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Leadership webinar: how to handle complaints by parents (video and webchat)

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by AndrewFIS, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Parents seem to be ever-more demanding of their children's schools and have higher levels of expectations. But how can schools respond to their complaints, whether justified or not?

    As part of the TES Leadership webinar series, I’ll be putting your questions to Yvonne Spencer, partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards.

    We will examine how schools can take a measured approach to resolving any potential issues.

    Post your questions below now - and, if you can, join in our live webchat on January 31 at 4.30pm.

    Before that, you can watch a video we’ve made in which Yvonne and I discuss the issues, with key advice for school leaders.

    1920x1080-leadership-video-still-v2.jpg

    To access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Leadership subscriber.
     
    dhillong likes this.
  2. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Hi,

    Don't forget to submit your questions below ahead of next week's webchat.

    Thank you.
     
  3. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    The webinar video will be available for seven days in this thread after the webchat. If you wish to view the webinar after 6th February or to access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Institutional subscriber. You can find out more information here.
     
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    .
    Thought there was going to be a webinar at 4.30pm today?
    .
    .
     
  5. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Sorry for the slight delay @Rott Weiler, which was due to technical issues.

    Good afternoon and welcome to today’s webchat.


    The TES Leadership webchats give you the opportunity to put your questions to industry experts about key school management and operational issues.

    In a few moments I will hand you over to Andrew, who is editor of FIS, who will be hosting this week's hour-long webchat.

    Andrew and this week's guest, leadership expert panel member Yvonne Spencer, partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards, who will be available for the next hour to answer your questions.

    If you have any questions please submit them below. Don't worry if we run out of time, any unanswered questions will be responded to and posted on this thread later this week.

    I'll now hand you over to Andrew.





    The content of, and information provided in, the TES Leadership webchats and their associated materials (including information posted in these forums in connection with the webchats) (the “Content”) is provided for general information purposes only. Any use you make of, or reliance you place on, the Content is entirely at your own risk. Professional or specialist advice, tailored to your specific circumstances, should always be obtained before taking (or refraining from) any action on the basis of the Content.

    Whilst TES Global and the panel of leadership experts make every effort to ensure the high quality and accuracy of the Content, TES Global and each leadership expert makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) concerning the Content. Neither TES Global nor any leadership expert will be responsible for any damage or loss related to any use of the Content.

    Neither TES Global, nor any leadership expert, seeks to restrict or exclude any liability they may have for death or personal injury arising through negligence, liability for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation, or for any liability to the extent that, by law, it cannot be restricted or excluded.

    Please click here for full Terms and Conditions which apply to all TES Global’s websites.
     
  6. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Hello and welcome to this webchat on how to handle parental complaints. Joining me is Yvonne Spencer, who is a partner at Veale Wasbrough Vizards. For those of you following this thread, please feel free to post your query. Remember to refresh your page to see the updates as they appear.

    Thanks for joining us, Yvonne.

    Firstly, how should a school frame its policy of handling parental complaints?
     
  7. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    It's important for the policy to set out three stages: informal, formal and the review panel stage. The policy should also specify the time limits attaching to each stage and we recommend that these are school days or working days, as sometimes complaints arise before the start or during a school holiday. The informal stage involves parents being able to raise their concerns with particular members of staff (form teachers for example). If this cannot be resolved or the matter is serious, the policy should stipulate that the parent or prospective parent should set out their complaint in writing. On receipt of a formal complaint the policy should explain what happens next. An investigator will be appointed (often a deputy headteacher). At the formal stage the headteacher is the decision maker and they should set out their decision in writing.

    The law relating to complaints varies slightly according to the status of the school. Academies and independent schools are bound to follow the Independent Schools Regulations, whereas maintained schools should apply the DfE Guidance on Best Practice for Schools Complaints Procedures 2016 (which implements Section 29 of the Education 2002).

    It's important that schools understand the law that applies to them because there are a few important differences. For example, if your school is an Academy then you must have an independent person sitting on the review panel.
     
  8. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Should this be distributed to parents annually? How does this help (if at all) in preventing complaints with little or no grounds?
     
  9. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Schools' complaints procedures should be made available to parents, so this is actually an on-going requirement. The simplest method is to post the policy on the school's website. This degree of transparency can assist with handling complaints, as it demonstrates a willingness to resolve matters. The substance of the complaint shouldn't be a barrier, so schools do need to follow their procedures. Many regulators (DfE, EFA, Ofsted, ISI and the ICO for example) insist that schools' complaints procedures are completed before these bodies will consider a parent's complaint.
     
  10. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Does the policy differ for direct complaints and those featured on social media? And, if so, how should a school approach a complaint?
     
  11. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    On a recent governors complaints panel we were faced with a very aggressive and abusive parent who repeatedly directed defamatory comments at head and SLT - they were crooks and racists etc - and interrupted the school representatives, replying to everything head said by saying he was a liar. despite the best efforts of panel chair to maintain order.Complainant presented no evidence for any of his allegations. Also made completely unreasonable demands about what would satisfy his complaint - that governors should require head and all SLT to issue public apologies to complainant and then all resign or be dismissed by governors, nothing less would satisfy him.

    What strategies can you suggest for dealing with aggressive and vexatious complainants? Are governors ever entitled to refuse to hear a complaint because of complainant's behaviour?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017
  12. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Assuming a parent can be identified from a social media posting, then the school could speak to them inviting them to use the formal complaints procedure; and to remove the complaint from the site. Schools should also ensure that the comment doesn't cause distress to staff, pupils or other parents, or infringe others' rights. We sometimes see some foul postings. If necessary, the school may be able to write to the host site to have the content removed. Schools may also need to consider further steps to deal with the parent, but it is usually unadvisable to enter into debate or to attempt to resolve a complaint via the social media platform.
     
  13. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Panel members would not be entitled to refuse to hear the complaint, but there are procedural steps that can be taken to reduce the stress to the SLT and the Head. There is no requirement in law for the parents and the school's representatives to be in the hearing at the same time. The panel can therefore choose to hear from the parties sequentially. It would be down to the Chair to make this decision. As for vexatious complaints, this is a point that can be raised after all the school-based procedures have been concluded. The EFA has such a paragraph in its own complaints procedure and this is something that you might want to look up and adopt.
     
  14. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What are the most common complaints made by parents?
     
  15. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Parents' complaints vary, sometimes according to the type of school and the socio-economic demographic. The complaints that schools need to be live to, are complaints involving allegations of safeguarding (whether against a member of staff or a pupil); and complaints involving special educational needs and provision for disabilities.
    With safeguarding complaints, schools need to remember to consider how the complaint dovetails with their safeguarding and pupil behaviour procedures. For SEN and disabilities, there is sometimes a risk that parents will consider taking a claim to the First Tier Tribunal. Again, the relevant policies need to be considered and adhered to.
    One of the most invidious areas of complaint are those matters involving estranged parents who use the school as a means to challenge the other parent's rights such as collection and drop-off times, attendance at parent evenings, receipt of school reports etc. In these cases, schools need to understand parental rights and be careful not to be seen to be taking sides.
     
  16. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Finally, what are your top three tips for complaint handling?
     
  17. Yvonne_Spencer

    Yvonne_Spencer New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    1. It's important that schools are not defensive or adversarial in their approach, as it can impede any possibility of resolution. Some parents just want to be taken seriously and to know that they have been listened to, so time spent in the early stages may close the matter down.

    2. If a parent is challenging and makes repeated or additional complaints, it is worth the formal stage investigator having a meeting with them first, to agree the headings of complaints (once and for all). This should shut down the possibility of the parent raising more and more complaints.

    3. Ensure that the investigation is thorough and takes account of the views of any aggrieved parties. The investigation should follow the evidence and needs to address the 'how, what, where, why' aspects of the complaint. A thorough investigation should mean that the school is able to withstand scrutiny by the parents and the panel.

    And a final point for free:

    The decision letter should also set out clearly the reasons as to why the complaints have been upheld or dismissed.
     
    dhillong likes this.
  18. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Thanks, Yvonne, for joining us this afternoon. If anyone would like to pose questions for Yvonne in this thread, please do so and she will answer them later. We hope you found this webchat useful.

    To view other videos of interviews, you can subscribe here. This also includes a host of other benefits.
     
  19. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you Andrew and Yvonne for your time this afternoon.

    Thank you @Rott Weiler for your question.





    The content of, and information provided in, the TES Leadership webchats and their associated materials(including information posted in these forums in connection with the webchats) (the “Content”) is provided for general information purposes only. Any use you make of, or reliance you place on, the Content is entirely at your own risk. Professional or specialist advice, tailored to your specific circumstances, should always be obtained before taking (or refraining from) any action on the basis of the Content. Whilst TES Global and the panel of leadership experts make every effort to ensure the high quality and accuracy of the Content, TES Global and each leadership expert makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) concerning the Content. Neither TES Global nor any leadership expert will be responsible for any damage or loss related to any use of the Content. Neither TES Global, nor any leadership expert, seeks to restrict or exclude any liability they may have for death or personal injury arising through negligence, liability for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation, or for any liability to the extent that, by law, it cannot be restricted or excluded.


    Please click here for full Terms and Conditions which apply to all TES Global’s websites.
     

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