Addressing the rise of complaints and unreasonable behaviour from pupils and parents

Debate – Secondary School

What was the issue addressed?
School staff are increasing having to deal with complaints and unreasonable behaviour from pupils and parents. The school staff are having to become counsellors, legal experts, aggression mediators and other roles that are not strictly teaching or even school management.

What happened?
The school had to create a legal service-level agreement (SLA) with the Local Authority. Alongside this we reshaped the school pupil behaviour support unit.

What lessons were learnt?
The actions have helped the situation. Areas that would further benefit require more staff, which requires more funding, which is not tenable at present

One lessons learnt is to have clearer roles and responsibilities between teaching and support staff. Support staff need boundaries and clarity as to what they are expected to do, and including the policies relating to handling of pupils and enforcing rules etc.

It’s always a good idea to have access to legal advice in case there are more serious issues to deal with at school, and most Local Authorities offer this under a Service Level Agreement.

All schools must have a behaviour policy which details how to manage pupil behaviour, noting who has the responsibility to enforce sanctions etc. This should be regularly reviewed by the governing body to make sure it is right for the school and fit for purpose.

Whilst employing more staff would be a solution in this case, this may not be feasible due to financial constraints.

Has the school arranged for sessions on INSET days that focus on managing pupil behaviour? This would be the ideal opportunity to ensure all staff are aware of and understand the school’s policy, and know how to apply it confidently and appropriately.

Where parents have concerns with the school, they should be encouraged to raise them to ensure they are dealt with in the correct manner. All schools must have a complaints procedure in place, which is publicised, maybe on the school’s website, and referred to in the governors Annual Report to Parents. Welsh Government has produced a model policy that governing bodies can use, adapt and / or adopt, within their guidance on dealing with school-based complaints.

If this is a large school, it might be worth the school thinking about designating members of staff as the complaints officers.

Most complaints or concerns can be dealt with informally (Stage A). However, where they can’t be resolved at this early stage, the procedure is in place, to make sure that there is a consistent approach to dealing with complaints. As long as complainants feel that their concern has been taken seriously and dealt with sensitively and as swiftly as possible, there should be no appeal to the more formal stages of the procedure (Stage B and C).

The school should not have to deal with parents who are aggressive. It is a good idea, therefore, for the governing body to have a policy that deals with vexatious complaints and unreasonable behaviour. As a last resort, schools can of course barr troublesome and aggressive parents from the school for a period of time. Paragraph 71, chapter 25 The School Governors Guide to the Law provides useful information on this.

Ultimately, schools need robust policies and procedures in place to address any issue that arises swiftly. Governors should also be provided with the number of complaints the school is receiving, usually via the headteacher’s report so it can monitor the situation carefully.

Has your school experience increases in behavioural problems with pupils and/or difficulties with parents?
How can the governing body best support the school in tacking issues such as these?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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