Complaints Policy

Complaints Procedure Policy


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JUNE 2018

Next Review Date: June 2019






Chancery Education Trust and the academies/schools within the Trust are committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially, and to resolve a complaint at the earliest possible stage. All staff and Trustees are aware of their responsibility when dealing with a complaint and will follow the guidelines outlined in this policy. Complaints are treated with a high degree of confidentiality and the academies/schools within the Trust would expect the complainant to do likewise. Respect and support for the child shall not be affected in anyway.

Under Part 7, Schedule 1 of the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, the academy/school is required to have in place a procedure to deal with complaints relating to it and to any community facilities or service that it provides.  

This procedure is made accessible to the public on the academy/school websites

This procedure does not apply to complaints about the following, as these are dealt with under separate procedures:

  • Admissions & Exclusions

  • Curriculum

  • SEN and Disabilities

  • Allegations of bullying by pupils

  • Matters likely to require a Child Protection investigation

  • Academy/school re-organisation proposals

  • Whistleblowing

  • Complaints about services provided by other providers who may use academy/school premises or facilities

Equally, complaints by employees of the academy/school are usually dealt with via the Staff Grievance procedure.

It is the academy/school ’s intention that this Complaints Procedure will:

  • Encourage resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible

  • Be simple to understand and use

  • Be impartial

  • Be non-adversarial

  • Allow swift handling with established time-limits for action and keeping people informed of the progress

  • Ensure a full and fair investigation by an independent person where necessary

  • Respect people’s desire for confidentiality

  • Address all the points at issue and provide an effective response and appropriate redress, where necessary

  • Provide information to the academy/school ’s senior management team so that services can be improved

The Trust’s Complaints Co-Ordinator is Barbara Rutherford.


Changes of Personnel

Complaints made against the Chairman of the Trust Board or an individual trustee of the academy/school should be made in writing to the Clerk to the Governing Board.

If the subject of the complaint is the Principal/Headteacher or CEO, then the matter will be dealt with by the Chairman of the Trust Board. The Complaint Form should be handed to the Chairman of the Trust Board in the first instance. A single governor may then handle stage 2.

The academy/school may also, in appropriate circumstances, adjust or modify this procedure where the particular circumstances of the complaint warrant it.

Recording Complaints

Complaints should be made using the complaint form at Annex 1 or clearly set out in writing; however, the academy/school will allow alternative methods of contact where a complainant uses a different communication preference due to disability or a learning difficulty.

The academy/school will maintain a written record of the progress of any formal complaint and the final outcome.

This written record will include any formal documentation but may also include informal notes of conversations and records of meetings. Where a concern is raised (and resolved) verbally, members of staff must keep a record of the concern and the steps taken to resolving it. This may be beneficial to the academy/school should the complaint escalate to Stage 2 or Stage 3.

The Trust’s Complaints Co-ordinator will ensure that all records are stored confidentially in a central place within the Trust Administrator’s office. As detailed above, brief notes of meetings and telephone calls will be kept and a copy of any written response added to the file.

Exclusions and Exceptional Circumstances

An anonymous complaint will only be investigated in very limited and exceptional circumstances.

A complaint relating to matters more than 3 months in the past will normally only be accepted and investigated in exceptional circumstances.

In such cases, the academy/school may either involve appropriate external agencies or conduct its own internal review to test whether there is any corroborative evidence, which might trigger a formal investigation.

Unreasonable Conduct by a Complainant

The academy/school is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially, and to providing a high quality service to those who complain. We will not normally limit the contact complainants have with the academy/school. However we do not expect our staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and will take action to protect staff from that behaviour, including that which is abusive, offensive or threatening.

Complainants should limit the number of communications with the academy/school while a complaint is being progressed. It is not helpful if repeated correspondence is sent (either by letter, phone, email or text) as it could delay the outcome being reached.

Complainants (and/or anyone acting on their behalf) may be deemed by the Principal/Headteacher, and /or the Chairman of the Trust Board to be unreasonable, if they have behaved in any of the following ways (this list is not exhaustive):

  • The complainant makes such frequent contact with the academy/school that objective consideration of a “live” complaint is hindered

  • The complainant makes a string of further complaints about a “live” investigation or changes aspect of the complaint, during the investigation

  • The complainant exhausts all stages of the academy/school ’s complaints procedure but continues to pursue the same matter

  • The complainant seeks an unrealistic outcome and persists in doing so despite being advised that this is the case.

  • The complainant’s communications are:

  • Malicious, abusive or aggressive

  • Use threats, intimidation or violence

  • Use offensive, abusive or discriminatory language

  • Known by them to be false and/or contain falsified information

  • Publish unacceptable information in a variety of media such as in social media websites and newspapers

  • The complainant makes insulting personal comments about, or threats towards, staff

  • The complainant makes unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and seek to have them replaced

  • The complainant refuses to articulate their complaint or specify their grounds of a complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance

  • The complainant refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process while still wishing their complaint to be resolved

  • The complainant makes excessive demands on school time by frequent, lengthy, complicated and stressful contact with staff regarding the complaint in person, in writing, by email, by telephone or via social media or messaging medium such as WhatsApp while the complaint is being dealt with

In these examples a “contact” may be in person, in writing, or by telephone or SMS text.

Whenever possible, the Principal/Headteacher or Chairman of the Trust Board will discuss any concerns with the complainant informally before applying an “unreasonable” marking to their communications.

Where a complainant continues to behave in an unacceptable fashion the Principal/Headteacher or Chairman of the Trust Board will write to the complainant explaining that their behaviour is unreasonable and asking them to change it. The academy/school may decide to deal with such complaints in one or more of the following ways, for example:

  1. Try to agree with the complainant a code of behaviour for the parties involved if the academy/school is to continue processing the complaint

  2. To require contact to take place with a named officer only

  3. To restrict telephone calls to specified days and times

  4. To restrict contact with the complainant to one form of contact only

  5. To limit the number of times contact can be made per term

If this behaviour continues then the Chairman of the Trust Board or Principal/Headteacher may authorise staff to terminate contact with the complainant (except in matters directly related to the education and welfare of their child) and they may discontinue any further investigation being carried out. The complainant will already have been given a clear statement of the academy/school ’s position and have taken all reasonable steps to address the complainant’s needs. Any further written contact from the complainant will be read and placed on file. Telephone calls relating to the complaint will be terminated and logged on the record. The academy/school should usually review this position after 6 months.

Barring from the Academy/School Premises

If a parent’s behaviour is a cause for concern, the academy/school can ask them to leave the premises. In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, the police may be informed.

The academy/school can notify a parent, in writing, that their implied licence to be on the academy/school premises has been temporarily revoked; however, the parent will be able to formally express their views on the decision to bar, in writing.

The decision to bar will be reviewed, taking into account any representations made by the parent, and will either be confirmed or lifted. If the decision to bar is confirmed, the parent will be notified in writing, explaining how long the bar will be in place.


Stages of the Procedure

Stage One (Informal): Complaint Heard by Staff Member

Where an individual has a concern regarding a member of staff, it should in most cases be raised with that member of staff directly. This may be done by letter, telephone or in person by appointment. This should generally enable a concern to be resolved at the earliest possible stage and avoid any need for it to escalate into a formal complaint. Complaints relating to safeguarding issues must be directed to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or the Deputy DSL (DDSL) in their absence.

Members of staff dealing with such concerns should keep a record of the concern and the steps taken to deal with it. This is particularly important where the concern is raised (and resolved) verbally. All supporting documentation must be passed to the Trust’s Complaints Co-ordinator to retain centrally.

If an acceptable resolution is not reached, the member of staff should direct the individual to this procedure.

The academy/school does recognise that there may be circumstances in which:-

  • It would be difficult for a particular complainant to discuss a complaint with a particular member of staff; or

  • The member of staff directly involved feels too compromised to deal with the complaint.

In these cases, the complaint should be directed to the Trust’s Complaints Coordinator in the first instance (or, in the case of a complaint concerning the Principal/Headteacher or CEO, to the Chairman of the Trust Board) for informal resolution.

The Complaints Coordinator will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and record the complaint on the Complaints Audit log.

The Complaints Coordinator will escalate the complaint to the member of staff they see fit, which would normally be the Head of Year in the first instance.

The member of staff will communicate with the complainant to resolve the complaint at the informal stage usually within 7 school working days of receiving the complaint

The member of staff will ensure that the Complaints Coordinator is kept informed and handed all correspondence to retain centrally.

The Complaints Coordinator will record any actions and outcomes to the Complaint Audit log.

If the complaint is not resolved by the Head of Year, the Complaints Coordinator will escalate it to the Principal to address.

The Complaints Coordinator will escalate the complaint to Principal/Headteacher providing all supporting documentation to assist in the investigation.

The Principal/Headteacher will acknowledge receipt of the complaint.

The Principal/Headteacher may offer to meet with the complainant to discuss the matter; this will normally be within 7 school working days of them receiving the complaint.

The complainant will be given an estimate of the time that is likely to be required to complete any necessary investigation.

The Principal/Headteacher will write to the complainant with the outcome of the investigation.

The Principal/Headteacher will ensure the Complaints Coordinator is kept informed and hand all correspondence for them to retain centrally in the complainants file.

The Complaints Coordinator will record any actions and outcomes to the Complaint Audit log.

Where a complaint is received, which does not appear to have explored this stage of the procedure (such as where the first approach is made to a Chairman of the Trust Board) and which does not indicate that there is good reason (as indicated above) why this has not been done, the usual next step would be to refer the complainant to the appropriate person and advise them about the procedure.

Stage Two (Formal): Complaint Heard by the COO or Other Designated Person

If the individual’s concern or complaint is not resolved at the informal stage, a formal complaint should be issued to the academy/school in the form set out at Annex 1, or at least including all the matters covered in that form.

If the complainant has not already completed and issued a Formal Complaint, it is the duty of the Complaints Coordinator to meet with the complainant and discuss the Formal Complaint Form normally within seven school working days

The role of the Complaints Coordinator is purely administrative. They will meet with the complainant(s) to hand them a copy of both the Formal Complaint Form and Policy. It is in the best interests of the complainant that the form is completed on site; this will assist in the process of the Formal Complaint. If requested by the complainant, the Complaints Coordinator will scribe on their behalf.

Complaints should be made as soon as possible following the exhaustion of Stage One (where possible). The complainant should include details that might assist the investigation, such as names of potential witnesses, dates and times of events, and copies of relevant documents. It is very important that the complainant includes a clear statement of the actions that they would like the school to take to resolve the concern.

In the event that the complainant submits the Formal Complaints Form via post or email, the Complaints Coordinator will promptly acknowledge the complaint (usually within five school working days) and refer it to the CEO or other designated person to consider and reach the decision upon any action to be taken.

The CEO or other designated person may offer to meet with the complainant to discuss the matter, normally within seven working days.

Once the CEO or other designated person is satisfied that all the relevant facts have been established, they will inform the complainant of their decision in writing, normally within five working days of meeting with the complainant. The CEO will give reasons for their decision.

The CEO or other designated person will inform the Head of Year, Principal/Headteacher and Complaints Coordinator of the outcome.

All supporting documentation must be passed to the Complaints Coordinator to retain centrally within the relevant complainant’s file.

The Complaints Coordinator will record any actions and outcomes to the Complaint Audit log

Stage Three (Formal): Appeal Panel

If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 2, they should write to the Chairman of the Trust Board giving details of the complaint and the reasons why they disagree with the decision at Stage 2, no later than 10 working days from the date of the decision letter.

The Chairman or a nominated Trustee will convene a Complaints Panel consisting of at least three people who have not been directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint.

At least one panel member will be independent of the management and running of the academy/school.

A letter will be sent to the complainant inviting them to attend the hearing, which will provide reasonable notice, and the complainant may be accompanied to the hearing by a friend or family member.

In order for them to prepare for the hearing, the Panel should receive in advance (in particular, but not exclusively):

  • A summary of the steps taken at Stage 1

  • The formal complaint lodged at Stage 2

  • The investigation steps taken by the academy/school

  • The decision letter

  • The complainant’s appeal correspondence and any supporting documentation

In most cases, the Stage 3 Hearing will be attended by:

  • The panel (with one Trustee chosen to act as the Panel Chair)

  • The complainant

  • An appropriate individual to advise the panel

  • A clerk

The Complainant has the right to request an independent panel if they believe there is likely to be bias from the appointed panel. This request must be made no later than [three school days’] in advance of the Stage 3 Hearing together with reasons why they feel this to be the case. This request should be put in writing to the Clerk to the Governing Board

The Trustees will consider the request, but the final decision as to whether to accept the request for an independent panel is for the trustees to determine.

The CEO may attend, if it is considered appropriate, to explain his/her actions and/or decision at Stage 2. However, it will not normally be expected for the subject of the original complaint to attend, nor for witnesses to attend and give evidence in person.

Conduct of the Panel Hearing

At the hearing, the complainant will be given a full and fair opportunity to present the grounds of their complaint and any supporting evidence, together with their reasons for rejecting the decision at Stage 2. It should be made clear what resolution is sought by the complainant and why this is considered appropriate.

No Governor will sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it.

The Panel’s decision will usually be reached on the basis of the documentary evidence available, although the panel may adjourn the hearing if necessary to conduct further investigation. The Panel’s role is not to re-investigate the case, but to review the steps taken to date.

In order to retain the non-adversarial approach recommended by the DfE, the following principles will apply to the hearing:

  • The Panel will act independently and impartially;

  • The hearing will be as informal as possible and the Panel will endeavour to put and keep the complainant at their ease;

  • Witnesses will not normally be required to attend to give evidence in person, and the written evidence (as recorded in notes of any investigation interview) will usually be taken as read;

  • Should the complainant want a particular witness to attend in person, this request should be justified with reasons and the Panel should make the decision as to whether to proceed in this way. In such cases, the witness will only be required to attend for the part of the hearing in which they give their evidence and can afterwards be excused;

  • The focus of the hearing will be on hearing from the complainant. The Principal or CEO if attending, can respond to points raised by the complainant;

  • The panel may ask questions at any point;

  • The complainant will not be present whilst the Panel deliberates; and

  • The Panel’s decision will be confirmed in writing following the hearing.

The welfare of any child/young person is paramount.

The Panel’s Decision

The Panel will have to consider the issues raised by the complainant and the evidence supporting their complaint.

It will often be the case that the evidence of two or more witnesses’ conflict, and in such cases, the Panel will have to make a finding of whose evidence to prefer and the reasons why they have reached this decision.

The Panel will consider the complainant’s appeal and may:

  • 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 academy/school ’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur

Dismissal of a complaint may be done where (without limitation):

  • There is insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion, so the complaint cannot be upheld

  • The concern is not substantiated by the evidence

  • The matter has been fully investigated and that appropriate procedures are being followed, which are strictly confidential

Where a complaint is substantiated in part or in full, some details may then be given of action the academy/school may be taking to review procedures etc. but details of the investigation or of any disciplinary procedures will not be released.

The decision will be confirmed in writing to the complainant as soon as reasonably practicable and usually within 10 term-time days.

A copy of the panel’s findings and recommendations will be also be provided to the person complained about, where relevant. A copy of the letter will be held centrally and available for inspection by the relevant parties and will form part of the written record.

The Stage Three Panel Hearing is the last stage of the academy/school  complaints process.

Once a complaint has been addressed formally via this procedure, the matter will be closed. Should a complainant remain dissatisfied, despite all stages of the procedures having been followed, and seek to reopen the same issue, the Chairman of the Trust Board will simply inform them in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed. A sample letter is set out at Annex 2.

Monitoring and Review

The Principal/Headteacher/CEO will report on the operation of the Complaints Procedure to the Governing Board once a year. This report will include:

  • The number of formal complaints that have been made

  • The number that have been satisfactorily dealt with at the point of the original investigation

  • The number of occasions on which the Appeal Panel has met

  • Any significant amendments to academy/school policy or practice as a result of the complaints made

  • Any issues that have arisen in the operation of the Complaints Procedure

The Principal/Headteacher/CEO report will respect the confidentiality of the individual.

In the light of the Principal/Headteacher/CEO report, the Governing Board will consider whether or not the complaints procedure should be amended in any way.

Education Funding Agency (EFA)

If a complaint has completed the local procedures and the complainant remains dissatisfied, they have the right to refer their complaint to the EFA who will consider whether the complaint has been dealt with properly by the academy/school.

The EFA schools complaints form can be accessed from the following link:

The EFA will consider complaints about academies that fall into any of the following three areas:

  1. Where there is undue delay or the academy/school did not comply with its own complaints procedure when considering a complaint;

  2. Where the academy/school is in breach of its funding agreement with the Secretary of State; or

  3. Where an academy/school has failed to comply with any other legal obligation.

The EFA will consider whether the complaints policy and any other relevant statutory policies have been adhered to. The EFA will not overturn an academy/school ’s decision about a complaint; however, if it is found that an academy/school did not deal with a complaint properly then the EFA may request that the complaint is looked into again.

If legislative or policy breaches are found, the EFA will report them to the academy and where necessary, ask for corrective action to be take




Policy written by

Barbara Rutherford

June 2017

Agreed by Committee

CEO and Chairman of the Trust Board

June 2017

Adopted by Governing Board

Full Governing Board

4 July 2017

To be reviewed Annually

Review by Committee

CET Trust Board


Adopted by Governing Body

CET Trust Board


  • Annex 1 Complaint form

This is a Complaint Form intended to instigate Stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure, after attempts to resolve the concern informally under Stage 1 have not provided you with a resolution you consider satisfactory.

Stage 1 should only be omitted in exceptional circumstances (and in such cases the reasons why should be set out below). If the Academy does not consider that Stage 1 has been appropriately omitted, it reserves the right to refer your complaint back to that stage.

Please complete and return to the CEO (Complaints Co-ordinator) who will acknowledge receipt and explain what action will be taken.

Your name:


Pupil’s name:




Your relationship to the pupil:


Daytime telephone number:


Evening telephone number:


Please give concise details of your complaint.

Please include, where possible, dates, names of witnesses, etc. as this will enable the academy to properly investigate your complaint.


What action, if any, have you already taken to try and resolve your complaint.

(Who did you speak to and what was the response)?


If you have not taken such action, please set out here your reasons.


What actions do you feel might resolve the problem at this stage?


Are you attaching any paperwork? If so, please give details.






Official Use

Date acknowledgement sent:


By who:


Complaint referred to:



  • Annex 2 Complaint Review Request Form

This is a Compliant Review Request Form intended to instigate Stage 3 of the Complaints Procedure. If you remain dissatisfied from the outcome of Stage 2 you may request that the Governing Body reviews the process followed by the Academy in handling the complaint.

Please complete this form and return it to the Trust’s Complaints Coordinator, who will acknowledge its receipt and inform you of the next stage in the procedure.

Chancery Education Trust Complaint Review Request Form

Your name:




Daytime telephone number:


Evening telephone number:


Dear Sir,

I submitted a formal complaint to the academy/school on ………….  and I am dissatisfied by the procedure that has been followed.

My complaint was submitted to …………… and I received a response from  …………….. on ………….. .

I have attached copies of my formal complaint and of the response[s] from the academy/school.

I am dissatisfied with the way in which the procedure was carried out, because:


You may continue on separate paper, or attach additional documents, if you wish.

Are you attaching any paperwork? If so, please give details.


What action do you feel might resolve the problem at this stage?






Official Use


Date form received:


Received by:


Date acknowledgement sent:


Acknowledgement sent by:


Request referred to:



  • Example Rejection Letter

Dear Sir/Madam

Following receipt of your communications and careful consideration of the same, I regret that I am unable to deal with this matter under the academy/school’s Complaints Procedure as:

Please select appropriate wording from the following:

  • You have not identified any specific actions of which you might complain

  • Your concerns are presented as conclusions rather than specific actions of which you complain.

  • The concerns that you identify relate to historical actions and any evidence which, might have enabled an objective investigation of your complaint is no longer available.

  • The substance of your complaint has been addressed under this procedure already.

  • The concerns that you raise do not fall within the scope of this procedure. [I have enclosed a copy of the [NAME] policy.]

  • You have not identified any potential sources of evidence, which might allow the matter to be investigated.

  • The academy/school offered to resolve the matter informally and in my judgement you refused unreasonably to take advantage of this.

If you wish my decision to be reviewed then you may write to the Clerk to the Trust Board.

Yours sincerely,

CEO OR Chairman of the Trust Board

  • Annex 4 The Remit of The Complaints Appeal Panel

Any governor sitting on a complaints panel should bear the following in mind:

  1. It is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. No governor may sit on the panel if they have had a prior involvement in the complaint or in the circumstances surrounding it. In deciding the make-up of the panel, governors need to try and ensure that it is a cross-section of the categories of governor and sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation.

  2. The aim of the hearing, which needs to be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the academy and the complainant. However, it has to be recognised the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour. It may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations, which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously.

  3. An effective panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting. Parents often feel emotional when discussing an issue that affects their child. The panel chair will ensure that the proceedings are as welcoming as possible. The layout of the room will set the tone and care is needed to ensure the setting is informal and not adversarial.

  4. Extra care needs to be taken when the complainant is a child. Careful consideration of the atmosphere and proceedings will ensure that the child does not feel intimidated. The panel needs to be aware of the views of the child and give them equal consideration to those of adults. Where the child’s parent is the complainant, it would be helpful to give the parent the opportunity to say which parts of the hearing, if any, the child needs to attend.

  5. The governors sitting on the panel need to be aware of the complaints procedure.

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