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Complaints Policy

Whole College Policy for dealing with Complaints from Parents / Guardians Jersey College for Girls and Jersey College Preparatory School

Author: Carl Howarth
Reviewed: May 2021
Shared with Staff: May 2021
Shared with Governors: May 2021
Next Review: May 2023

Context

We welcome suggestions for improving our work in College. Be assured that, no matter what you want to tell us, our support and respect for your child and their work will not be affected in any way. Please tell us of your concern as soon as possible. It is difficult for us to investigate an incident or problem properly if it took place some time ago. We do appreciate the assistance we receive from parents in addressing any problems that arise.

We receive very few complaints. Problems sometimes arise from misunderstandings which are easily addressed. Most concerns and complaints can be sorted out quickly by speaking with your child’s teacher, tutor or Head of Key Stage. When parents and teachers treat each other with mutual respect and support, this provides a very good role model for all our children.

If, having spoken to the teacher/member of staff, you still have concerns; you should see the Vice Principal for JCG or the Head Teacher for JCP. The Vice Principal / Head Teacher, or nominated senior teacher, will investigate the problem and discuss the findings with you so that we can find a way forward together which serves the best interest of both the College and your child. In the unlikely event of the problem remaining unresolved you can put your complaint in writing and, if necessary, could subsequently refer it to the Chair of Governors.


Introduction 1

1.1 Circulation: This policy is addressed to the College Executive Team; to all members of the teaching and support staff; and to parents.

1.2 If assistance is required with making a complaint, for example because of a disability, parents should contact the Vice Principal, JCG or the Head Teacher of JCP, who will be happy to make appropriate arrangements.

1.3 Policy status: The policy has been approved by the Principal and the Governing Body of Jersey College for Girls (the College). It provides guidelines for handling complaints. The policy applies to all sections of the College. Some of the procedures can only be carried out during term time. It is drafted in accordance with Part 7 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3283) and the Government of Jersey, ‘Complaints Policy’.

1.4 Application: Separate procedures apply in the event of a child protection issue (see the College’s Safeguarding policy published on the website), or if the Principal / Head Teacher requires the suspension of a student and the parents seek a Governors' Review of that decision (a copy of the CYPES, Government of Jersey, Suspension policy is available on request).

1.5 Parent(s) / You: Includes a current parent or legal guardian of a student currently on roll at the College, and may include a parent whose daughter / son has recently left the College but only if the complaint was initially raised when the student was still on roll at the College.

1.6 Four stages: This policy describes a four-stage procedure:

  • Stage 1: informal raising of a complaint notified orally or in writing to a member of staff
  • Stage 2: a formal complaint in writing to the Vice Principal / Head Teacher
  • Stage 3: a reference to the Complaints Panel
  • Stage 4: a reference to the CYPES, Government of Jersey


Timescales

We aim to resolve any complaints in a timely manner.

Timescales for each stage are set out below in the relevant paragraphs. When we refer to working days, we mean Monday to Friday, when the College is open during term time. The dates of terms are published on the College’s website.

Parents should immediately notify the Principal / Head Teacher to take urgent action if they have a concern about their child’s safety. Any concerns should be confirmed in writing to the Principal, JCG or Head Teacher, JCP.


2. Policy aim and statement 

2.1 Aim: Our College ethos promotes open communication with parents and encourages a continuing dialogue between home and school throughout a student’s education. The aim of this policy is to ensure that a complaint is managed sympathetically, efficiently and at the appropriate level, and resolved as soon as possible. We will try to resolve every complaint in a positive way with the aim of putting right a matter which may have gone wrong and, where necessary, reviewing our systems and procedures in light of the circumstances.

2.2 Policy statement: Any issues which arise are normally dealt with informally through discussion and parents are fully involved in key decisions which affect their child’s career. We publish contact details for student support and academic staff on the College website and further details are available from the College office. We encourage parents to use these channels should an issue arise as we need to know as soon as possible if there is any cause for dissatisfaction or concern. Complaints will always be dealt with in accordance with this policy. Parents and students should never feel (or be made to feel) that a complaint will be taken amiss or will adversely affect a student’s opportunities at this College.


3 Management of complaints 

3.1 Complaints co-ordinator: The Vice Principal, JCG, and the Head Teacher, JCP, are responsible for the coordination and administration of the Complaints Procedure. If the Vice Principal, JCG, and the Head Teacher, JCP, are unavailable or are the subject of the complaint, their duties will be carried out by the Principal. If the subject of the complaint is the Principal, their duties will be carried out by the Complaints Panel as outlined in the Stage 3 procedures.

The main responsibilities of the Vice Principal, JCG, and the Head Teacher, JCP, are to:

  • be the first point of contact while the matter remains unresolved and keep records;
  • co-ordinate the complaints procedures in school;
  • arrange assistance for parents who require this, for example, because of a disability;
  • maintain an on-going training programme for all College employees in relation to complaints;
  • monitor the keeping, confidentiality and storage of records in relation to complaints;
  • report regularly to the Principal and Board of Governors with respect to complaints.


4 Stage 1: complaints and difficulties 

4.1 We expect that most complaints, where a parent seeks intervention, reconsideration or some other action to be taken, can be resolved informally. Examples might include dissatisfaction about some aspect of teaching or student support, or about allocation of privileges or responsibilities, or about a timetable clash or some other aspect of the College’s systems or equipment, or a billing error. Complaints of discrimination, harassment or victimisation are taken very seriously and may need to be dealt with formally.

4.2 Notification: If appropriate, please raise the complaint initially as follows:

4.2.1 Education issues: if the matter relates to the classroom, the curriculum or special educational needs, parents are asked to speak or write to their child’s form tutor or relevant Head of Department as appropriate. If appropriate, the matter may be referred to the Assistant Head, Curriculum for JCG or the Head Teacher, JCP;

4.2.2 Student Support: for complaints relating to matters outside the classroom, parents are asked to speak or write to their child’s form tutor or Head of Key Stage. If appropriate the matter may be referred to the Assistant Head, Progress and Welfare, JCG or Head Teacher, JCP;

4.2.3 Disciplinary matters: a problem over any disciplinary action taken or a sanction imposed should be raised first of all with the member of staff who imposed it, and, if not resolved, with the Head of Key Stage. If appropriate the matter may be referred to the Vice Principal, JCG, or the Head Teacher, JCP;

4.2.4 Financial matters: a query relating to financial matters should be raised in the first instance with the College’s Finance office. If appropriate, the matter may be referred to the College Bursar.

4.3 Acknowledgement: We will acknowledge a written notification by telephone, e-mail or letter within five working days of receipt during term time. In the holidays the acknowledgement will be made as soon as is practicable and not later than five working days beyond the start of the next term or half term. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the appropriate member of staff will arrange to either speak with the parent over the phone or invite them to a meeting, within ten working days. Following the meeting, the member of staff will contact the parent within 15 working days to see if the matter has been resolved to their satisfaction. The member of staff will send a record of this informal complaint to the Vice Principal JCG / Head Teacher JCP.

4.4 Unresolved complaints: A complaint which has not been resolved by informal means to the parent's satisfaction within 15 working days should be notified to the College in writing as a formal complaint. This will be dealt with in accordance with Stage 2 below.


5 Stage 2: formal complaint 

5.1 Notification: If a parent is dissatisfied with the response to the complaint under Stage 1 and feels the need to lodge a formal complaint, details should be set out in writing and addressed to the Vice Principal, JCG, or Head Teacher, JCP, stating explicitly the wish to invoke the formal complaints procedure and including full contact details. A formal complaint will be acknowledged by telephone, e-mail or letter within five working days during term time, as soon as is practicable in the holidays and not later than five working days beyond the start of the next term or half term, indicating the action that is being taken and the likely time scale.

5.2 Investigation: We will treat complaints in as confidential a manner as possible. Discussions of the case will be limited to the Vice Principal / Head Teacher, those that need to be consulted and a senior member of staff may be asked to act as Investigator and / or may involve one or more Governors. The Vice Principal / Head Teacher and/or Investigator[s] may request additional information from parents and will probably wish to speak to parents personally and to others who have knowledge of the circumstances. The outcome of the investigation will be reviewed by the Principal and come to a decision. The Vice Principal / Head Teacher will then notify the parents by letter of the decision and the reasons for it. Written records will be kept of all meetings and interviews held in relation to the complaint.

5.3 Outcome: The Vice Principal / Head Teacher’s aim would be to inform any complainant of the outcome of an investigation and the resolution to the complaint within 25 working days from the receipt of the complaint. Please note that any complaint received within one month of the end of term or half term is likely to take longer to resolve due to school holidays and the unavailability of personnel. In these circumstances the resolution will be communicated within 25 working days of the start of the new term or half term.


6. Stage 3: reference to the Complaints Panel 

6.1 We hope that any parent will judge that their complaint has been fully and fairly considered. If a parent is not satisfied, they may request that their complaint be referred to the Complaints Panel. A Complaints Panel (Panel) hearing is a review of the decision taken by the Principal at Stage 2. The Panel is not able to consider any new areas of complaint which have not been previously raised as part of the complaints procedure.

6.2 The role of the Panel: The Panel's task is to establish the facts surrounding the complaints that have been made by considering:

  • the documents provided by both parties and
  • any representations made by the parents and the Principal / Head Teacher.

6.3 After establishing the facts, the Panel will consider whether to uphold the complaint, in whole or in part, or dismiss the complaint. They will make these decisions on the balance of probabilities.

6.4 It is not within the powers of the Panel to make any financial award, nor to impose sanctions on staff, students, or parents. The Panel may make recommendations on these or any other issues to the Principal / Head Teacher or to the full Governing body as appropriate.

6.5 Composition: We will constitute a Complaints Panel of at least three people who were not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint comprising College Governor members. If appropriate we may involve an independent member who is independent of the governance, management and running of the College.

6.6 Notification: To request a hearing before the Complaints Panel parents should write to the Clerk to the Governors within five working days of receipt of the Principal / Head Teacher’s decision. Requests will usually only be considered if the procedures for an informal (Stage 1) and then a formal complaint (Stage 2) have been completed. A copy of all relevant documents and the parents’ full contact details should accompany the letter to the Clerk. The letter should also state all the grounds of the complaint and should include a list of the documents which the parents believe to be in the College’s possession and that they wish the Panel to see. The Clerk will acknowledge the request in writing within five working days. Requests received during half terms or school holidays will be responded to as soon as practicable and in any case within five working days of the start of the new term or half term. If assistance is required, for example, because of a disability, the Clerk will be happy to make appropriate arrangements.

6.7 Convening the Panel: The Clerk to the Governors will convene the Complaints Panel as soon as reasonably practicable and the Panel hearing will take place within fifteen working days of the receipt of the request. However, parents should note that the Panel will not normally sit during half terms or school holidays.

6.8 Notice of hearing: As soon as reasonably practical and in any event, at least seven working days before the hearing, the Clerk will send the parents written notification of the date, time and place of the hearing, together with brief details of the Panel members who will be present.

6.9 Attendance: Parents will be invited to attend the hearing and may be accompanied by one other person such as a relative or friend. The hearing is not legal proceedings and so legal representation is not necessary. Parents should inform the Clerk to the Governors at least five working days prior to the hearing if this person is legally qualified and should note that the Panel will wish to speak to the parents directly and this person will not be permitted to act as an advocate. Copies of additional documents that parents wish the Panel to consider should be sent to the Clerk at least five working days prior to the hearing. The Clerk will circulate a copy of the bundle of documents to be considered by the Complaints Panel to all parties at least three days prior to the hearing.

6.10 Chair: The hearing will be chaired by one member of the Panel (chosen by themselves) and will be conducted in an informal manner.

6.11 Hearing: All statements made at the hearing will be unsworn. All present will be entitled, should they wish to do so, to write their own notes for reference purposes. The Clerk will be asked to take a minute of the proceedings.

6.12 Evidence: The Chair of the Panel will conduct the hearing in such a way as to ensure that all those present have the opportunity of asking questions and making comments in an appropriate manner. The hearing is not a legal proceeding and the Panel shall be under no obligation to hear oral evidence from witnesses but may do so and / or may take written statements into account.

6.13 Conduct: All those attending the hearing are expected to show courtesy, restraint and good manners or, after due warning, the hearing may be adjourned or terminated at the discretion of the Chair. If terminated, the original decision will stand. Any person who is dissatisfied with any aspect of the way the hearing is conducted must say so before the proceedings go any further and his / her comment will be minuted.

6.14 Adjournment: The Chair may, at his / her discretion, adjourn the hearing for further investigation of any relevant issue. This may include an adjournment to take legal advice.

6.15 Decision: After due consideration of the matters discussed at the hearing, the Panel shall reach a decision unless there is an agreed position. The Panel's decision, findings and any recommendations shall be confirmed in writing to the complainant and where relevant the person complained about within seven working days of the hearing. The decisions, findings and any recommendations will be made available for inspection on the College premises by the Governing Body and the Principal. Reasons for the decision will be given. The decision may include recommendations that will be sent to the parents, the Chairman of the Governing Body, the Principal and, where relevant, any person about whom the complaint has been made.

6.16 Private proceeding: A hearing before the Complaints Panel is a private proceeding. No notes or other records or oral statements about any matter discussed in or arising from the proceeding shall be made available directly or indirectly to the press or other media.

6.17 The completion of Stage 3 represents the conclusion of the College's complaints procedure.


7. Stage 4: Beyond the Governing Body

7.1 Complaints can be taken to CYPES on the grounds that a Governing Body is acting or proposing to act unreasonably or has failed to discharge its duties.

 

8. Record keeping 

8.1 A written record will be kept of all informal and formal complaints, of the action taken and of whether they are resolved at stage 2 or proceed to a panel hearing.

8.2 The number of complaints registered under the Stage 2 Formal complaint procedure during the preceding school year are published in the Annual Governors’ Report.

8.3 Correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints will be kept confidential except where the States of Jersey or a body conducting an inspection requests access to them.

8.4 In accordance with data protection principles, details of individual complaints will be kept only for as long as is considered to be reasonably necessary in the circumstances.


Availability of this policy 

A copy of this policy may be downloaded from our website (jcg.sch.je) or is available on request from the College office, Jersey College for Girls, Mont Millais, St. Saviour, Jersey, JE2 7YB (tel: 01534 516200). 

This policy can be made available in large print or other accessible format if required.