Cornerstone College Cambridge (CCC) aims to provide teaching and pastoral care to its students. However, if parents do have a complaint, they can expect it to be treated by the College in accordance with this Procedure. CCC will make the complaints procedure available to all parents of students and of prospective students on the College’s website and in the College Office during the college day, and CCC will ensure that parents of students and of prospective students who request it are made aware that this document is published or available and the form in which it is published or available.
In accordance with paragraph 6(3)(f) of the Education (Independent College Standards)(England) Regulations 2003 (as subsequently amended), CCC will make available to parents of students and of prospective students and provide, on request, to the Chief Inspector, the Secretary of State or the ISI for the purposes of section 162A(1) of the Education Act 2002 (as subsequently amended), details of the complaints procedure, and the number of complaints registered under the formal procedure during the preceding college year.
Stage 1 – Informal Resolution
- It is hoped that most complaints and concerns will be resolved quickly and informally.
- If parents have a complaint, they should contact their daughter’s/son’s Form Tutor/Teacher or Before/After College Care Leader (where appropriate). In many cases, the matter will be resolved immediately by this means to the parents’ satisfaction. If the Form Tutor, Teacher or Before/After College Care Leader cannot resolve the matter alone, it may be necessary for him/her to consult the Head of College
- Complaints made directly to the Head of College will usually be referred to the relevant Form Tutor/Teacher or Before/After College Leader unless the Head of College/Principal deem it appropriate to deal with the matter personally.
- The Form Tutor or Teacher will make a written record of all concerns and complaints and the date on which they were received. Should the matter not be resolved within 14 days or in the event that the key member of staff and the parent fail to reach a satisfactory resolution, then parents will be advised to proceed with their complaint in accordance with Stage 2 of this Procedure.
Whilst we endeavour to resolve any complaint in the timescales indicated above, there may be cases, perhaps for reasons of holiday or illness, when a deviation from the normal timescale is necessary. In these circumstances the College commits to explain the reasons for any such deviation and, in all cases, to set an absolute time limit of 28 term-time working days to cover the period from the lodging of the complaint to its resolution.
Stage 2 – Formal Resolution
- If the complaint cannot be resolved on an informal basis, then the parents should put their complaint in writing to the Principal. The Principal will decide, after considering the complaint, the appropriate course of action to take and will decide who should deal with the complaint according to its circumstances.
- In most cases, the Principal and/or the member of staff leading the investigation will speak to and if necessary, meet with the parents concerned, within 14 days of receiving the complaint, to discuss the matter. If possible, a resolution will be reached at this stage.
- It may be necessary for the Principal to carry out further investigations. The Principal and any staff involved in dealing with the complaint will keep written records of all meetings and interviews held in relation to the complaint.
- Once the Principal is satisfied that, so far as is practicable, all of the relevant facts have been established, a decision will be made and parents will be informed of this decision in writing. The Principal will also give reasons for his/her decision.
- If parents are still not satisfied with the decision, they should proceed to Stage 3 of this Procedure.
Stage 3 – Panel Hearing
- If parents seek to invoke Stage 3 (following a failure to reach an earlier resolution), they will be referred to the Bursar, who has been appointed by the College Committee to call hearings of the Complaints Panel. The matter will then be referred to the Complaints Panel for consideration. The Panel will consist of three persons not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint, one of whom shall be independent of the management and running of the College. The Bursar, on behalf of the Panel, will then acknowledge the complaint and schedule a hearing to take place as soon as practicable and within 28 days.
- If the Panel deems it necessary, it may require that further particulars of the complaint or any related matter be supplied in advance of the hearing. Copies of such particulars shall be supplied to all parties normally not later than 21 days prior to the hearing.
- The parents may attend the hearing and be accompanied to the hearing by one other person if they wish. This may be a relative, teacher or friend. Legal representation will not normally be appropriate.
- If possible, the Panel will resolve the parents’ complaint without the need for further investigation. Where further investigation is required, the Panel will decide how it should be carried out. After due consideration of all facts they consider relevant, the Panel will reach a decision and may make recommendations.
- The Panel will write to the parents informing them of its decision and the reasons for it, within 14 days of the hearing. The decision of the Panel will be final. A copy of the Panel’s findings and recommendations (if any) will be sent by electronic mail or otherwise given to the parents and, where relevant, the person complained about, as well as the College Committee and the Principal.
- A written record will be kept of all complaints and of whether they are resolved at the preliminary stage or proceed to a Panel hearing.
Arrangements for Record Keeping and Confidentiality
Parents can be assured that all concerns and complaints will be treated seriously and confidentially. Correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints will be kept confidential except to the extent required by paragraph 6(3)(f) of the Education (Independent Colleges Standards) (England) Regulations 2003 (as subsequently amended), by the Secretary of State or where disclosure is required by the ISI under Section 162A of the Education Act 2002 (as amended), or under other legal authority.
The DfE has given the following guidance on the identity of an independent panel member.
“Our general view is that people who have held a position of responsibility and are used to analysing evidence and putting forward balanced arguments would be suitable. Examples of persons likely to be suitable are serving or retired business people, civil servants, heads or senior members of staff at other colleges, people with a legal background and retired members of the Police Force might be considered.”
Complaints Procedure – Independent Member of the Panel
The following guidance comes from a letter sent by the DfE to the ISC General Secretary in 2002. Although dated, the advice is extant.
Whilst we do not intend to be prescriptive our general view is that suitable people would be those who have held positions of responsibility and who are used to analysing evidence and putting forward balanced arguments/points. It would add credibility if independent panel members had some standing in the local community. In this connection serving or retired business people, civil servants, heads or senior members of staff at other colleges, people with a legal background – perhaps retired members of the Police Force – might be considered suitable by colleges. Colleges will have their own views and may well have other suitable suggestions to make.
You asked if it would be acceptable to appoint former governors or staff of the college as the independent panel member. The regulations do not preclude this since the stipulation is that the person must be independent of the management and running of the college. Clearly former governors or staff would not have any such involvement. However, colleges should bear in mind that they may be subject to criticism that such people would remain too close to the college and would not be truly independent.
Reviewed September 2023,
By Emmanuel Obikwu