Grievance & Complaints Procedure

Preamble

St Kevin’s College is committed to providing students with an education of the highest possible quality. However, from time to time, students, parents or teachers may raise concerns, complaints or grievances about matters or issues relating to their experiences at the school. This procedure deals specifically with complaints raised by students or parents. The schools’ policy for complaints raised by members of staff is included in the Workplace Relations Policy.

This document sets out the internal procedures that apply within the school for addressing student or parent complaints and grievances. These procedures are designed to ensure that throughout the school there is a transparent process for ensuring student complaints and grievances are dealt with fairly, consistently and promptly.

Dealing with Complaints – Initial Concerns

Everyone needs to be clear about the difference between a concern and a complaint. Taking informal concerns seriously at the earliest stage will reduce the numbers that develop into formal complaints.

The following key messages deal with complaints but the underlying principle is that concerns ought to be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures. The requirement to have a complaints procedure need not in any way undermine efforts to resolve the concern informally. In most cases the class teacher or the individual delivering the service in the case of extended school provision, will receive the first approach. It would be helpful if staff were able to resolve issues on the spot, including apologising where necessary.

Dealing with Complaints – Formal Procedures

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

The school has nominated members of staff to have responsibility for the operation and management of the school complaints procedure, beginning with the Form teacher or Tutor and moving to the Headmaster.

General Principles

The complaints procedure will:

  • encourage resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible;
  • be easily accessible and publicised;
  • 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;
  • treat all complaints with sensitivity;
  • provide information to the school’s senior management team so that services can be improved;
  • ensure that no person is victimised as a result of raising a complaint.

Investigating Complaints

It is suggested that at each stage, the person investigating the complaint makes sure that they:

  • establish what has happened so far, and who has been involved;
  • clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved;
  • meet with the complainant or contact them (if unsure or further information is necessary);
  • clarify what the complainant feels would put things right;
  • interview those involved in the matter and/or those complained of, allowing them to be accompanied if they wish;
  • conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning;
  • keep notes of the interview.

Resolving Complaints

At each stage in the procedure it is important to keep in mind ways in which a complaint can be resolved. It might be sufficient to acknowledge that the complaint is valid in whole or in part. In addition, it may be appropriate to offer one or more of the following:

  • an apology;
  • an explanation;
  • an admission that the situation could have been handled differently or better;
  • an assurance that the event complained of will not recur;
  • an explanation of the steps that have been taken to ensure that it will not happen again;
  • an undertaking to review school policies in light of the complaint.

It would be useful if complainants were encouraged to state what actions they feel might resolve the problem at any stage. An admission that the school could have handled the situation better is not the same as an admission of negligence.

An effective procedure will identify areas of agreement between the parties. It is also of equal importance to clarify any misunderstandings that might have occurred as this can create a positive atmosphere in which to discuss any outstanding issues.
Based on the issue, the designated person shall take immediate and appropriate corrective action. If there appears to be no foundation to the allegation other than the complaint:

  • no record shall be made of the allegation in either the complainer or complainant’s personnel records.
  • if a foundation for the allegation exists, appropriate disciplinary action will follow.
  • every effort shall be made to provide appropriate support for the complainant.

Complaints will be considered, and resolved, as quickly and efficiently as possible. To be effective, staff members will need to set realistic time limits for each action within each stage. However, where further investigations are necessary, new time limits can be set and the complainant given details of the new deadline and an explanation for the delay.

The Stages of Complaints

Five school-based stages are likely to be sufficient for most schools:

  • Stage 1:complaint heard by Class/Subject teacher (although not if the teacher is the subject of the complaint);
  • Stage 2:complaint heard by Form teacher/Tutor;
  • Stage 3:complaint heard by Head of House;
  • Stage 4:complaint heard by Head of School;
  • Stage 5:complaint heard by Headmaster.

In some rare cases it may not be possible to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant using these procedures. In such a case complainants should discuss the options for further action with the Headmaster. This may include the involvement of external dispute resolution consultants.