All complaints need a name

25th April 2008 at 01:00
In general, schools get relatively few complaints

In general, schools get relatively few complaints. But like any organisation that employs staff and deals with the public, some do complain. Where a complaint is from a teacher or other person working at the school, it usually falls under the school's grievance procedure. Sometimes either the original grievance, or an appeal over the way it has been dealt with, will involve governors.

The key to stopping a grievance from escalating is for governors to remain independent and objective. Making positive attempts to avoid a staff grievance before it reaches the formal stage is essential: it is almost always better to try to resolve a situation beforehand. Early mediation may involve governors, particularly if it seems unlikely that the head and the member of staff can resolve the issue.

More common are complaints from parents, although in my experience parents don't complain a lot. Where a formal complaint from a parent is about a specific member of staff, it will usually be dealt with by the head, or sometimes the deputy. But where the complaint from a parent is about the head, then governors - usually, but not necessarily, the chair - will investigate the complaint and report the findings back to the parent. If the parent is unhappy with the outcome, often a group of governors will deal with an appeal. Again, however much you want to support the head, it is important for governors to remain independent.

Anonymous complaints should not be investigated. For one thing, you cannot report back about the complaint if it is anonymous. Furthermore, once it is clear that governors will take anonymous complaints seriously, more anonymous complaints are likely. So investigate real complaints independently, and throw the nameless ones in the bin.

Alan Wells, Chair of governors at a north-east London primary school.

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