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Schools complaints unit

(16 Posts)
Ardha Sun 28-Dec-14 20:54:26

Has anyone taken a complaint to the Dept of Education?
What happens?
Does it achieve what you set out to achieve?
Does anything happen at all?

Reindeerballs Sun 28-Dec-14 22:02:41

About 7 years ago but my dd joined a primary school in year 4. At the time she was attending private specialist teaching for dyslexia one afternoon a week. This had not been a problem at her previous school. However the new school and the LEA told me it was 'illegal' for her to go. I complained to the DofE by email. They sent a letter to the LEA which basically said why on earth are you telling parents this load of bollocks - there seemed to be a history between them. Anyway the LEA backed down. I think this may have been because I found that it was at the Head's discretion that she could be educated elsewhere one afternoon elsewhere and as I was paying for the specialist service at no cost to the public purse they didn't have a leg to stand on.

Wolfiefan Sun 28-Dec-14 22:04:12

I think it really depends on exactly what the complaint is.

admission Sun 28-Dec-14 22:07:40

The first thing to say is if you do complain to the Department you need to be very sure that you have followed the school complaints procedure (or attempted to ) and that you have exhausted all the levels of complaint. The department will check with the school and if you have not they will just bat it back to you and say that you have to go through all the correct procedures.
The other thing is that the department will be looking at whether the correct procedures have been carried out. Only if the process is faulty will the department be interested in taking it any further. If the procedure is correct then the fact that you do not agree with the decisions made will not carry any weight. Only if the decision is unreasonable in the legal terms of unreasonable being beyond the realms of possibility any sane person having come to that decision will it get anywhere.
I have not been involved in making a complaint but as Chair of Governors have been on the receiving end of what were vexatious complaints by parents who would simply not accept there could be a different answer from the one they wanted.

Reindeerballs Sun 28-Dec-14 22:50:51

admission, my experience was that the DofE were happy to get involved without me going through the school complaints procedure. Though it was obvious there was a 'history' between the LEA and the dept and they were happy to wade in.

I went straight to the LEA because the Head said he took their advice and it wasn't really a school decision. I received advice from a dyslexia and a special needs charity and they stated the legal position which the LEA and school eventually accepted. I don't know how influential the DofE intervention was. I had also contacted my MP but it was resolved before they got involved.

OP what is the nature of your complaint?

Sunflower123456 Sun 28-Dec-14 23:35:04

Are you making a complaint against a private or a state school?

We made a complaint against the HT of the NGHS, a private girls school, and followed their complaints procedure to the letter. However, the Chairman of the school's Trust GDST refused to hold a panel hearing and halted the complaint procedure, even though there was overwhelming evidence against the HT. We then complaint to the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) which in turn asked the DfE what to do. All the DfE did was asked the ISI to review the school complaints policy, as neither the DfE or the ISI would get involved with individual cases.

We found the complaints procedure for private schools is not worth the paper it's written on. However, another mumsnet member made a complaint against a state school HT under the DfE's complaints procedure and won:

Ardha Mon 29-Dec-14 08:24:26

We have followed the school's complaints procedure, they didn't answer all our questions, but provided many exCuses why the school failed to follow its policies until we told them they were supposed to. I am currently waiting for a FOI request regarding information which I believe the school has failed to pass on to the authorities.

The LA is unfortunately backing the school up, helping the governors to defend incompetent Head.


Ardha Mon 29-Dec-14 10:58:06

The Governing Body seemed unaware of the DofE's Complaints Toolkit, they never offered a hearing, just had a review panel meeting with Head and complaint reviewer privately. We have made a request for the minutes of that meeting. If they took any minutes, that is.

Its an ordinary maintained school.

Sunflower123456 Mon 29-Dec-14 11:10:45

Your experience is similar to ours. The purpose of complaints procedures seem to primarily protect schools and their staffs, even when there's clear written evidence that the HT had behaved badly.

In our case the HT had acted criminally (she made many false allegations against us to the Social Services on the day we submitted our termination notice) as well as failed to comply with the contract agreement which was why we complaint in the first place. What angered us more was that it's a private school, and we had foolishly expected better morals from their HT and Trust.

BTW, we didn't know the amount of the HT's false allegations until we obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act. We were shocked by the extent of her false allegations.

Presently, the DfE and ISI would not investigate individual cases, so it's very easy for HTs to behave badly, until "a profound change in policy direction and it would require primary legislation, i.e. a new clause in an Education Bill. The clause would be subject to approval by Parliament." The latter quote is from the DfE when we wrote to them about our case.

admission Mon 29-Dec-14 16:58:54

The reality is that the DofE Complaints toolkit is guidance and as such has no legal standing, whereas by law each school has to have a written complaints procedure, that came in to law in 2003 I believe. That complaints procedure should be on the website of the school.
It could well be that the procedure that you say happened is exactly what is in the school's complaints procedure and as such is perfectly acceptable to the school and the DfE.
The other thing that you should be aware of is that whilst the governing body and the LA may in public be defending the head teacher, you will not and cannot know if anything is going on in private. It could be that the head teacher is in some level of disciplinary procedure, which will not be revealed to you. Having said that, it is silly to be defending the head teacher in public if the complaint is justified. It is far better to accept that in your instance that the complaint is justified, acknowledge that things will need to change and then move on.

Ardha Thu 01-Jan-15 17:42:50

The GB did say that some changes had been made, however, although confirming that the H did not follow a policy, they made excuses for them. I'm waiting for a FOI request to show whether or not they followed the same policy in the past as there have been other instances involving my child for which they should have followed the same policy.
Just wondering if I should also include how the school office is bypassing financial controls as well?

admission Thu 01-Jan-15 21:51:09

The school has a level of autonomy over finances but as a community school it has to abide by the Local Authority scheme of financial delegation.
So for instance if the LA believed that the school was ignoring the safeguards around the level of authority to purchase then they could instigate an audit of the school's finances. However unless there was actual fraud the consequences are not severe.
Can you say more about what financial controls are being bypassed?

Ardha Fri 02-Jan-15 08:25:32

People are asked to sign time sheets before they have been completed, without seeing complete ones. I challenged it, so I get to check mine. But I wonder what other checks are being by-passed. In checking mine I did find errors which would not have been picked up otherwise.

admission Fri 02-Jan-15 19:06:12

That is about the process and would not be considered to be a major issue - it is bad practice and should be stopped. However if that was then morphing into deliberately putting in the wrong hours then that would be fraud in my opinion

ReachoutNY Mon 19-Sep-16 22:47:24

Having read all of the above and currently investigating a school in North Yorkshire for breach of child protection anti bullying and safeguarding policy, I notice nobody has mentioned the NCTL teacher misconduct panel. Its is a little known fact that parents can refer cases to have teachers and Headmasters struck off. You must follow the school complaints system first and it is not necessary to have a favourable outcome or to submit to the DfE. Its is worth getting as much information as possible through FOI requests to illustrate your case.
Don't be put off by Governors failure to see sense. Just play the system and then take them to misconduct hearing
This is the only true way teachers are held accountable. Good Luck😊

ReachoutNY Mon 24-Oct-16 14:21:44

I have now won at the DfE 😊

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