Unreasonable Contact and Complaints
Next review September 2024
At Frenchwood Community Primary School, staff deal with specific complaints as part of their day-to-day management of the school in accordance with the Schools Complaints Procedure. The majority of complaints are handled in an informal manner and are resolved quickly, sensitively and to the satisfaction of the complainant.
We are committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially and to providing a high quality service to those who complain. We will not normally limit the contact complainants have with the school. However, we do not expect our staff to tolerate unacceptable behaviour and will take action to protect staff from that behaviour, including that which is abusive, offensive or threatening.
There are occasions when individuals act in an unreasonable manner when raising and/or pursuing concerns. As a consequence, these actions begin to impact negatively on the day-to-day running of the school and directly or indirectly on the overall well-being of the children or staff in the school. In these exceptional circumstances the school may take action in accordance with this policy.
1. Aims of Policy
1.1 The aims of this policy are to:
- Uphold the standards of courtesy and reasonableness that should characterise all communication between the school and persons who wish to express a concern or pursue a complaint;
- Support the well-being of children, staff and everyone else who has legitimate interest in the work of the school, including governors and parents;
- Deal fairly and honestly, openly and transparently with those who make persistent or vexatious complaints and those who harass members of staff in school while ensuring that other stakeholders suffer no detriment.
2. Parents’ Expectations of the School
2.1 Parents/carers/members of the public who raise either informal concerns or formal complaints with the school can expect the school to:
- ensure that the Complaints Policy, Home School Communications Policy and Unreasonable Contact and Complaints Policy (this policy) are accessible;
- respond within a reasonable time;
- be available for consultation within reasonable time limits bearing in mind the needs of the pupils within the school and the nature of the complaint;
- respond with courtesy and respect;
- attempt to resolve problems using reasonable means in line with the school’s complaints procedure, other policies and practice and to keep the complainants informed of progress towards a resolution of the issues raised.
3. The School’s Expectations of Parents/Carers/Members of the Public
3.1 The School can expect Parents/Carers/Members of the public who wish to raise problems with the school to:
- treat all school staff with courtesy and respect;
- respect the needs and well-being of pupils and staff in the school;
- avoid and use, or threatened use, of violence to people, or property; d) Avoid any aggression or verbal abuse;
- recognise the time constraints under which members of staff in schools work and allow the school a reasonable time to respond;
- recognise that resolving a specific problem can sometimes take some time;
- in the case of a complaint – follow the School’s Complaint Procedure
4. What is an unreasonable complaint?
4.1 Frenchwood Community Primary School defines unreasonable as action which hinders our consideration of complaints because of the frequency or nature of the complainant’s contact with the school, such as, if the complainant:
- refuses to articulate their complaint or specify the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes sought by raising the complaint, despite offers of assistance
- refuses to co-operate with the complaints investigation process
- refuses to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the complaints procedure
- insists on the complaint being dealt with in ways which are incompatible with the complaints procedure or with good practice
- insists on only dealing with specific members of staff, e.g. the headteacher, on all occasions irrespective of the issue and the level of delegation in the school to deal with such matters;
- introduces trivial or irrelevant information which they expect to be taken into account and commented on
- raises large numbers of detailed but unimportant questions, and insists they are fully answered, often immediately and to their own timescales
- makes unjustified complaints about staff who are trying to deal with the issues, and seeks to have them replaced
- changes the basis of the complaint as the investigation proceeds
- repeatedly makes the same complaint (despite previous investigations or responses concluding that the complaint is groundless or has been addressed)
- refuses to accept the findings of the investigation into that complaint where the school’s complaint procedure has been fully and properly implemented and completed including referral to the Department for Education
- seeks an unrealistic outcome
- makes excessive demands on school time by frequent, lengthy and complicated contact with staff regarding the complaint in person, in writing, by email and by telephone while the complaint is being dealt with
- uses threats to intimidate
- uses abusive, offensive or discriminatory language or violence
- knowingly provides falsified information
- publishes unacceptable information on social media or other public forums.
Complainants should try to limit their communication with the school that relates to their complaint, while the complaint is being progressed. It is not helpful if repeated correspondence is sent (either by letter, phone, email or text), as it could delay the outcome being reached.
5. When is contact considered to be harassment?
5.1 For the purpose of this policy, harassment is the unreasonable pursuit of a concern or complaint in such a way that they:
- appear to be targeted over a significant period of time on one or more members of school staff and/or
- cause ongoing distress to individual members(s) of school staff and/or
- have a significant adverse effect on the whole/parts of the school community and/or
- are perceived as intimidating and oppressive by the recipient. This could include situations where persistent demands and criticisms, whilst not particularly taxing or serious when viewed in isolation, have the cumulative effect over time of undermining confidence, well-being and health.
6. The School’s Actions In Cases of Unreasonable Complaints or Harassment
6.1 Whenever possible, the headteacher or Chair of Governors will discuss any concerns with the complainant informally before applying an ‘unreasonable’ marking.
6.2 If the behaviour continues, the headteacher will write to the complainant explaining that their behaviour is unreasonable and ask them to change it. For complainants who excessively contact Frenchwood Community Primary School causing a significant level of disruption, we may instigate a Communication Plan. This will be reviewed after six months.
6.3 A Communication Plan could:
- limit the type of communication that can be accepted, e.g. email only;
- limit access in any form to named staff member;
- divert all communications via Lancashire Local Authority legal services;
- ensure that all meetings with a member of staff are be conducted with a second person present and that notes of meeting taken in the interests of all parties.
6.4 In response to any serious incident of aggression or violence, we will immediately inform the police and communicate our actions in writing. This may include barring an individual from our school. The school may also consider taking legal advice on pursuing a case under Anti-Harassment legislation;
7. 1 The School will review as appropriate, and at minimum once in a school year, any sanctions applied in the context of this policy