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Complaints

Trust-wide policy. Adopted: March 29, 2019; amended May 8, 2019.

Introduction

1.1. The aim of this policy is to ensure that any complaint is handled sympathetically, efficiently, and at the appropriate level, and resolved as soon as possible. It also discharges the Trust’s statutory responsibilities under the Education (Independent School Standards (England)) Regulations 2014.

1.2. Parents and students should feel comfortable raising any issue, confident in the knowledge it will be dealt with fairly and without prejudice to their future treatment. We will investigate and try to resolve every complaint in a positive manner.

1.3. Complaints will be dealt with in three stages:

  • Informal discussion. All issues should be raised informally in the first instance, with those most closely involved; this gives the best chance for a quick resolution.
  • Formal complaint. Where a complaint cannot be resolved informally, the details should be put in writing by the complainant, and an investigation carried out by the school.
  • Panel hearing. Where a complainant has a substantial disagreement with the outcome of the formal complaint, they may appeal to a panel hearing that will include an independent person. The panel’s decision is final.

1.4. The Education & Skills Funding Agency may further investigate the handling of a complaint or investigate the breach of either the law or a funding agreement requirement. However, the ESFA will only consider whether a complaint was properly handled and not overturn the substance of a panel hearing decision.

What this policy covers

2.1. This policy covers complaints about an Inspiration Trust academy. Certain issues are not appropriate for consideration under this policy and will be dealt with under other policies or statutory procedures, including:

  • Allegations of criminal activities
  • Commercial or other incidental arrangements, such as facilities hire or training, not directly related to the Trust’s public functions
  • Data protection, freedom of information, or environmental information requests
  • Pupil admissions or exclusions
  • Staff grievance, disciplinary, or employment disputes

2.2. Complaints will normally only be considered from those with a direct interest in the matter.

2.3. Complaints will normally only be considered when made within three months of any incident to which they refer. This is to help ensure that events are fresh in people’s minds, and that any relevant documents or staff are available to assist with any investigations.

2.4. We recognise that people feel passionately about education and may express complaints in robust terms. However, where a complainant acts in an aggressive, abusive, vexatious, or otherwise unreasonable manner we may decline to further investigate a complaint.

Step 1 – Informal discussion

3.1. Most complaints can be resolved quickly and amicably through informal discussion between parents and school or Trust staff.

3.2. Parents should contact their main point of contact at the school, for example a form tutor, head of house, or head of faculty, to express their concern. If a parent is unsure of who to contact they should contact the school reception or main office for help.

3.3. Complaints relating to the Trust should be directed to the relevant department for consideration.

3.4. Once contacted, staff should make a brief contemporaneous note of any complaint. The note may contain:

  • the name and date of birth of any relevant pupils(s)
  • the name and contact details of the complainant(s) and their relationship to the complaint
  • a brief summary of the complaint, including key times and dates and any witnesses to any specific incident(s)
  • any steps agreed to resolve the complaint

3.5. A copy of the note should be passed to the relevant principal or relevant senior member of Trust staff for reference in the event the complaint remains unresolved.

3.6. It is good practice for the member of staff to make fresh contact with the complainant after a short period to ensure that they are happy with the handling of the complaint and to discuss any further steps that may be required.

Step 2 – Formal complaint

4.1. Where an informal approach has failed to reach an agreed resolution, parents may make a formal complaint in writing to: Head of Governance, Inspiration Trust, Cecil Road, Norwich, NR1 2PL.

4.2. To enable a full and speedy investigation, the complaint letter should include:

  • the name and date of birth of any relevant pupil(s)
  • the name and contact details of the complainant(s) and their relationship to the complaint
  • a brief summary of the complaint, including key times and dates and any witnesses to any specific incident(s)
  • any steps already taken to attempt to resolve the complaint
  • any suggested steps to resolve the complaint

4.3. On receipt of a formal written complaint, the Trust will acknowledge receipt and arrange a formal investigation of the complaint by a senior member of school or Trust staff not previously involved in the complaint.

4.4. A formal written response setting out the complaint, the findings of the investigation, and any appropriate steps to resolve the complaint will be sent to the complainant by the Trust within 15 school days of the receipt of the complaint.

4.5. The response will also detail the complainant’s ability to request a panel hearing should they remain dissatisfied.

Step 3: Panel hearing

5.1. Where a complainant remains dissatisfied after a formal investigation, they may request a panel hearing of their complaint.

5.2. The request must be made in writing by the complainant within 10 school days of notification of the outcome of the formal investigation and sent to: Head of Governance, Inspiration Trust, Inspiration Trust, Cecil Road, Norwich, NR1 2PL.

5.3. The request should specify:

  • reason(s) for dissatisfaction with the outcome of the formal complaint
  • any suggested further steps to resolve the complaint

5.4. The Trust will acknowledge receipt of the request and convene a panel hearing within 20 school days. The complainant should be notified of the hearing time, date, and location at least 5 school days before the hearing.

5.5. The panel will be appointed by the Trust and consist of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint. The Trust will ensure that one panel member is independent of the management and running of the Trust.

5.6. The complainant may attend and be accompanied at the panel hearing if they wish.

5.7. The panel will consider the complaint and any evidence it considers relevant, and report its findings and recommendations. Within 10 school days of the panel hearing, a copy of those findings and recommendations will be:

  • (i) provided to the complainant and, where relevant, the person complained about; and
  • (ii) available for inspection on the school premises by the proprietor and the head teacher.

5.8. The report of the panel hearing is final and no appeal is possible on the substance of the complaint.

Complaints to the Secretary of State for Education

6.1. Parents may complain about an academy to the Secretary of State for Education. These complaints are considered on their behalf by the Education & Skills Funding Agency.

6.2. Where a complaint is made to the ESFA, they will check whether the complaint has been dealt with properly by the Trust. They will consider complaints about academies that fall into any of the following three areas:

  • where there is undue delay or the academy did not comply with its own complaints procedure when considering a complaint
  • where the academy is in breach of its funding agreement with the Secretary of State
  • where an academy has failed to comply with any other legal obligation

6.3. The ESFA will not overturn an academy’s decision about a complaint. However, if the ESFA finds find an academy did not deal with a complaint properly they will request the complaint is looked at again and procedures meet the requirements set out in the Education (Independent School Standards (England)) Regulations 2014.

6.4. If the academy’s complaints procedure does not meet the Regulations, they will ask the academy to put this right. The ESFA may seek to enforce the decision under the terms of the academy’s funding agreement on behalf of the Secretary of State, if appropriate.

Record keeping

7.1. The Trust will maintain a written record of all formal complaints and:

  • whether they are resolved following a formal procedure, or proceed to a panel hearing
  • action taken as a result of those complaints (regardless of whether they are upheld)

7.2. Correspondence, statements and records relating to formal complaints will be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under section 109 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 requests access to them.

 

Relevant legislation

Education (Independent School Standards (England)) Regulations 2014, Schedule 1, Part 7; Education and Skills Act 2008, section 109