Complaints - Policy & Procedure
1. Purpose and Scope of Procedure
The purpose of the complaints procedure is to ensure that, as far as possible, complaints are dealt with and resolved informally through discussion between the aggrieved student and staff. Complaints are concerns or problems raised by a student or students and may be made in writing or orally. (There is a separate procedure for student academic appeals.) Before using the complaints procedure it is expected that a student will try to resolve the complaint informally. The formal stage of the procedure should only be used when the informal stage has failed to resolve the issue or is not making progress at reasonable speed.
This procedure applies to all students.
2. Principles of Procedure
The procedure is based on the following principles:
• A student has the right to be accompanied by a colleague or friend at every stage of the formal procedure.
• Any complaints, to become formal, must be made in writing as soon as possible
• In all cases, reference to informal resolution in advance of formal complaint is recommended
• All proceedings, whether informal or formal, should, so far as is practicable, remain confidential
• A formal record of any hearing will be available to the student. The hearing will be recorded and a copy given to the student
• The timescales set out may be extended with the agreement of the parties. Where more than one student has lodged a complaint relating to the same, or substantially the same, issue, the complaints may be dealt with together in the interests of fair and consistent decision-making.
• Where a complaint concerns an apparently trivial issue the relevant staff member will discuss this informally with the student to determine whether there is a real need to pursue the matter through the complaints procedure.
• If the student and member of staff are unable to agree, the student will be entitled to submit the complaint formally together with any further evidence or explanation that throws new light on it, and demonstrates that a substantive complaint is in fact being made.
• If the student’s complaint restates a complaint that has been dealt with in the past, the student will be asked to explain how the new complaint differs from the previous one, and either what new incident has occurred or what new evidence has come to light. Where it is clear that there is nothing new being raised, the centre can reject the complaint without a hearing or committee meeting.
3. Informal Stage
If a student has a complaint that involves another student or other students, they should first of all try to resolve the matter by direct approach to the student or students involved. The student representatives and welfare officer may intervene if the situation demands their intervention.
If the matter relates to academics, general welfare, tutors or staff or facilities provided by the School, the student may request a meeting with a relevant staff member and efforts made to resolve the issue. Any informal meeting with staff should be held within 10 working days of the submission of the request. Usually student complaints are likely to take the form of suggestions for improvement (e.g. more library books, changed teaching hours) and can be dealt with either informally or formally based on the nature of the issue.
If, after any action to resolve the complaint taken by staff, the student is not satisfied with such actions, he/she may proceed to the formal stage of the procedure.
4. Formal Stage
If the complaint has not been resolved at the informal stage and the student wishes to proceed to the formal stage, the student may do so and the complaint will be heard by the Principal. The student must set out in writing the nature of their complaint and the reasons why they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal stage. The student should explain how they think it should be settled. This must be submitted to the Principal. The record of this written complaint will be kept in a specified Complaints File for three years, whatever decision is made and however the issue is resolved.
Should the complaint relate to a process or decision, the Principal will appoint another person as investigating officer who will be asked to provide a full written report together with any relevant documents. The investigation should be conducted as quickly as possible while allowing for all relevant information and evidence to be gathered. A timescale for this will be agreed between the student and the Principal.
Should the complaint be against a named individual or individuals, the Principal will give them a copy of the complaint at the earliest opportunity. The individual will present their response at the hearing and it would not normally be necessary to conduct an investigation.
Every attempt will be made to ensure that the hearing will be held within 10 working days of receipt of the investigating officer’s report, or within 10 working days of the complaint being received if it is against an individual. The student will be given five working days’ notice that the hearing is to be held. The student may request an alternative date to allow up to an additional five working days if their representative is unavailable. If following a reasonable attempt to rearrange the hearing, the student is still unable to attend, they may send a representative, or the hearing may be held in their absence.
The complainant should ensure that they attend the meeting at the specified time. If they are unable to attend because of circumstances beyond their control, they should inform the Principal as soon as possible. If they fail to attend without explanation, or it appears that they have not made sufficient attempts to attend, the hearing may take place in their absence. A copy of any decision will be given in writing to the complainant within three working days of the hearing.
5. Right of Appeal
Should the complainant wish to appeal against the decision of the Principal they must do so, in writing, within five working days of being informed of the decision.
A request for an appeal must specify the grounds of the appeal preferably under one or more of the following headings: the nature of any redress the finding of the hearing on a point of fact which is pertinent to the decision of the hearing a failure to adhere to the published procedure.
The appeal will be considered by an external independent adjudicator who has not been directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint and is independent of the management and running of the School. All details of the complaint will be made to the external adjudicator, including findings and reasons for the decision.
The appeal will be heard by the independent external adjudicator. The student will be given five working days’ notice that the hearing is to be held. The complainant may request an alternative date to allow up to an additional five working days if their representative is unavailable. If following a reasonable attempt to rearrange the hearing, the student is still unable to attend, they may send a representative, or the hearing may be held in their absence.
The complainant should ensure that they attend the meeting at the specified time. If they are unable to attend because of circumstances beyond their control, they should inform the Director of Studies as soon as possible. If they fail to attend without explanation, or if it appears that they have not made sufficient attempts to attend, the hearing may take place in their absence. The appeal is not a rehearing of the original complaints, but rather a consideration of the specific areas with which the student is dissatisfied in relation to the original complaints. The adjudicator may therefore confine discussion to those specific areas, rather than reconsider the whole matter afresh.
The adjudicator will hear all or part of the previous hearing depending upon the nature of the appeal. The adjudicator has the scope to:
• Uphold all or part of the previous decision
• Not uphold the previous decision.
If the adjudicator decides either to uphold only part of the previous decision or not to uphold the previous decision, he/she may at their discretion substitute an appropriate remedy of their own choosing.
Within three working days of the appeal the adjudicator will record the decision and give it to the student. Any recommendations made by the adjudicator will be notified to the appropriate individuals, and will be time bound. The decision of the appeals adjudicator is final. Written records of this complaint will then be kept in the Complaints File for three years and then destroyed.