Policy Reviewed and Updated
Next Review Due
Embsay Primary School is dedicated to providing the best possible education and support for all its pupils. This means having a clear, fair, and efficient procedure for dealing with any complaints to or against the school, so that any issues that arise can be dealt with as swiftly and effectively as possible.
Unless complaints are dealt with under separate statutory procedures (such as appeals relating to exclusions or admissions), the school will use this complaints policy. These include:
- pupil admissions
- pupil exclusions
- statutory assessments of special educational needs and education health and care plans
- appeals relating to internal assessment decisions for external qualifications
- disciplinary issues relating to members of staff
- matters likely to require a child protection investigation
- national curriculum content
- complaints about services provided by other providers who may use school premises or facilities
- school re-organisation proposals
- staff grievances
- staff conduct issues
See section (4) for more details
Each of these follows its own process of complaints and appeals which are outlined in their relevant policies.
If there is an allegation or concern about physical or sexual misconduct towards a child, or there is a belief that a child may be at risk of serious harm, the school may immediately refer the case to child protection and welfare services. For more information on our school’s provision for protecting our pupils, read our child protection and safeguarding policies.
2. Who can make a complaint?
This complaints policy is not limited to parents or carers of children that are registered at the school. Any person, including members of the public, may make a complaint to Embsay CofE (VC) Primary School about any provision of facilities or services that the school provides.
3. The difference between a concern and a complaint
A concern may be defined as ‘an expression of worry or doubt over an issue considered to be important for which reassurances are sought’.
A complaint may be defined as ‘an expression of dissatisfaction however made, about actions taken or a lack of action’.
4. Scope of this Complaints Policy
This policy covers all complaints about any provision of community facilities or services by Embsay CofE (VC) Primary School, other than complaints that are dealt with under other statutory procedures, including those listed below.
Who to contact
Admissions to schools
Statutory assessments of Special Educational Needs
School re-organisation proposals
Concerns about admissions, statutory assessments of Special Educational Needs, or school re-organisation proposals should be raised with North Yorkshire LA.
Matters likely to require a Child Protection Investigation
Complaints about child protection matters are handled under our child protection and safeguarding policy and in accordance with relevant statutory guidance.
If you have serious concerns, you may wish to contact the local authority designated officer (LADO) who has local responsibility for safeguarding or the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). Tel: 01609 532477
Exclusion of children from school*
Further information about raising concerns about exclusion can be found at: www.gov.uk/school-discipline-exclusions/exclusions.
*complaints about the application of the behaviour policy can be made through the school’s complaints procedure.
We have an internal whistleblowing procedure for all our employees, including temporary staff and contractors.
The Secretary of State for Education is the prescribed person for matters relating to education for whistleblowers in education who do not want to raise matters direct with their employer. Referrals can be made at: www.education.gov.uk/contactus.
Volunteer staff who have concerns about our school should complain through the school’s complaints policy. You may also be able to complain direct to the LA or the Department for Education (see link above), depending on the substance of your complaint.
Complaints from staff will be dealt with under the school’s internal grievance procedures.
Complaints about staff will be dealt with under the school’s internal disciplinary procedures, if appropriate.
Complainants will not be informed of any disciplinary action taken against a staff member as a result of a complaint. However, the complainant will be notified that the matter is being addressed.
Complaints about services provided by other providers who may use school premises or facilities
Providers should have their own complaints procedure to deal with complaints about service. Please contact them direct.
National Curriculum - content
Please contact the Department for Education at:
If other bodies are investigating aspects of the complaint, for example the police, local authority (LA) safeguarding teams or Tribunals, this may impact on our ability to adhere to the timescales within this policy or result in the procedure being suspended until those public bodies have completed their investigations.
If a complainant commences legal action against Embsay CofE (VC) Primary School in relation to their complaint, we will consider whether to suspend the complaints procedure in relation to their complaint until those legal proceedings have concluded.
5. Resolving complaints
At each stage in the policy, Embsay Primary School wants to resolve the complaint. If appropriate, we will acknowledge that the complaint is upheld in whole or in part. In addition, we may offer one or more of the following:
- an explanation
- an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better
- an assurance that we will try to ensure the event complained of will not recur
- an explanation of the steps that have been or will be taken to help ensure that it will not happen again and an indication of the timescales within which any changes will be made
- an undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint
- an apology.
6. Withdrawal of a Complaint
If a complainant wants to withdraw their complaint, we will ask them to confirm this in writing.
7. Anonymous complaints
We will not normally investigate anonymous complaints. However, the headteacher or Chair of Governors, if appropriate, will determine whether the complaint warrants an investigation.
8. Time scales
Concerns or complaints should be brought to the school’s attention as soon as possible to enable a proper investigation to take place. 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 latest of these incidents) will not be considered unless the headteacher or chair of governors decides that there are exceptional circumstances relevant to the delay in bringing the complaint to the attention of the school.
9. Complaints received outside of term time
We will consider complaints made outside of term time to have been received on the first school day after the holiday period.
10. Social Media
Information about the complaint during or after the complaint process should not be posted on social media, this is to protect pupils, staff, governors, and anyone else involved in the complaint or complaint process. The school reserve the right to ask parties involved to remove any such posts from social media accounts.
11. How to raise a concern or make a complaint
A complaint can be made in person, in writing or by telephone. They may also be made by a third party acting on behalf on a complainant, as long as they have appropriate consent to do so.
If you have a concern, it should be raised with either the class teacher or headteacher. If the issue remains unresolved, the next step is to make a formal complaint.
If your complaint is about a member of staff, you should first raise this with the headteacher either in person or in writing, and a meeting can be arranged with the headteacher to discuss the issue at hand.
If your complaint is about the headteacher, you should raise your concern in writing with the chair of governors via the school office. Please address them to the Chair of Governors and mark them as Private and Confidential.
If your complaint is about the Chair of Governors, any individual governor, or the whole governing body, you should raise your concern in writing with the clerk to the governing body via the school office. Please address them to Paul Baxter and mark them as Private and Confidential
Complainants should not approach individual governors to raise concerns or complaints. They have no power to act on an individual basis and it may also prevent them from considering complaints at Stage 2 of the policy.
For ease of use, a template complaint form is included at the end of this policy. If you require help in completing the form, please contact the school office. You can also ask third party organisations like the Citizens Advice to help you.
In accordance with equality law, we will consider making reasonable adjustments if required, to enable complainants to access and complete this complaints policy. For instance, providing information in alternative formats, assisting complainants in raising a formal complaint or holding meetings in accessible locations.
Informal Concern and Complaints Process
If you have a concern that you would like to take up with the school you should initially inform a member of staff either in person, over the telephone or in writing. You may then be invited to an informal meeting with the member of staff most appropriate for dealing with your concern.
You may wish to approach your child’s teacher first as they will be best placed to help you either directly or by figuring out which other member of staff you should be speaking to.
We 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 in everyone’s interest that concerns and complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. Many issues can be resolved informally, without the need to use the formal stages of the complaints policy. Embsay CofE (VC) Primary School takes concerns seriously and will make every effort to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
If you have difficulty discussing a concern with a particular member of staff, we will respect your views. In these cases, the Headteacher may refer you to another staff member. Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels unable to deal with a concern, the Headteacher will refer you to another staff member. The member of staff may be more senior but does not have to be. The ability to consider the concern objectively and impartially is more important.
Once a concern has been raised you may be invited to attend an informal meeting with a member of staff or the headteacher/chair of governors to discuss your concerns.
You are welcome to bring a friend, partner or, in the case of a pupil who has raised a concern, a parent to this meeting. It may be appropriate for a pupil to attend the meeting if their parent has raised a concern, depending on the nature of the issue.
Staff have a responsibility to ensure that you understand any future points of action that have been agreed upon in this meeting and should make a record of what has been discussed, as well as any outcomes and a plan of action, if one has been agreed.
All staff will do their best to ensure that your concerns are dealt with appropriately and efficiently but if you cannot come to an agreement, or are dissatisfied with the outcome of your meeting, you can make a formal complaint in writing to the headteacher. In this case, The Headteacher will attempt to resolve the issue internally, through the stages outlined within this complaints policy.
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 would be resolved within 10 days.
Formal Complaints Process
If you do not feel that your concern has been dealt with as you would like, are unhappy with the outcome of your informal meeting or feel that the issue is serious enough that it warrants it, you can make a formal complaint in writing to the headteacher. If your complaint is about the headteacher you should contact the Chair of Governors. Your written complaint should provide enough detail of the issues to allow the headteacher to investigate and respond to the complaint. You should also set out what you feel would resolve the complaint.
The headteacher should acknowledge your complaint in writing within 5 working days. They may already be aware of the situation. Within this response, the headteacher will seek to clarify the nature of the complaint, ask what remains unresolved and what outcome the complainant would like to see.
Note: The headteacher may delegate the investigation to another member of the school’s senior leadership team but not the decision to be taken.
The Headteacher will outline the procedure and a target date for providing a written response to the complaint, which will normally be within 10 working days of receipt. If the headteacher is unable to meet this deadline, they will provide the complainant with an update and revised response date.
The headteacher may call you in for a meeting to discuss the issue outcome, possible solutions, or to explain what has or will happen as a result of your complaint. The headteacher will keep a record of all interactions with you and other staff, meetings and decisions made in reference to your complaint.
During the investigation, the headteacher (or investigator) will:
- if necessary, interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish
- keep a written record of any meetings/interviews in relation to their investigation.
If the complaint is against a member of staff, the headteacher will talk to that employee. If it is an allegation of abuse, a formal investigation may be instigated by the school or external child welfare authorities to whom the school reports. Please refer to our allegations of abuse against staff policy for an outline of this procedure.
The headteacher will respond to you in writing outlining their response to your concern, detail any actions taken to investigate the complaint as well as any action that has or will be taken to resolve the complaint. If the headteacher decided not to take any further action on the issue, they will explain what they have decided, how they have reached this decision, and will outline your right to take the matter further and the steps to be taken.
If the complaint is about the headteacher, or a member of the governing body (including the Chair or Vice-Chair), a suitably skilled governor (appointed by the Chair of Governors) will be assigned to complete the investigation.
If the complaint is:
- jointly about the Chair and Vice Chair or
- the entire governing body or
- the majority of the governing body
then an independent investigator will be appointed by the governing body. At the conclusion of their investigation, the independent investigator will provide a formal written response.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome at Stage 1 and wishes to take the matter further, they can escalate the complaint to Stage 2 – a meeting with members of the governing body’s complaints committee. The committee will be formed of three impartial governors which may, where required, be selected from another school’s Governing body. This is the final stage of the complaints procedure.
A request to escalate to Stage 2 must be made to the Clerk, via the school office, within 10 school days of receipt of the Stage 1 response.
The Clerk will record the date the complaint is received and acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing (either by letter or email) within 5 school days.
Requests received outside of this time frame will only be considered if exceptional circumstances apply.
The committee will decide whether to deal with the complaint by inviting parties to a meeting or through written representations, but in making their decision they will be sensitive to the complainant’s needs.
If the complainant is invited to attend the meeting, they may bring someone along to provide support however this person should refrain from commenting during the meeting; This can be a relative or friend but you must notify the clerk in advance if you attend to bring anyone. Generally, we do not encourage either party to bring legal representatives to the committee meeting. However, there may be occasions when legal representation is appropriate.
The Clerk will write to the complainant to inform them of the date of the meeting. They will aim to convene a meeting within 20 school days of receipt of the Stage 2 request. If this is not possible, the Clerk will provide an anticipated date and keep the complainant informed.
If the complainant rejects the offer of three proposed dates, without good reason, the Clerk will decide when to hold the meeting. It will then proceed in the complainant’s absence on the basis of written submissions from both parties.
The complaints committee will consist of at least three impartial governors from Cononley Primary School. Governors on the panel will have no prior involvement or knowledge of the complaint. Prior to the meeting, they will decide amongst themselves who will act as the Chair of the Complaints Committee.
Note: Complaints about staff conduct will not generally be handled under this complaints policy. Complainants will be advised that any staff conduct complaints will be considered under staff disciplinary procedures, if appropriate, but outcomes will not be shared with them.
Representatives from the media are not permitted to attend.
At least 10 school days before the meeting, the Clerk will:
- confirm and notify the complainant of the date, time and venue of the meeting, ensuring that, if the complainant is invited, the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible
- generate a complaint information pack comprising of:
- Letter of the complaint(s)
- Official response at stage one
- Evidence from the school
- Evidence from Complainant
- Correspondence linked to the complaint
- request copies of any further written material to be submitted to the committee at least 5 school days before the meeting.
The same pack is given to the complainant, the school and the panel. Names and information relating to other pupils will be redacted. The pack will be provided to all parties at least 2 school days before the date of the meeting. The committee will not normally accept, as evidence, recordings of conversations that were obtained covertly and without the informed consent of all parties being recorded.
The committee will also 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 policy.
The committee can:
- uphold the complaint in whole or in part
- dismiss the complaint in whole or in part.
If the complaint is upheld in whole or in part, the committee will:
- decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint
- where appropriate, recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to prevent similar issues in the future.
The Chair of the Committee will provide the complainant and Embsay School with a full explanation of their decision and the reason(s) for it, in writing, within 5 school days.
The letter to the complainant will include details of how to contact the Department for Education if they are dissatisfied with the way their complaint has been handled by Embsay School.
If the complaint is:
- jointly about the Chair and Vice Chair or
- the entire governing body or
- the majority of the governing body
the response will detail any actions taken to investigate the complaint and provide a full explanation of the decision made and the reason(s) for it. Where appropriate, it will include details of actions Embsay School will take to resolve the complaint.
The response will also advise the complainant of how to escalate their complaint should they remain dissatisfied.
The Stage 2 Review Panel Meeting
The stage 2 meeting will be held in private. Electronic recordings of meetings or conversations are not normally permitted unless a complainant’s own disability or special needs require it. Prior knowledge and consent of all parties attending must be sought before meetings or conversations take place. Consent will be recorded in any minutes taken.
The panel, school and complainants will have separate breakout spaces to use before the panel and during any breaks. Both groups will be invited into the room with the panel together.
The Review Panel will determine the procedure to be followed to ensure that it is best placed to deal with the issues arising from the complaint. The procedure for an appeal is usually as follows:
- The complainant and headteacher will enter the hearing together.
- The Chair will conduct introductions, confirm the role of attendees, the aim of the meeting and outline the process
- Confirmation that everyone has the information pack
- The complainant will explain the complaint.
- The panel will question the complainant.
- The school will explain the school’s actions.
- The panel will question the school.
- The complainant will sum up their complaint.
- The school will sum up the school’s actions.
- The complainants and school will adjourn leaving the board to consider the complaint and all the evidence presented.
- The clerk will stay to assist the board with its decision making.
- The complainant and school will be invited back into the session
- Chair will present back the decision
The Board may decide to delay the decision of more information / statement /evidence is felt to be required however once a decision is reached the panel’s decision is final.
Note: There may be some situations where it is best to amend the above procedure so that the panel can hear from the school and complainant separately.
Department for Education Review Process
If the complainant believes the school did not handle their complaint in accordance with the published complaints policy or they acted unlawfully or unreasonably in the exercise of their duties under education law, they can contact the Department for Education after they have completed Stage 2.
The Department for Education will not normally reinvestigate the substance of complaints or overturn any decisions made by Embsay School. They will consider whether Embsay School has adhered to education legislation and any statutory policies connected with the complaint.
The complainant can refer their complaint to the Department for Education online at: www.education.gov.uk/contactus, by telephone on: 0370 000 2288 or by writing to:
Department for Education
12. Vexatious/Persistent Complaints
Whilst it is hoped that this document will reduce any dissatisfaction with the school, it is acknowledged that there may be rare occasions where a complainant continues to be dissatisfied with the school and the outcomes achieved under the complaints procedure.
The same complaint cannot be brought to the school again except where there is a new incident that needs investigated. This will be treated as a separate complaint which will need to be given in writing to trigger the stage 1 process. The complainant should not have other family members or friends bring the same complaint to the school once a decision has been made.
Where a complainant attempts to re-open an issue which has already been dealt with under the complaints procedure, the chair of governors will contact them to inform them that the matter has already been dealt with and that either that stage of the policy has been exhausted or that the complaints procedure has been exhausted and the matter is considered closed. Where further correspondence is received on the same matter, this may be considered vexatious and the school will be under no obligation to respond to that correspondence.
If the complainant subsequently contacts the school again about the same issue, the school can choose not to respond. The normal circumstance in which the school will not respond is if:
- the school has taken every reasonable step to address the complainant’s needs, and the school’s position has been clearly set out in writing together with the complainant’s options
- the complainant is contacting the school repeatedly but making substantially the same points each time
- the complainant refuses to follow the complaints procedures
- the school reasonably believes the aim of the contact is to cause disruption or inconvenience
- that the complainant acts or communicates in an inappropriate way towards school staff.
Once the school has decided that it is appropriate to stop responding, the complainant will be informed in writing.
The school will ensure when making this decision that complainants making any new complaint are heard, and that the school acts reasonably.
13. Roles and Responsibilities
The complainant will receive a more effective response to the complaint if they:
- explain the complaint in full as early as possible
- co-operate with the school in seeking a solution to the complaint
- respond promptly to requests for information or meetings or in agreeing the details of the complaint
- ask for assistance as needed
- treat all those involved in the complaint with respect
- refrain from publicising the details of their complaint on social media and respect confidentiality.
The investigator’s role is to establish the facts relevant to the complaint by:
- providing a comprehensive, open, transparent and fair consideration of the complaint through:
- sensitive and thorough interviewing of the complainant to establish what has happened and who has been involved
- interviewing staff and children/young people and other people relevant to the complaint
- consideration of records and other relevant information
- analysing information
- liaising with the complainant and the complaints co-ordinator as appropriate to clarify what the complainant feels would put things right.
The investigator should:
- conduct interviews with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning
- keep notes of interviews or arrange for an independent note taker to record minutes of the meeting
- ensure that any papers produced during the investigation are kept securely pending any appeal
- be mindful of the timescales to respond
- prepare a comprehensive report for the headteacher or complaints committee that sets out the facts, identifies solutions and recommends courses of action to resolve problems.
The headteacher or complaints committee will then determine whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint and communicate that decision to the complainant, providing the appropriate escalation details.
(this could be the headteacher / designated complaints governor or other staff member providing administrative support)
The complaints co-ordinator should:
- ensure that the complainant is fully updated at each stage of the procedure
- liaise with staff members, headteacher, Chair of Governors, Clerk and LAs (if appropriate) to ensure the smooth running of the complaints policy
- be aware of issues regarding:
- sharing third party information
- additional support. This may be needed by complainants when making a complaint including interpretation support or where the complainant is a child or young person
- keep records.
Clerk to the Governing Body
The Clerk is the contact point for the complainant and the committee and should:
- ensure that all people involved in the complaint policy are aware of their legal rights and duties, including any under legislation relating to school complaints, education law, the Equality Act 2010, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
- set the date, time and venue of the meeting, ensuring that the dates are convenient to all parties (if they are invited to attend) and that the venue and proceedings are accessible
- collate any written material relevant to the complaint (for example; stage 1 paperwork, school and complainant submissions) and send it to the parties in advance of the meeting within an agreed timescale
- record the proceedings
- circulate the minutes of the meeting
- notify all parties of the committee’s decision.
The committee’s chair, who is nominated in advance of the complaint meeting, should ensure that:
- both parties are asked (via the Clerk) to provide any additional information relating to the complaint by a specified date in advance of the meeting
- the meeting is conducted in an informal manner, is not adversarial, and that, if all parties are invited to attend, everyone is treated with respect and courtesy
- complainants who may not be used to speaking at such a meeting are put at ease. This is particularly important if the complainant is a child/young person
- the remit of the committee is explained to the complainant
- written material is seen by everyone in attendance, provided it does not breach confidentiality or any individual’s rights to privacy under the DPA 2018 or GDPR.
If a new issue arises it would be useful to give everyone the opportunity to consider and comment upon it; this may require a short adjournment of the meeting
- both the complainant and the school are given the opportunity to make their case and seek clarity, either through written submissions ahead of the meeting or verbally in the meeting itself
- the issues are addressed
- key findings of fact are made
- the committee is open-minded and acts independently
- no member of the committee has an external interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the policy.
- the meeting is minuted
- they liaise with the Clerk (and complaints co-ordinator, if the school has one).
Committee members should be aware that:
- the meeting must be independent and impartial, and should be seen to be so
No governor may sit on the committee if they:
- have had a prior involvement in the complaint
- have had a prior involvement in the circumstances surrounding it.
- Have a personal relationship with the complainant
- Members must have fully read the documentation before the meeting
- Members must not speak to any other governors, members of staff or the complainants before the meeting or before a decision is made
- the aim of the meeting should be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant
It is recognised that the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the meeting does not find in their favour. It may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations.
- It should be recognised that many complainants will feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting.
- It should be recognised that Parents/carers often feel emotional when discussing an issue that affects their child.
- extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child/young person and present during all or part of the meeting
Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings should ensure that the child/young person does not feel intimidated.
The committee should respect the views of the child/young person and give them equal consideration to those of adults.
If the child/young person is the complainant, the committee should ask in advance if any support is needed to help them present their complaint. Where the child/young person’s parent is the complainant, the committee should give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the meeting, if any, the child/young person needs to attend.
However, the parent should be advised that agreement might not always be possible if the parent wishes the child/young person to attend a part of the meeting that the committee considers is not in the child/young person’s best interests.
- the welfare of the child/young person is paramount.
Appendix 1 - Complaint Form
Please complete and return to the headteacher who will acknowledge receipt and explain what action will be taken.
Pupil’s name (if relevant):
Your relationship to the pupil (if relevant):
Day time telephone number:
Evening telephone number:
Please give details of your complaint, including whether you have spoken to anybody at the school about it.
What actions do you feel might resolve the problem at this stage?
Are you attaching any paperwork? If so, please give details.
Date acknowledgement sent:
Complaint referred to:
Appendix 2 – Complaint Process Diagram