What should I do when I receive a parental complaint?

Overview

You will most likely encounter a parental complaint during your career in teaching. Sometimes complaints will either come directly to you or be reported to a senior member of staff or the governing body. Your school, by law, should have a complaints procedure which outlines how complaints should be managed.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published best practice guidance for schools on how to manage complaint procedures. The DfE’s guidance broadly looks at how complaints should be managed on the strategic level rather than specific guidance for teachers facing complaints from parents. However, it can be a useful starting point if you are unsure on the procedure which should take place at your school. 

We also recommend reading your staff handbook and your school’s complaints policy which will outline more specific details.

Is there a difference between a  parental concern and a formal complaint?

Yes. Schools need to be clear about the difference between parental concerns and formal complaints. Parental concerns ought to be handled, if at all possible, without the need for formal procedures.

What should I do when a parent raises a concern?

It can be distressing when a parent confronts you in the playground or sends you an email with a concern they have. Being able to resolve issues practicality, including apologising or expressing regret, where appropriate is often the best approach.

You should make a brief note of the concerns and an indication of the outcome of the discussion.

Taking informal concerns seriously at the earliest stage will reduce the issue developing into a formal complaint.

If you are aware that a parent is likely to lodge a formal complaint, you should inform your headteacher and pass on any information you hold.

If a concern relates to a school policy rather than a particular incident, for example, policy on school dress, timing of the school day, it would be appropriate for the issue to be referred directly to the head teacher.

What should I do if a parent is aggressive on the school site?

Schools are permitted to remove parents from the school site if they are acting in an abusive or threatening manner.

We have published another article which outlines details on what to do if you are experiencing abusive behaviour from parents.

What happens if a parent complains to school about me?

The DfE recommends that complaints against school staff are dealt with by the headteacher (stage 1), then a committee of members of the governing body (stage 2).

It explains that complaints about staff should be dealt with under the school’s internal disciplinary procedures, if appropriate. Schools do not need to inform parents of any disciplinary action taken against a staff member as a result of a complaint.

We have published another article which looks at the disciplinary process in schools.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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