Liberty Academy Trust and our schools will take all concerns and complaints seriously and will make every effort to deal with complaints informally, at an early stage, in the spirit of continued respect and partnership.
Anonymous concerns or complaints will not normally be investigated under our complaints policy. The Principal or Chair of Governors, if appropriate, will determine whether there are exceptional circumstances to justify conducting an investigation into any anonymous issues raised.
To investigate complaints properly and fairly, we have implemented a staged approach. We anticipate that almost all complaints that arise will be resolved at Stage 1 or Stage 2.
Whilst we understand that making a complaint can be a stressful process, we expect our members of staff to be addressed in a respectful manner and for communication to remain calm at all times.
Concerns or complaints should be brought to our attention as soon as possible. Any matter raised more than 3 months after the incident being complained of (or, where a series of associated incidents have occurred, within 3 months of the last of these incidents) will not be considered unless the Principal / Chair of Governors accepts that there are good reasons to explain the delay or the complaint is about a particularly serious matter.
Complaints Procedure for Parents / Carers
Stage 1: Informal concerns
Our schools take pride in the quality of teaching and pastoral care provided to its pupils. It recognises that parents may, from time to time, have concerns about the 5 progress, achievement, behaviour or welfare of their child.
Parents are encouraged to make those concerns known to staff so that they can be addressed in partnership with the School. An informal concern can be raised in person or by telephone. Complaints may also be made by a third party acting on behalf of a complainant, as long as they have appropriate authority to do so.
Most enquiries and concerns can be dealt with satisfactorily by the keyworker, class teacher/form tutor or other members of staff without the need to resort to the formal procedure. We value informal meetings and discussions and encourage parents to approach staff with any concerns they may have, and aim to resolve all issues with open dialogue and mutual understanding. It is always helpful if you can fully explain the nature of the concern and identify the outcome you are looking for.
Where appropriate, you may be invited to an informal meeting with the member of staff most appropriate for dealing with that concern. The member of staff dealing with the concern will make sure that you are clear on what action (if any) has been agreed. This may be put in writing if appropriate. If the matter is brought to the attention of the Principal they may decide to deal with your concerns directly at this stage.
If the concerns are about the Principal these should be referred directly to the Clerk of the local governing body under Stage 2.
The school will respect the views of a complainant who indicates that they would have difficulty discussing a complaint with a particular member of staff. In this case, the Principal will refer the complainant to another designated member of staff. Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved in the circumstances leading to the complaint feels too compromised to deal with a complaint, the Principal may consider referring the complainant to another member of staff. The member of staff may be more senior, but this is not essential.
There is no suggested timescale for resolution at this stage given the importance of dialogue through informal discussion, although it would be expected that most issues will be resolved within 15 school days. Where no satisfactory solution has been found, you will be advised that if you wish your concerns to be considered further you should write to the Principal under Stage 2 of this procedure within 15 school days.
Stage 2: Formal Written Complaints
If your concerns are not resolved under Stage 1, you should put your complaint in writing and send this to the Principal of the relevant school. It is very important that you include a clear statement of the actions that you would like us to take to resolve your complaint.
In all cases your written complaint must include:
- the nature of the complaint;
- details of how the matter has been dealt with so far;
- the names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events and copies of all relevant documents; and
- a clear statement of the actions that you would like us to take to resolve your complaint.
Your complaint will normally be acknowledged in writing within 5 school days of receipt.
The acknowledgement will give a brief explanation of the school’s complaints procedure and a target date for providing a response to the complaint. This will normally be within 15 school days of receipt.
If appropriate, the Principal (or someone appointed by them) may invite you to a meeting to clarify your complaints and to explore possible resolutions. If you accept that invitation, you may be accompanied by one other person, such as a friend, relative, advocate or interpreter, to assist you.
Where possible, this meeting will take place within 10 school days of receipt of the written complaint. If necessary, witnesses will be interviewed and statements taken from those involved.
If the complaint centres on a pupil the pupil should also be interviewed. Pupils should normally be interviewed with their parent present, but if this would seriously delay the investigation of a serious or urgent complaint or if the pupil has specifically said that s/he would prefer that their parents were not involved, another member of staff with whom the pupil feels comfortable should be present.
If the matter includes a complaint relating to a member of staff, the member of staff must have the opportunity to respond to the complaint. Once the relevant facts have been established as far as possible, you will be provided with a written response to the complaint, including an explanation of the decision and the reasons for it. This will include what action will be taken to resolve the complaint (if any).
You will be advised that if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, you may request that your complaint be heard by the Complaints Committee under Stage 3 of the complaints policy. The trust may engage an independent, external person to carry out the investigation into the Stage 2 complaint or to review the investigation and response at Stage 2. This may be appropriate where the complaint is particularly complex and involves legal issues.
Stage 3: Referral to the Complaints Committee
If you are dissatisfied with the decision under Stage 2, you may request that a Complaints Committee be convened to consider your complaint.
The Complaints Committee will not review any new complaints at this stage or consider evidence unrelated to the initial complaint. New complaints must be dealt with from Stage 1 of the procedure.
To request a hearing before the Complaints Committee, you should write to the Clerk to the trustees c/o email@example.com within 15 school days of receiving notice of the outcome of Stage 2.
Requests received outside of this time frame will only be considered if exceptional circumstances apply. You should ensure that you provide copies of all relevant documents and state all the grounds for your complaint and the outcome that you are looking for. Your written request will be acknowledged within 5 school days of receipt.
The Clerk will arrange for a Complaints Committee to be convened, made up of at least three members, including: members of a local governing body and/or trustees of the academy trust (as appropriate) with no prior involvement in the matter; and, one person who is independent of the management and running of the academy.
The Clerk shall appoint one of these members to be the Chair of the Committee. Every effort will be made to enable the hearing to take place within 20 school days of the receipt of your request.
As soon as reasonably practicable and in any event at least 5 school days before the hearing, you will be sent written notification of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with brief details of the committee members who will be present.
Fair consideration will be given to any bona fide objection to a particular member of the committee. You will also be informed of the name of the person who will be presenting the case on behalf of the academy (referred to in this policy as the ‘academy representative’). This may be the person who is the subject of the complaint, the person who undertook the investigation at Stage 2 or another person with sufficient knowledge of the matter.
If, despite best efforts, it is not possible to find a mutually convenient date and time for a hearing within a reasonable timeframe, the Clerk may determine that the hearing proceeds on the basis of written submissions from both parties.
You have the right to be accompanied to the hearing by a friend, relative, advocate or interpreter. You should notify the Clerk in advance if you intend to bring anyone to the hearing. We do not encourage either party to bring legal representatives to the Complaints Committee meeting. Representatives from the media are not permitted to attend. The Complaints Committee itself may take legal advice on matters of law and procedure.
A copy of the complaint and any other documents provided by you in support of your complaint, or by the academy representative in defence of the complaint, will be provided to the Complaints Committee as soon as practicable upon receipt. Copies of these documents shall also be provided to you or school representative (as applicable) at least 3 school days before the hearing. The Complaints Committee reserves the right not to consider any documentation presented by either party less than 3 school days prior to the hearing. The Complaints Committee is under no obligation to hear oral evidence from witnesses but may do so and/or may take written statements into account. The committee will not normally accept recordings of conversations that were obtained covertly and without the informed consent of all parties being recorded.
The hearing will be conducted to ensure that each party has the opportunity to address the Complaints Committee. The procedure to be followed during the 9 hearing will be explained to the parties by letter in advance of the hearing. The Clerk will ensure that sufficient notes are taken to record an accurate reflection of the points considered and any decisions taken or actions agreed. Electronic recordings of the hearing will not normally be permitted and, in any event, would require the consent of all those present.
Unless otherwise stated, the procedure for the Stage 3 hearing is as follows:
- the parent and school representative will enter the hearing together;
- the Chair of the Committee will introduce the committee members and outline the process;
- the parent will explain the complaint; the school representative and committee members will question the parent;
- the school representative will explain the school/trust’s actions;
- the parent and the committee members will question the school representative; the parent will sum up their complaint;
- the school representative will sum up the school/trust’s actions;
- the Chair of the Committee will explain that both parties will hear from the committee within 5 school days;
- both parties will leave together while the committee decides;
- the Clerk will stay to assist the committee with its decision making.
The Clerk and or Complaints Committee reserves the right to modify the above procedure at their sole discretion, for example requiring the parent and the school representative to present their complaint/actions separately to the Complaints Committee in the absence of the other party.
A Complaints Committee may be adjourned if the Complaints Committee require further evidence or in exceptional circumstances (for example, if clarification sought by the Complaints Committee is essential to the proceedings). The adjourned date must be as soon as possible.
After the hearing, the Complaints Committee will consider their decision and inform you and, where relevant, the person complained about of their decision in writing within 5 school days. The letter will set out the decision of the committee together with the reasons underpinning that decision.
The committee can (by a majority if necessary):
- 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 school or trust systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not happen again.
Stage 4: Referral to the Education, Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA)
If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Complaints Committee, you are entitled to refer your complaint to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
The ESFA will only investigate whether the complaint was handled properly and in accordance with education legislation and any statutory policies connected with the complaint.
At the time of writing, details about the ESFA procedure and the ESFA academy complaints form are available at: How ESFA handles complaints about academies - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Or you can write to the ESFA at the following address:
Academy Complaints and Customer Insight Unit
Education and Skills Funding Agency
5 Quinton Road