1.0 INTRODUCTION

Kip McGrath Education Centres are committed to developing a strong sense of partnership with parents/carers and other members of the local community. This provides a good basis for understanding and resolution when things appear to go wrong. This policy describes the procedure to be followed when complaints are made by parents/carers and others about the conduct of the Kip McGrath Education Centre or the actions of its Franchisee or any member of staff.

2.0 WHAT CONSTITUTES A COMPLAINT IN OUR PROCEDURE?

Kip McGrath Education Centres definition of a complaint, which when applied to a Kip McGrath Education Centre, covers the following areas:
“A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions, or lack of actions, by a Kip McGrath Education Centre, Franchisee or its staff affecting an individual or a group.”
Members of the public, parents/carers and pupils/students may legitimately express dissatisfaction about aspects of the Kip McGrath Education Centres work.

3.0 WHY HAVE WE ADOPTED A GENERAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE?

All Kip McGrath Education Centres are required to have in place a complaints procedure. We hope that ours will help to ensure that most complaints are resolved quickly and smoothly and as close to the source of the misunderstanding or problem as possible. In this way complainants can feel assured from the outset of a fair hearing, in line with a defined procedure for dealing with issues that have not immediately been resolved. We also hope that a staged framework might prevent an early and unnecessary escalation of the problem. In addition, we will ensure that lessons learned from the investigation of complaints will prove useful to improve the centre’s policy and practice.

4.0 THE POLICY’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Our Complaints Procedure:

  • Is simple to understand and use – with straightforward, well publicised stages;
  • Encourages resolution of problems by informal means wherever possible;
  • Is easily accessible and publicised – with complainants knowing exactly where, how and to whom they should complain;
  • Enables swift handling within established time-limits – with complaints being dealt with promptly, effectively and professionally within stated time limits at as early a stage as possible and with complainants being kept informed of progress;
  • Enables effective action – with action being agreed and reviewed and complainants being kept informed of progress throughout each stage of the procedure;
  • Is impartial, ensuring a full and fair investigation with an assurance that, beyond the first informal stage of investigation of a complaint against an individual, the subject of the complaint will not deal with it but will instead refer it to his or her Regional Master Franchisee, Franchise Support Manager or CEO UK Business where appropriate;
  • Is non-adversarial – with opportunities provided for resolution without conflict;
  • Is confidential – with respect for people’s desire for confidentiality;
  • Addresses all the points at issue – with provision of an effective response
  • Provides information and enables development – providing information, where appropriate, to the centre’s Franchisee and giving opportunities for the centre and Kip McGrath Education Centres to consider changes to current practice on the basis of what complainants are saying.

Those involved in the complaints process will ensure that it takes place in the context of the requirements of Child Protection and other relevant procedures.

5.0 OUR PROCEDURE FOR HANDLING COMPLAINTS

5.1 RESPONSE STANDARDS

We believe that most complaints can be resolved satisfactorily by informal discussion either over the telephone or through a meeting involving the key people involved. We will normally acknowledge complaints within five working days. We will also normally provide a response or if a lengthy investigation is involved an update on progress within twenty working centre days. In the case of a lengthy investigation complainants will be kept informed of progress. The main aim throughout the procedure is to resolve the matter as quickly and effectively as possible, to everybody’s satisfaction.

5.2 STAGE ONE: INFORMAL COMPLAINTS

* Parents/carers and others should raise complaints or concerns with the Franchisee of the Kip McGrath Centre.
* If a parent/carer or other believes that the complaint or concern is serious or sensitive or involves the Franchisee directly she/he should talk to the Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager, who will investigate, and then report back either in writing or, more usually at this informal stage, through a telephone call with the complainant. (Many centres will have a designated Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager who will have responsibility for the operation and management of the complaints procedure in cases where a complaint involves a Franchisee.)
* Although parents/carers and others are encouraged to raise their concerns/complaints with the relevant Franchisee of the centre we recognise that parents/carers and others may, on occasion, bring their complaint to the attention of the Kip McGrath Education Centres organisation by telephoning, or writing to the Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager for the region in which the centre operates. In such cases, Franchisees will work with the Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager in order to resolve the problem through the complaints procedure, involving contact/discussion with the parents/carers and others.
* All Kip McGrath Education Centres representatives involved in informal complaints should keep written records, and should record the date on which the informal complaint was made.
* Every effort will always be made to resolve the problem at this informal stage, including, possibly, the offer of a conciliation meeting.
* Complainants who remain dissatisfied at this stage will be informed that they have the opportunity to make a formal complaint. In such cases, complainants will be required to state clearly in writing that they are making a formal complaint.
* Individual complaints will not, at any stage, be heard by, or referred to, the Kip McGrath Education Centres UK Head Office, as this could compromise the impartiality of any appeal or any disciplinary hearing against a Franchisee or member of centre staff following a serious complaint.

5.3 STAGE TWO: FORMAL COMPLAINTS

* When they express an interest in making a formal complaint, parents/carers and others will be reminded of the twenty centre business working day time limits included in the process.
* Formal complaints should be made in writing (see appendix B), should state clearly that a formal complaint is being made and will normally be investigated, in the first instance, by the Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager.
* If the complaint directly concerns the Franchisee, however, complainants should contact the Kip McGrath Education Centres UK Head Office, who will consult the centre’s assigned Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager and then investigate the complaint.
* If the complainant is dissatisfied with the Franchisee’s response, she/he should contact the CEO UK Business at the Kip McGrath Education Centres UK Head Office, who will consult with the centre’s Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager.
* The CEO UK Business will determine a method of further investigation and provide a formal response to the complainant. The assigned Master Franchisee will normally be available to advise the CEO UK Business over the investigation and the response.
* If the assigned Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager considers that the complaint is complex or may have a legal dimension, she/he will refer it through to the CEO UK Business.
* If the CEO UK Business feels that it would not be appropriate for him/her to investigate the complaint or there are exceptional circumstances the CEO UK Business might request that another Executive of Kip McGrath Education Centres carry out the investigation.
* If a written complaint is received by Kip McGrath Education Centres, the centre’s assigned Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager will consult with the Franchisee/CEO UK Business as appropriate and determine a suitable method of investigation. The complaint will then be dealt with following the complaints procedure.
* The complainant will receive a written response to his/her complaint.
* In some cases, a complaint may lead to action against an individual, for which there are separate procedures. If this is the case the complainant will be informed that the complaint will be pursued through Franchisor action. Under the Franchisor’s procedures, the outcome of these procedures is confidential.

Complainants should normally receive a response to their formal written complaint within twenty centre business working days of the receipt of that written complaint.

When receiving the results of an investigation into a formal complaint carried out by/on behalf of the CEO UK Business, complainants should be informed of their right to appeal and reminded that the time limit for requesting an appeal hearing is twenty centre business working days from the date of receiving feedback from the investigation.

5.4 STAGE THREE: APPEAL

If they remain dissatisfied after an investigation by/on behalf of the CEO UK Business, complainants may appeal to the Franchisor of the Kip McGrath Education Centres for a resolution of their complaint. The Franchisor will normally after reviewing the complaint normally either a) dismiss the complaint in whole or part or b) uphold the complaint in whole or part. Appropriate recommendations may be made to the Franchisee or Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager or CEO UK Business. The decision will be communicated in writing to both sides, with reasons for the judgment given. The appeal review by the Franchisor should normally take place within twenty centre business working days of receipt of the written appeal request. Under this complaints procedure there is no provision for further appeal beyond Stage Three. If, at any point, the complainant, having exhausted the complaints procedure, attempts to re-open the same complaint, she/he will be informed in writing that the procedure has been exhausted and that the matter is now closed. If, at any point, a complainant requests to proceed to the next stage of the complaints procedure at a time past the twenty working school day time limit, she/he will normally be told in writing that the complaint has expired.

6.0 COMPLAINTS AGAINST MASTER FRANCHISEES

In the event of a formal complaint being made against the Master Franchisee or Franchise Support Manager, the complaint will be heard by the CEO UK Business and stage three recommended procedure for Appeals will be adopted thereafter. If the complaint is upheld or upheld in part, the Franchisor may make recommendations to the Kip McGrath Education Centres Board of Directors.

6.1 COMPLAINTS AGAINST CEO UK BUSINESS

In the event of a formal complaint being made against the CEO UK Business, the complaint will be heard by another Executive of the Kip McGrath Education Centres and stage three recommended procedure for Appeals will be adopted thereafter. If the complaint is upheld or upheld in part, the Franchisor may make recommendations to the Kip McGrath Education Centre Board of Directors.

APPENDIX A & B

KMEC Complaints Form

APPENDIX C

GUIDANCE FOR KIP MCGRATH EDUCATION CENTRES REPRESENTATIVES CONDUCTING COMPLAINT INVESTIGATIONS

  1. Many complaints are detailed and complex. It is recommended that the complainant be interviewed as the first step of the investigation. This interview could take place by telephone. The objects will be a) to enable the complainant to clarify the nature of the complaint and what remains unresolved, b) to enable the complainant to explain details and c) to enable the investigator to clarify/separate issues. The separation of individual issues should enable each area to be addressed separately and appropriately.
  2. During this interview, the investigator should a) inform the complainant that the person who is the subject of the complaint will need to see a copy of the written complaint, and to obtain the complainant’s permission for this in writing; b) ask the complainant what would bring closure to the issue for him/her; c) (If the complainant has unrealistic expectations of the process,) clarify exactly what the possible outcomes of the complaints procedure could, and could not, be; d) inform the complainant of the expected timescale for the whole process; e) conduct the interview with an open mind and be prepared to persist in the questioning; f) keep notes of the interview.
  3. At the end of this interview, the investigator should agree with the complainant the issues that have been raised in the complaint. It is recommended that the investigator then completes an informal complaint form (see appendix A) and sends to the complainant with these issues clearly specified, asking the complainant to sign to confirm/amend the document.
  4. If a Franchisee or Master Franchisee is carrying out the investigation, s/he should inform the CEO UK Business of the expected timescale.
  5. The investigator should carry out the inquiry as quickly as possible, keeping written, dated records of interviews and other processes. Those involved in the matter, and those complained of, should be interviewed.
  6. If undertaking the inquiry on behalf of the CEO UK Business, the investigator should report confidentially in writing to the CEO UK Business and discuss the most appropriate method of sharing the results with the complainant.
  7. The investigator should bear in mind data protection requirements and ensure that individuals are not named in the report or identified in any other way.
  8. The investigator should consider making positive recommendations.
  9. Normally, the entire report should be shared with the complainant. If the investigation leads to recommendations of any disciplinary procedures, no details of these may be given to the complainant. No personal information about a third party can be disclosed without that person’s consent.

Unacceptable Actions Policy

Unacceptable actions or behaviour by enquirers and complainants This policy sets out KMEC approach to the relatively few enquirers and complainants whose actions or behaviour is considered unacceptable. Kip McGrath Education Centres (KMEC) welcomes contact with all centres, regional offices, head offices and aims to provide a service that is accessible to all. However we reserve the right to restrict or change access to the KMEC service where an individual’s actions or behaviour are considered to be unacceptable.

Defining unacceptable actions

Actions that we consider to be unacceptable are grouped under the following three broad headings:

Aggressive or abusive behaviour

This can include rudeness, threats, physical violence, personal verbal abuse, derogatory remarks and unsubstantiated allegations. It also includes any other behaviour or language (oral or written) that may cause staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused.

Unreasonable demands

This can include any action or behaviour which places unreasonable demands upon the resources of KMEC, such as taking up an excessive amount of staff time to the disadvantage of other individuals or functions. For example, demanding responses within unreasonable timescales, continual phone calls or letters, repeatedly changing the substance of an enquiry/complaint or raising unrelated concerns.

Unreasonable persistence

This can include persistent refusal to accept a decision made in relation to a complaint or enquiry, persistent refusal to accept explanations relating to what KMEC can or cannot do and continuing to pursue an issue without presenting any new information. The actions of persistent enquirers/complainants are considered to be unacceptable when they take up what KMEC regards as a disproportionate amount of time and resource and adversely affects KMEC’s ability to provide a service to others.

Managing unacceptable actions

When we consider that an individual’s behaviour is unacceptable we will tell them why we find their behaviour unreasonable and we will ask them to change it. If the unacceptable behaviour continues, we will take action to restrict the individual’s contact with our centre, regional office and head offices. KMEC staff who directly experience unreasonable behaviour have the authority to deal immediately with the behaviour in a manner they consider appropriate in line with this policy. With the exception of such immediate decisions taken at the time of an incident, the decision to restrict access to centre, regional office and head offices will be taken by a member of staff at management level. Any restrictions imposed will be appropriate and proportionate. The options most likely to be considered are:

  • requesting contact in a particular form (for example, letters or email only);
  • requiring contact to take place with a named officer;
  • restricting telephone calls to specified days and times;
  • asking the individual to enter into an agreement about their conduct; and/or
  • require future contact to be through a third party.

In all cases we will write to tell the individual why we believe his or her behaviour is unacceptable, what action we are taking and the duration of the action. We will also tell them how they can challenge the decision if they disagree with it.

Cases when we may discontinue contact with enquirers/complainants

Where an individual whose enquiry or complaint is closed persists in communicating with us about it, we may decide to terminate contact with that individual. In such cases, we will read all correspondence from that individual, but unless there is fresh evidence which affects our decision in the particular case we will acknowledge it and place it on the file with no further action noted. New enquiries or complaints from individuals who come within this unreasonable actions policy because of their unreasonable persistence will be treated on their merits.

The threat or use of physical violence, verbal abuse or harassment towards KMEC staff is likely to result in the ending of all direct contact with the individual and discontinuing any investigation into their enquiry or complaint. Incidents may be reported to the police. This will always be the case if physical violence is used or threatened.

Appealing a decision to restrict contact

An individual can appeal a decision made by one of KMEC’s staff to restrict contact. A senior member of staff who was not involved in the original decision considers the appeal. They advise the individual in writing that either the restricted contact arrangements still apply or a different course of action has been agreed. Where a decision to restrict contact has been taken or endorsed by KMEC, it is final.

Recording and reviewing a decision to restrict contact

KMEC records all incidents of unacceptable actions by individuals. Where it is decided to restrict contact, an entry noting this is made on the relevant records. A decision to restrict contact may be considered if the individual demonstrates a more acceptable approach. The KMEC Operations Director reviews the status of all enquirers/complainants with restricted contact arrangements on a regular basis.

Annex D

Terminating abusive phone calls

Kip McGrath Education Centres (KMEC) expects its staff to be courteous to everyone they work with and expects that they should in return be accorded due respect.

What constitutes an abusive phone call?

Rudeness, threats, personal derogatory remarks, unsubstantiated allegations and shouting can all constitute abusive phone behaviour. It also includes any other behaviour or language that causes the particular staff member to feel afraid, threatened or abused.

Three step approach

KMEC has adopted a three step approach to enable KMEC staff to appropriately manage an abusive phone call:

First abusive behaviour:

Inform the individual that their behaviour is considered abusive and give the individual an opportunity to modify their behaviour.

Second abusive behaviour:

Repeat warning above and inform individual that the phone call will be terminated if the abusive behaviour continues.

Third abusive behaviour:

Inform individual that the call is going to be terminated and end the call.

Note – in extreme cases, for example threats of violence, staff are entitled to terminate the call immediately where this would be a proportionate response

Next steps

Refer the matter to your line manager who will consider the options for restricting future contact/reporting the incident in line with this policy.