complaints procedure, the following information will be recorded:
• The name of the complainant;
• The date and time at which complaint was made;
• The details of the complaint
• The desired outcome of the complainant;
• How the complaint is investigated (including written records of interviews held);
• Results and conclusions of investigations;
• Any action taken;
• The complainant’s response (satisfaction or further pursuit of complaint).
The Head Teacher will be the responsible person for maintaining a record of complaints and ensuring that all school pupils, parents/carers and staff, are aware of and comply with this policy, provide leadership and vison in respect of equality and provided guidance and support to all staff. The only instance where the Head Teacher will NOT be responsible for logging complaints is if the complaint is made against the Head Teacher.
In this instance, the complaint will be dealt with by the Schools’ Proprietor.
Upholding or not upholding complaints
At each stage of the complaints procedure, the conclusion will be either:
• That the complaint is upheld (in part or in full) and, where appropriate, some form of action is taken.
• That the complaint is not upheld and reasons for this are clearly given.
Publicity and communication
It is a legal requirement to publicise our complaints procedures.
This policy will be included within the School’s information in many ways:
• information will be given to new parents when their child joins the school
• information will be given to pupils at the school or home visit prior to admission
• home school bulletins and/or newsletters will remind parents/carers about the policy
• information will be published on the school’s website.
All staff of GEMS will be made aware of the complaints procedure and the various stages involved. At all stages of the complaints procedure, everybody involved will be clear about what is happening and what their responsibilities are.
Written records will be kept as evidence of procedures followed. In addition, the complainant will be told how to proceed to the next stage of the procedure when their complaint is not upheld.
At the outset of any concern being raised, the difference between a concern and a complaint will be identified. We believe that taking informal concerns seriously at the earliest stage will reduce the numbers that develop into complaints.
We understand that concerns are often caused by simple mistakes or misunderstandings, or thoughts and feelings that have not been aired or acknowledged and we anticipate that these and other issues can be quickly and informally resolved through improved communication and immediate response. At other times, or if a concern is not resolved to the complainant's satisfaction, it may be necessary to use the formal complaints procedure. It is important that this choice is always available.
We ask that staff where possible staff are able to resolve issues on the spot, including apologising where appropriate. In addition, it may be appropriate to offer one or more of the following:
• an explanation;
• an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better;
• an assurance that the event of concern will not recur;
• an explanation of the steps that have been taken to ensure that it will not happen again.
Who to speak to informally
Individuals can raise concerns with a member of the school administrative staff, class teacher, senior leader or Head Teacher depending on their wishes and the type of issues they want to discuss.
A brief note of all such issues will be kept.
There are no specific time scales for dealing with concerns at this stage. However, as at all stages, issues will be considered and dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.
The individual who raised the concern or complaint will be informed of any action to be taken to resolve the issue and if appropriate, in writing.
If a stakeholder, pupil or parent/carer is dissatisfied at the outcome of discussing a concern, they can make a complaint. At GEMS, we treat ALL complaints as formal, no matter how small. We will follow the same rigorous procedure for all complaints received, and we aim to resolve each one with a satisfactory resolution.
The Head Teacher is the School’s nominated member of staff with responsibility for the operation and management of the school complaints procedure.
The Head Teacher must ensure, when they investigate complaints, that they:
• establish what has happened so far, and who has been involved;
• clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved;
• meet with the complainant or contact them (if unsure or further information is necessary)
• clarify what the complainant feels would put things right
• interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish
• conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist with questioning
• keep detailed notes of the interview.
Complainants will be encouraged to state what actions they feel might resolve the problem at any stage during the resolution of the complaint.
This procedure will identify areas of agreement between the parties and clarify any misunderstandings that may have occurred to ensure a positive atmosphere in which to discuss any outstanding issues. Our first action will always be to ensure, from the outset, that everyone involved with GEMS is given a copy of the Complaints Form and has the procedure fully explained to them.
We recognise that it is essential to be open to criticism or complaint from any source and that only by being open to criticism or complaints can we hope to improve our service and the attainment of the pupils we teach. Therefore, we welcome concerns and complaints.
The Steps in the Complaints Process are outlined below in detail:
1. When a complaint is made it must always be recorded in the 'Complaints Record', to show the date and time of the complaint being made; the name of the person making it; the nature of their complaint; any response required/given; and the name of the person(s) dealing with it and the complaint reference number based upon the date the complaint is received, the name of the person dealing with it and the initials of the person making the complaint. For example: Complaint reference number - 300904/PR/site name/CI. Details of any complaint must always be carefully recorded, along with any supporting information such as to whom the complaint was made or evidence in support of the complaint. Administration staff must be informed that a complaint has been made, and a complaints checklist must be immediately opened. This must then be completed at every stage of the complaint process.
2. Information about any complaint made must be passed immediately to the Head Teacher (or their deputy in their absence) for them to make an initial assessment and to monitor how complaints are being handled.
3. A decision must also be made at this stage as to how and when to inform any third party who may be the subject of the complaint.
4. The reference number and name of person dealing with the complaint must be given to the person making the complaint within 24 HOURS or 1 WORKING DAY of the complaint being received.
5. The matter should then be looked into and responded to, if not in full, within 5 WORKING DAYS, providing written details of how the matter has been dealt with or the timescale during which it will be investigated and fully addressed.
6. A written record will be kept throughout of all communication and actions planned or taken, so that the progress of any investigation can be monitored. The records will indicate whether the complaint was resolved satisfactorily at the preliminary stage or preceded to a panel hearing.
7. Company complaints lead working on behalf of the Schools’ Proprietor provides a high level of independence.
8. The process of investigation and response should not exceed 10 WORKING DAYS, except in rare and exceptional circumstances. If this does occur it is vital that the Complainant is informed, in writing, as to when they may expect a full response. It is essential throughout that the Complainant is kept fully informed of the progress of their complaint.
9. Should the matter then remain unresolved to the Complainant's satisfaction, they have the right to appeal the outcome, within 20 WORKING DAYS or 4 WEEKS of the full response being received. This may include a recorded meeting being held by a member of the school Senior Leadership Team with the complainant.
10. Where the Complainant wishes to appeal against the response provided, an Appeal hearing will be arranged by the Schools’ Proprietor. The appeal will be heard by a panel of at least 3 people, who have not previously been involved in the complaint. At least one panel member will be nominated by the Local Authority, to be fully independent of the GEMS.
11. The complainant may attend the panel meeting and may also be accompanied by a friend.
12. The Appeal hearing will be arranged, and an Appeals panel convened by the Schools’ Proprietor within 15 working days, with at least three working days’ notice given.
13. Panel members will be asked to consider the substance of the original complaint and the response provided to this complaint by the Head Teacher. They will then be free to make their own findings and recommendations.
14. The outcome of any Appeal hearing will be formally recorded, and copies of the findings and recommendations distributed within 5 working days to the Complainant, the Head Teacher, L.A and, where possible, any person(s) about whom the complaint has been made.
Confidentiality is vital. All conversations and correspondence will be treated with discretion. Complainants have the right to know what use will be made of personal information and accordingly, personal information will only be shared between staff on a ‘need to know’ basis. All complaint correspondence will be kept confidentially in the Head Teacher’s office and all complaints will be kept in a locked cupboard and on a central database with access only rights for the Head teacher and School’s Proprietor.
(The exception to this is the requirement of the school to provide parents and other interested parties with information about the number of complaints registered under the formal procedure during the preceding year, and to inspectors conducting inspections under section 162A of the education act 2002, as amended by schedule 8 of the education act 2005, or to the Secretary of State, should they ask for such records.)
Equal access, accompaniment and representation
Steps will be taken to ensure that any individual has the opportunity to raise their concerns or submit a complaint. This includes the right to be accompanied or represented by a friend or relative at discussions and hearings and/or to submit complaints which have been written by another individual on their behalf. Should any meeting need to be held where any parties would have difficulties in terms of access, the head teacher will assist with providing an appropriate venue.
It is an expectation that equal respect will be granted to each person involved within the process and that differences between people will be respected and understood.
Time between stages
Although each of the stages within the procedure should occur consecutively, it is not necessary for each stage to immediately follow the last. Complainants may need some time to decide whether they wish to pursue the matter any further.
After each stage, the complainant and the individual who is dealing with their complaint at that time will agree an appropriate time scale within which the next stage should be accessed, if at all. If the complaint is not submitted to the next stage within this agreed time scale it will be considered as closed.
Changes to time scales and deadlines
In general, the time scales and deadlines contained within this policy will be adhered to. However, in certain circumstances it may be inappropriate or impossible to guarantee that this is possible. Where a complaint leads to criminal proceedings this will always be the case.
If and when it becomes necessary to alter the time scales and deadlines set out within this policy, the complainant will be told and given an explanation as to why this has been the case.
If at any stage, as the result of a complaint, a decision or course of action is taken with regards to an individual (apart from the complainant) which they feel is ungrounded, unjustified or incorrect they have the right to appeal. The School’s appeal procedures will facilitate this.
This policy sets out the procedures which the school and GEMS will follow whenever it receives a complaint. A summary of the various stages is given below:
• Informal discussion and resolution Informal Stage - School Staff
• Complaint made followed by investigation by Head Teacher – Head Teacher
• Complaints committee following an appeal- Schools Proprietor
• Local Authority investigations – L.A
Complaints not in scope of the procedure
This complaints procedure covers all complaints about any provision of facilities or services that a school provides with the exceptions listed below, for which there are separate (statutory) procedures.
• Admissions to schools
• Statutory assessments of Special
Educational Needs (SEN)
• School re-organisation proposals
• Matters likely to require a child
• Exclusion of children from school
• Staff grievances and disciplinary
• Complaints about services provided
by other providers who may use
Exceptions Who to contact
Concerns in relation to admissions, assessments and school reorganisation should be raised direct with Local Authorities (L.A).
In relation to child protection the GEMS Safeguarding process and procedure will be followed.
Information about raising concerns about exclusion can be found at: www.gov.uk/school-discipline-exclusions/exclusions.
These matters will invoke the GEMS grievance procedures. Complainants will not be informed of the outcome of any investigation.
Providers should have their own complaints procedure to deal with complaints about service. They should be contacted direct.
Issues related to child protection, criminal investigations and employee grievances will be handled separately from this policy.
This complaints policy is distinct from formal staff disciplinary proceedings and this should be made clear to all concerned. There may be occasions where a complaint gives rise to disciplinary procedures which put the complaints process on hold. If and when this occurs, the complainant should be informed. Any non disciplinary aspects of the complaint should continue to be dealt with through the usual complaints procedures. If another policy is more appropriate than this complaints policy for any given situation then it should be used in preference to it.
Complaints rarely reach this level, but it is important that Head Teachers are prepared to deal with them. Upon receiving a formally submitted complaint at this stage the Schools’ Proprietor will usually choose to deal with it by holding a complaints committee hearing. However, in some cases, it may be possible and appropriate for the Head Teacher to resolve the issue with the complainant by other means without the need for a complaints committee review, i.e. a meeting held by the Schools’ Proprietor or representative with the complainant and the issue being satisfactorily resolved. The complaints committee must be clerked; the clerk may be a member of the school staff.
The Schools Proprietor, will nominate three independent people to the complaints committee who have not previously been involved with dealing with the complaint and are of a senior level.
Submitting a formal appeal
The complainant must submit a written request to GEMS Schools’ Proprietor for their complaint to be considered by a complaints committee.
Acknowledgement and time scales
The Schools’ Proprietor will acknowledge receipt of a letter within 5 school days if possible but no more than ten at most by writing to the complainant. This letter will inform them that their complaint will be heard by a complaints committee within 15 school days of the date of this letter.
The Schools’ Proprietor will liaise with the clerk regarding preparatory arrangements. The clerk will convene a meeting of the complaints committee. The membership of the complaints committee will be confirmed, a date and time will be arranged for a hearing and all existing relevant documentation will be given to the three appointed members. The clerk should then formally write to the complainant, the Head Teacher and any other relevant staff or witnesses and inform them:
• Of the date, time and venue of the hearing
• Of the aims and objectives of the hearing and how it will be conducted
• That any documentation they wish the committee to consider must be returned to the Clerk no later
than 5 school days before the hearing takes place
• Of the rights of equal access, accompaniment and representation as set out within this document.
• How and when the committee will reach their decision
It is the responsibility of the clerk to ensure that all parties receive all relevant documents at least 3 school days before the date of the hearing to allow individuals to familiarise themselves with them.
The hearing will allow each party involved to explain their understanding or interpretation of events and for other parties to question them. The hearing will, therefore, usually operate according to the following format:
• The chair will introduce all parties to one another and explain the principles, objectives and format of the hearing
• The complainant will be given the opportunity to explain their complaint. Following this the Head Teacher and the complaints committee will be allowed to ask the complainant questions.
• The Head Teacher will then be given an opportunity to explain the school’s official response, interpretation or view about the complaint. Following this the complainant and committee will be allowed to question the Head Teacher.
• Every party will be given the opportunity to call witnesses and question witnesses called by other parties.
• The Head Teacher and the complainant will both be given the chance to give final statements.
• The hearing will be concluded by the chair who should explain that the committee will consider its decision and write to both parties within 5 school days informing them of the outcome.
After the hearing
The committee will then consider the complaint and all the evidence presented and:
• Reach a unanimous, or at least a majority decision, on the complaint;
• Decide upon the appropriate action (if any) to be taken;
• Where appropriate, suggest changes to, or request a review of, the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not happen again.
Complaints Policy – Guidance and Sources
This policy has been developed after consulting:
• The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003 Standard 7(a – l)
• DfE School Complaints Procedure Guidance;
• The best practice of County Councils;
• ‘Running a Complaints System’ (The Local Government Ombudsman);
• Advisory Centre for Education; DfE School Government Team 2
The key principles of the policy - Legal context
From September 2003, under Section 29 of the Education Act 2002, it is stated that schools must have in place a procedure to deal with complaints.
The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 provides an additional function to establish and publish procedures for dealing with complaints relating to the school, other than those covered by legislation and formal procedures elsewhere
The Independent School Standard - In accordance with paragraph 32(1) (b) of Schedule 1 to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations (2014),
The policy should be read in conjunction with the following GEMS policies:
• GEMS’ Safeguarding policy (currently individual by school)
• GEMS’ Positive Behaviour Support and Promoting Good Behaviour Policy
• GEMS’ Group Diversity and Equal Opportunities policy
• GEMS’ e-Safety/Acceptable Use/ICT policy
Malicious and Vexatious Complaints Policy and Procedure
GEMS is committed to dealing with all stakeholders fairly, ensuring we provide high quality services, and a clear, and timely response when they contact us. The GEMS Complaints Policy & Procedure is enforced to ensure that this is the case.
However, in certain cases people may pursue their complaints in a way that is unreasonable. They may behave unacceptably or be unreasonably persistent in their contacts and submission of information. This can impede investigating their complaint (or complaints by others) or otherwise disproportionately impact on the operational capacity of the school. These actions can occur either while their complaint is being investigated, or when the complaint investigation is finished.
1. Values & Principles
GEMS is committed to responding with patience and sympathy to the needs of all our stakeholders, including when they have a complaint.
In order to distinguish between complainants who, make a number of complaints with good cause, because they really think things have gone wrong, and those who are unreasonably complaining without sufficient cause; the school will:
• consider each complaint on its own terms, and decide whether it is genuine or malicious and/or vexatious
• evaluate each written or spoken submission
• ensure that, if someone has made malicious and/or vexatious complaints in the past, it is not assumed that any subsequent complaint from them also falls into this categor
GEMS cannot commit significant time responding to unreasonable complainant behaviour but will try to avoid inflaming any already difficult situation. GEMS will exercise judgement on the best way of handling each case.
This Policy & Procedure outlines how GEMS aims to ensure a proportionate approach when responding to complaints and complainant behaviour. It supports staff (including volunteers and associates) to understand clearly what is expected of them, what options for action are available, and who can authorise these actions.
This Policy & Procedure covers unreasonable complainant behaviour, which may include one or two isolated incidents, as well as unreasonably persistent behaviour, which is usually a build-up of incidents or behaviour over a longer period.
3.1 How do we identify which complaints are malicious and/or vexatious?
For the purpose of this policy, malicious and/or vexatious complaints are those which, because of the nature or frequency of the complainant’s contacts, impede the school’s consideration of their or other people’s complaints or otherwise disproportionately impact on the operational capacity of the school.
Single incidents may be unacceptable in themselves, but more often the difficulty is caused by unreasonably persistent behaviour that is time consuming to manage and interferes with proper consideration of the complaint.
The following are examples of some of the actions and behaviours which GEMS considers malicious and/or vexatious (this list is not exhaustive):
• Refusing to specify the grounds of a complaint, despite offers of help.
• Refusing to cooperate with the complaints investigation process.
• Refusing to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of a complaints procedure.
• Insisting on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the adopted complaints procedure.
• Making unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and/or seeking
to have them replaced.
• Systematically harassing or bullying staff.
• Changing the basis of the complaint as the investigation proceeds.
• Denying or changing statements he or she made at an earlier stage.
• Introducing trivial or irrelevant new information at a later stage.
• Raising many detailed but unimportant questions, and insisting they are all answered.
• Submitting falsified documents from themselves or others.
• Several complainants pursuing parallel complaints on the same issue or one complainant pursuing parallel complaints on the same issue with various multi-agencies
• Making excessive demands on staff time and resources with lengthy phone calls, emails to numerous staff or detailed letters every few days; and expecting immediate responses.
• Submitting repeat complaints with minor additions / variations which the complainant insists make these 'new' complaints.
• Refusing to accept the decision; repeatedly arguing points with no new evidence.
The Head Teacher has ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the provisions of this policy; they are responsible for the management of the school and for ensuring that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to support an open, fair and proportionate response to complainants.
The Schools’ Proprietor will consider and approve the option for action to be taken for malicious and/or vexatious complaints.
The Senior Leadership Team will manage the operational implementation of this policy & procedure, advising the Schools’ Proprietor of their findings and suggesting an appropriate course of action; external advice will be sought as necessary
All Staff (including volunteers and associates) have a responsibility to ensure that complaints relating to GEMS are handled appropriately; complaints received, whether written or spoken, should be escalated to a line manager in the first instance.
5. Monitoring & Review
Complaints will be centrally monitored and summary information will be permanently retained / archived.
This Policy & Procedure will be reviewed annually to ensure it remains fit for purpose and compliant with current legislation and best practice.
6. Policy Implementation
6.1 Considerations Prior to Taking Action under the Policy
Prior to taking action under this policy the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) must conduct a thorough review of the complaint and be satisfied that:
• the complaint is being or has been investigated properly
• any decision reached on it, is the right one
• communications with the complainant have been adequate based on the Values and Principles quoted, and
• the complainant is not now providing any significant new information that might affect the school’s view on the complaint.
6.2 Designating a Complaint as Malicious and/or Vexatious
The SLT will decide when a complaint is to be designated as ‘malicious and/or vexatious’. They will base this decision on whether the nature and/or frequency of the complainant’s contacts, is impeding the school’s consideration of their or other people’s complaints, or otherwise disproportionately impacting on the operational capacity of the school.
Options for Action
Where the complaint has been designated as malicious and/or vexatious, the SLT will suggest appropriate options for action to Schools’ Proprietor and external advice will be sought as necessary
The Schools’ Proprietor will consider and agree the option/s proposed prior to any action being taken; if relevant, an appropriate time limit on any restrictions will also be agreed.
Any actions taken by GEMS should be proportionate to the nature and frequency of the complainant’s current contacts. The following options may be suitable, taking the complainant’s behaviour and circumstances into account:
• Placing limits on the number and duration of contacts with staff per week or month.
• Offering a restricted time slot for necessary calls.
• Limiting the complainant to one medium of contact (telephone, letter, email etc.).
• Requiring the complainant to communicate only with one named member of staff.
• Requiring any personal contacts to take place in the presence of a witness and in a suitable location.
• Refusing to register and process further complaints about the same matter.
6.3 Managing Complainant Contacts
Having designated a complaint as malicious and/or vexatious and decided on appropriate option/s for action (e.g.: restricted access), the SLT will send the complainant a formal letter, which will include a copy of the policy and will explain:
• that this represents the full and final decision in respect of the raised complaint
• why the decision has been taken
• what it means for their contact with the school
• how long any restrictions will last
In order to ensure ongoing complainant contacts are managed, the SLT may also decide to adopt one or more of the following approaches:
• setting up a strategy meeting to agree a school-wide approach
• informing all relevant staff that contact with a named complainant is being restricted
• appointing a key officer to coordinate the school’s response(s).
Where a full and final decision on the complaint has been reached and communicated, the complainant will be told that future correspondence will be read and placed on file, but not acknowledged unless it contains new information. A designated member of staff will be identified who will read future correspondence to pick up any significant new information.
7. Recording Feedback and Learning from Complaints will be managed in accordance with Complaints Policy & Procedure.