Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Complaints procedure must be ‘fair’ to schools

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The ink was hardly dry on the last education act in November when the DCSF put out a consultation on the detail of the new complaints procedure for parents and the scope of the powers of the local government ombudsman (LGO).

Responding to the consultation, ASCL made it clear that it had always opposed the legislation on complaints, believing that it is unnecessary and liable to produce unintended and undesirable consequences. Not least of the potentially damaging effects is an increasing reluctance for senior leaders to take up the role of head, which becomes more exposed as a result of this new procedure.

ASCL stressed that it would be much better to phrase these regulations in terms of complaints against the school, rather than against the headteacher. As it stands, natural justice requires that heads should have a right to legal representation. If the regulations are amended to make the complaints less personal then of course it is the school that should have the right to representation.

In addition, ASCL said it was entirely unnecessary that complaints should be allowed up to 12 months after a pupil has left the school. If the purpose of a complaint is to seek better treatment for a child then it is too late after s/he has left the school. The majority of complaints made after the child has left would in practice only be an attempt to punish the school or an individual member of staff for a perceived failure.

ASCL welcomed the decision not to allow several lines of complaint to be followed where an appeal system is already in place. We do not think that it is appropriate for fixed-term exclusions to be considered by the LGO.

To read the full consultation response, go to www.ascl.org.uk/Home/Members_Area/Consultations/

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