All maintained schools are required to have regard to the ‘best practice complaints guidance’ published by the Department for Education in March 2019. The key features of the new guidance are:
a new model policy for addressing serial and unreasonable complaints;
a reduction in the number of formal stages in a complaints procedure to two: an investigation by the headteacher (or by the chair of governors where the complaint is about the headteacher), and then a hearing by the governors’ complaints panel;
explicit advice that complainants should not be accompanied at hearings by solicitors, and that governors do not need to give permission for proceedings to be recorded;
explicit advice that, where governors from a school have too much knowledge of a complaint to give it a fair hearing, ‘suitably skilled and/or experienced’ governors from another school can be appointed to the complaints panel.
The local authority’s model complaints procedure has been updated to reflect the changes and this is recommended for adoption by all maintained schools. It is a statutory requirement that the procedure is then made available on-line, on the school’s own website if it has one. Schools should make the procedure as easily accessible as possible and must publicise the fact that it has been updated.
It is essential that each school adds its own name and logo, along with the date of adoption by the governing body, to the procedure prior to uploading it to the website.
Academies may wish to use the new model procedure and / or the DfE guidance to review their own procedures. They are reminded of the additional statutory requirement for academies that where there is a panel hearing in relation to a complaint one panel member must be independent of the management and running of the academy.
Sources of Further Information