Catholic schools are staffed by teachers who are not only qualified and expert in their own field but who also, having freely chosen to become teachers in a Catholic institution, commit themselves to care for and help children in every way possible consistent with Catholic doctrine, principles and the Catholic ethos of the school. Nevertheless, as in any organisation, parents may from time to time raise a concern.

The intention of this procedure is to provide a clear and transparent process that will enable complaints to be dealt with promptly, fairly and proportionally.

to resolve problems;

to give parents a means to raise issues of concern and have them addressed.

General principles

This procedure covers complaints received from parents (and carers) of students and other third parties.

A complaint is defined as an expression of dissatisfaction in relation to the School or a member of its staff that requires a response from the School.

The procedure will not apply where there is an alternative School policy or procedure relevant to the issues raised. It will also not apply to complaints regarding admissions and exclusions, some safeguarding issues, the provision of collective worship and religious education and SEN assessments. 

Where complainants make allegations regarding members of staff this procedure may be stayed pending consideration of the issues under appropriate staffing procedures. 

We are committed to meeting the needs of parents [and carers of students and members of the community]. However, there may be times when complaints arise in relation to the School and this document sets out the procedure the School will follow in handling complaints. 

All complaints will be treated seriously and in an open and fair way. 

At all times the School will respect the rights and feelings of those involved and make every effort to protect confidential information. 

There may be occasions when the person dealing with a complaint will need to consider whether anyone else within the School needs to know about the complaint or whether the consent of a third party (including, for example, a student) is required, so as to address it appropriately. 

Timescales for dealing with complaints may need to be extended following discussion with the complainant. 

Complaints that are made anonymously will be handled at the discretion of the School and may be considered using other procedures, depending on the nature of the complaint. For example, anonymous complaints relating to (or appearing to relate to) a child protection matter or alleged criminal activity may be referred immediately to the relevant authorities. 

The School will keep a written record of all complaints, including the date on which they were received, the steps taken in relation to them, any documents used or created when considering the complaint and details of any outcomes.

The member of staff with responsibility for the operation and management of the school complaints procedure is known as the school’s ‘complaints co-ordinator’.  In the case of St Thomas More – the Headteacher.

Stage 1 - informal complaints procedure

It is hoped that most complaints will be resolved quickly and informally. 

The underlying principle is that concerns ought to be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures.

The Tutor is always the first point of contact. If a parent has a complaint then they should contact their child’s Tutor to discuss the matter. In many cases, the matter can be resolved straightaway by this means. 

If parents have a complaint that cannot be resolved by the Tutor, then they should contact their child’s Head of Year. If the Head of Year cannot resolve the issue, it may be necessary for him/her to consult a member of the Senior Team. 

Complaints made directly to a member of the Senior Team or the Headteacher, will usually be referred to the appropriate Head of Year, unless that member of staff deems it appropriate to deal with the matter personally. 

Should the matter not be resolved within 14 days of the complaint being received by the School, or in the event that the member of the Senior Team and the parent fail to reach a satisfactory resolution, then parents will be advised of their right to proceed with their complaint in accordance with Stage 2 of this procedure

Stage 2 - formal complaints procedure

Formal procedures only need to be invoked when initial attempts to resolve the issue are unsuccessful and the person raising concerns remains dissatisfied and wishes to take the matter further.

If the complaint cannot be resolved on an informal basis, then the parents should put their complaint in writing to the Headteacher. The Headteacher will decide, after considering the complaint, the appropriate course of action to take. 

The Headteacher will seek to resolve the complaint by meeting with the complainant and investigating the complaint normally within 7 days if practical. If possible, a resolution will be reached at this stage.

It may be necessary for the Headteacher to carry out further investigations. 

The Headteacher will keep written records of all meetings and interviews held in relation to the complaint. 

Where the complaint concerns the Headteacher, the complaint will be referred to the chair of governors. The chair (or nominee) will then conduct the Formal Process.

Within five working days of the complaints meeting, the Headteacher (or other person who conducted the meeting), will send to the complainant a written ‘Note of Meeting’. This will summarise the conclusions reached and inform the complainant that they may appeal the conclusions if they wish, but if so must do so within 10 days of the meeting.

Stage 3 - appeal procedure

Complaint heard by governing body’s complaints appeal panel

The complainant needs to write to the clerk of governors giving details of the complaint and reasons for the appeal.

The clerk will convene a governing body complaints appeal panel.

The governors’ appeal hearing is the last school-based stage of the complaints procedure, and is not convened to merely rubber-stamp previous decisions.

Individual complaints will not be heard by the whole governing body at any stage, as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up under any other procedure.

The panel may consist of between three and five members of the governing body, but the headteacher should not be a member of this panel, which must be independent and seen to be impartial. The panel should elect their own chair.

Remit of the Complaints Appeal Panel

The panel can:

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

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.

If the Panel deems it necessary, it may require further particulars of the complaint or related matter be supplied in advance of the hearing. Copies of such particulars shall be supplied to all parties not later than 7 days prior to the hearing.

If possible, the Panel will resolve the parents’ complaint immediately without the need for further investigation.

Where further investigation is required, the Panel will decide how it should be carried out. After due consideration of all facts they consider relevant, the Panel will reach a decision and may make recommendations, which it shall complete within 7 days of the hearing. 

The aim of the hearing, which will be held in private, will be to resolve the complaint, where appropriate, and achieve reconciliation between school and the complainant. However, it is recognised that the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour.

The panel will acknowledge that many complainants feel nervous and inhibited in a formal setting. The panel chair will ensure that the proceedings are as welcome as possible. Care will be taken to ensure that the layout of the room is informal and not adversarial in tone. The parents may be accompanied to the hearing by one other person. This may be a relative or friend. 

Governors sitting on the panel will have been informed about the school’s complaints procedure and Diocesan Schools Commission guidance regarding its implementation.

Roles and responsibilities

The school will ensure the panel meeting will be clerked. The role of the clerk will be to:

  • Ensure all parties have copies of the procedure.
  • set the date (within 20 working days), time and venue of the hearing, ensuring that the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible
  • Collect any written evidence or other documentation for use at the hearing and names of any witnesses from all parties 10 working days in advance of the hearing;
  • collate all written material and send it to the parties 5 working days in advance of the hearing
  • meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing;
  • record the proceedings;
  • notify all the parties of the panel’s decision, within 5 working days after the hearing
  • The role of the chair of the panel will be to ensure:

The remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity to put their case without undue interruption

  • the issues are addressed
  • parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at their ease
  • the hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy
  • the panel is open minded and acting independently
  • no member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure
  • each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions;
  • written material has been supplied by all parties
  • if a related issue arises at the hearing it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to adjourn to consider the related issue and then comment on it
  • new issues raised in the hearing should be dealt with separately from this panel meeting

Checklist for panel hearing

The panel will take account of the following points:

  • the hearing is as informal as possible;
  • witnesses are only required to attend for the part of the hearing in which they give their evidence.
  • after introductions, the complainant is invited to explain their complaint, and be followed by their witnesses.
  • the headteacher may question both the complainant and the witnesses after each has spoken.
  • the headteacher is then invited to explain the school’s actions and be followed by the school’s witnesses;
  • the complainant may question both the headteacher and the witnesses after each has spoken; 
  • the panel may ask questions at any point;
  • the complainant is then invited to sum up their complaint;
  • the headteacher is invited to sum up the school’s actions and response to the complaint;
  • both parties leave together while the panel decides on the issues;
  • the chair explains that both parties will hear from the panel within a set time scale (5 working days).

Notification of the panel’s decision

The chair of the panel will ensure that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision, in writing, with reasons clearly defined in plain English, within 5 working days of the meeting.

If any clarification concerning the letter is required the complainant may seek further advice from the chair of the panel.

In case the complainant is not satisfied that the complaints procedures were conducted properly and fairly, the letter will explain there is a further right to request an investigation by applying to the Director of Schools at the Diocesan Schools Commission, and provide the address. The letter must explain that such a request must be made within 10 working days of the hearing.