Introductory Statement As a school community, we are committed to upholding the Catholic ethos of our school, our school mission statement and our vision for the school in all our dealings with pupils, parents, one another and with the wider community in which our pupils live.
For that reason, we will try to prevent or minimise the need for complaints where this is possible. However, given that our community is made up of human beings and that mistakes can be made, we will approach these issues in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance for the benefit of all.
This policy seeks to outline our approach to dealing with the following:
- Telephone complaints
- Complaints about the principal
- Complaints about teachers
- Complaints about Special Needs Assistants (SNAs)
- Complaints about pupils
- Complaints about parents
- Complaints about ancillary staff.
Telephone complaints If answered by personnel other than the principal, these will be dealt with by asking for the name of the complainant, his/her relationship to the school and what the call is in connection with, before passing these details on to the principal. No further details will be sought, nor will the complainant be engaged with over the phone, except by the principal teacher. The principal will decide on a case by case basis, whether to talk to the complainant immediately or to investigate the matter first.
Complaints about the principal – Made by parents or pupils Complaints coming from parents or pupils will be dealt with directly by the principal in the first instance, in order to resolve the issue informally and amicably if possible. If the complainant is unhappy or feels that the complaint has been dealt with unfairly, the complaint may be outlined in writing to the Chairperson of the Board of Management.
Complaints about teachers – Made by parents The Complaints Procedure outlined in the ‘Management Board Members’ Handbook’ which has been agreed between the INTO and the CPSMA will be followed in relation to complaints about teachers made by parents (Appendix 1). It is important to note the following:
- It is expected that under normal circumstances, a parent who has a complaint about a teacher would approach the teacher at a mutually suitable time with a view to resolving the difficulty
- If the class teacher is by-passed by the parent, in favour of discussing the complaint with the principal, it will be suggested that the teacher should by approached first. However, if the principal feels that this would be unwise, due to the demeanour of the parent in question, the complaint will be listened to without prejudice, notes taken and the parent will be asked to return when the teacher has been given an opportunity to present his/her views on the issues to the principal
- The principal, having listened to both sides, will try to bring the issue to a satisfactory conclusion
- Parents will be expected to make an appointment to see the class teacher if the matter needs more than a few minutes to resolve, in view of the fact that classes must have adequate supervision at all times and that corridors are unsuitable venues for discussion purposes
- Teachers are not expected to have to deal with an angry, aggressive, threatening, intimidating or otherwise abusive parent. The support of the principal, of if unavailable, deputy principal or colleague should be sought in these circumstances
- Each room is supplied with a ‘Flower-motif card’ to be sent to any one of the above should support be needed
- In the interest of teachers’ personal safety, parents presenting with a complaint under the influence of drugs or alcohol, should not be engaged with unless the teacher is supported by the principal, deputy principal or colleague
- Teachers should retain a written record of any altercation which arises with a parent or guardian during which the teacher is threatened, shouted at or otherwise abused. A copy of this record should be given to the principal also
- If a complaint cannot be resolved with the class teacher, parents may bring the matter to the principal.
Complaints about teachers from pupils
- If a complaint about a teacher comes from a pupil to another teacher, the teacher to whom the complaint is made will refer to the pupil’s teacher. This teacher will then decide whether to deal with the matter her/himself or to refer it to the principal. In either case, the principal should be informed of the circumstances and a written record kept by both the teacher concerned and the principal
- If the complaint about a teacher comes from a pupil to the principal, it will be listened to, notes taken and the pupil will be advised that the matter will be discussed with the teacher concerned with a view to resolving the issue. In either case, if the complaint is deemed by the principal, after investigation and discussion with both the pupil and teacher, to be wrong or vindictive on the part of the pupil, the parents or guardian of the pupil may be invited to the school to discuss the matter.
Complaints about Special Needs Assistants (SNAs):
- Complaints coming from parents will be dealt with directly by the class teacher who will try to resolve the difficulty amicably
- Complaints about the SNA coming from the class teacher will be dealt with in the first instance by the teacher approaching the SNA with a view to resolving the issue. If the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily, it will be brought to the principal.
Complaints about pupils
- Complaints made about pupils by other parents will be handled by the class teacher in the first instance and the principal if thought necessary, through the procedures set out in the Code of Good Behaviour and the Anti-Bullying Policy. Under no circumstances will a parent be allowed access to a child other than their own child in the school
- Complaints made about pupils by other pupils will be handled by the teacher to whom the complaint is made in the first instance and by referring the matter to the principal if considered necessary.
Complaints about Parents
- Teachers will follow the Complaints Procedure (Appendix 1) by referring the complaint to the Principal in the first instance. If the teacher is unhappy about the Principal’s response or recommendation, Stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure may be invoked.
Complaints about Ancillary Staff
- These will be referred to the principal who will approach the staff member directly in order to resolve the issue.
Complaints about substitute teachers and peripatetic teachers
- These will be referred to the principal who will approach the teacher in question directly with a view to investigating and resolving the issue.
Complaints about visitors to the school
- In the case of visitors to the school, (e.g. students on work experience, students on teaching practice, visiting members of other agencies) the complainant will refer the issue to the principal in the first instance
- If not resolved at this stage, the issue will be referred to the management body dealing with the worker with a view to resolving the issue.
Internal Conflict issues In keeping with the mission and ethos of the school, staff members will seek to resolve internal conflict issues amicably between those concerned. However, if this process fails:
- The INTO staff representative will act as liaison between staff members or between staff and management in these instances
- The issue will be named and communication will be facilitated with all parties involved
- Everyone involved will be listened to and respected
- An early intervention in relation to conflict issues will be facilitated as far as possible
- All parties will work towards a resolution of the conflict and move on
- If necessary, an independent facilitator may be engaged to help resolve the conflict
- If the issue is not resolved, grievance procedures may be followed.
Complaints about a Department of Education and Skills Inspector: In the case of complaints against a school inspector, the guidelines established by the INTO in the publication: ‘Procedures for Review of Inspections’ and the Department of Education and Science ‘Comments and Complaints’ guidelines will be followed.
As stated in the guidelines, any complaint will be issued and conveyed to the Inspectorate on the day in question or by the end of the following day.
Roles and Responsibilities All stakeholders involved in the education of pupils will take responsibility for implementing the policy.
Review The Policy will be evaluated on an ongoing basis by representatives from the whole school community and will be reviewed every three years.
Ratification and Communication The Policy will be presented to the Board of Management for Ratification on:
The INTO and Primary School Management reached agreement in 1993 on a procedure for dealing with complaints by parents against teachers. The purpose of this procedure is to facilitate the resolution of difficulties where they may arise in an agreed and fair manner. The agreement lays out in five stages the process to be followed in progressing a complaint and the specific timescale to be followed at each stage. Please note this is a non-statutory procedure.
Only those complaints about teachers which are written and signed by parents/guardians of pupils may be investigated formally by the board of management, except where those complaints are deemed by the board to be:
- on matters of professional competence and which are to be referred to the Department of Education and Skills;
- frivolous or vexatious complaints and complaints which do not impinge on the work of a teacher in a school; or
- complaints in which either party has recourse to law or to another existing procedure.
Unwritten complaints, not in the above categories, may be processed informally as set out in Stage 1 of this procedure. Stage 1
- A parent/guardian who wishes to make a complaint should, unless there are local arrangements to the contrary, approach the class teacher with a view to resolving the complaint.
- Where the parent/guardian is unable to resolve the complaint with the class teacher s/he should approach the principal with a view to resolving it.
- If the complaint is still unresolved the parent/guardian should raise the matter with the chairperson of the board of management with a view to resolving it.
- If the complaint is still unresolved and the parent/guardian wishes to pursue the matter further s/he should lodge the complaint in writing with the chairperson of the board of management.
- The chairperson should bring the precise nature of the written complaint to the notice of the teacher and seek to resolve the matter between the parties within five days of receipt of the written complaint.
- If the complaint is not resolved informally, the chairperson should, subject to the general authorisation of the board and except in those cases where the chairperson deems the particular authorisation of the board to be required:
a) supply the teacher with a copy of the written complaint; and b) arrange a meeting with the teacher and, where applicable, the principal teacher with a view to resolving the complaint. Such a meeting should take place within 10 days of receipt of the written complaint.
- If the complaint is still not resolved the chairperson should make a formal report to the board within 10 days of the meeting referred to in 3(b).
- If the board considers that the complaint is not substantiated the teacher and the complainant should be so informed within three days of the board meeting.
- If the board considers that the complaint is substantiated or that it warrants further investigation it proceeds as follows:
a) the teacher should be informed that the investigation is proceeding to the next stage; b) the teacher should be supplied with a copy of any written evidence in support of the complaint; c) the teacher should be requested to supply a written statement to the board in response to the complaint; c) the teacher should be afforded an opportunity to make a presentation of case to the board. The teacher would be entitled to be accompanied and assisted by a friend at any such meeting; d) the board may arrange a meeting with the complainant if it considers such to be required. The complainant would be entitled to be accompanied and assisted by a friend at any such meeting; and e) the meeting of the board of management referred to in (d) and (e) will take place with in 10 days of the meeting referred to in 3(b).
- When the board has completed its investigation, the chairperson should convey the decision of the board in writing to the teacher and the complainant within five days of the meeting of the board.
- The decision of the board shall be final.
- The Complaints Procedure shall be reviewed after three years.
- Primary School Management or INTO may withdraw from this agreement having given the other party three months’ notice of intention to do so.
In this agreement ‘days’ means school days. Note: The vast majority of complaints are resolved locally and informally. However, in certain circumstances, for example, where a complaint is considered to be serious in nature, or where the teacher is required to submit a written response to his/her board of management, the teacher should contact his/her INTO District Representative or INTO Head Office for advice and assistance. In advising a teacher, the INTO will be anxious to ensure that there is due process and fair procedures applied, which generally include:
- that the teacher is fully appraised of all matters being considered by the board of management, including being provided with copies of all relevant documentation;
- the right to respond and adequate time to prepare a response;
- entitlement to be represented by the INTO, if necessary.
Where a teacher contacts the INTO in relation to a complaint(s) made against him/her, the officials involved will generally meet with the teacher and require him/her to provide detailed written information and documentation on the matter. The officials will assess the case and decide if additional specific legal advice or a legal consultation is required. Specific legal advice is obtained for members in accordance with the Rules of the INTO and the conditions prescribed by the CEC.