Case study 18

Mrs Williams is a parent governor at the primary school and is the newly elected chair of governors of four months. She has attended the mandatory chairs training. Last night she arrived home to find a hand delivered letter from Mrs Jones, a parent at the school. Mrs Jones has been told by the headteacher that her son is unable to attend after-school activities due to his behaviour in the school. The school has not spoken to her about any behaviour problems with her son so this has come as a shock. She has spoken to the headteacher regarding this but is not happy with the headteacher’s response. She has therefore contacted the chair, in line with the schools’ complaints procedure.

Mrs Williams has not had to deal with a complaint before so would appreciate some advice on the next steps.

As this is a complaint regarding the headteacher of the school, the parent was right in contacting the chair of governors. The chair, with advice from the Local Authority, should first establish whether the complaint should be dealt with under a procedure for staff capability, staff grievance, staff disciplinary or child protection. If it does, then those procedures take precedence.

In this case, the chair and the LA have determined that this is a complaint. School complaints procedures contain a 3-stage approach

As this is about the headteacher, the complaint goes straight to stage B.

Mrs Williams should commence an investigation and arrange to meet Mrs Jones to discuss the complaint. A written invitation to attend a meeting should include the following:

  • the time and place of the meeting
  • that the complainant (Mrs Jones) can request or suggest another meeting time and place (unless the complainant has already declined a previous arrangement)
  • any written information or documents which the school would like to receive
  • that the complainant may bring a companion of their choice (who in the case of a pupil making a complaint may speak on the pupil’s behalf)
  • the names of anyone attending the meeting and their role
  • the school’s right to decide the complaint if anyone invited does not attend and has not provided a good reason for their absence.

Following this meeting, the chair should meet with the headteacher, as a mutually agreed time and date, to discuss the concern raised by Mrs Jones.

During both meetings, we advise that someone take notes of the meeting. This could be:

  • the clerk to governors; or
  • another governor; or
  • an officer from the Local Authority.

Following these meetings, the chair must write to the complainant setting out the outcome of the investigation i.e. whether the complaint is upheld or not, and stating the reasons for the decision.

If Mrs Jones is not happy with this, or the complaint is not resolved, Mrs Jones may take this complaint to Stage C of the complaints procedure.