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CST calls for policy changes over surge in parent complaints

Government should set up a “single front door” for parental complaints to ensure they are not investigated multiple times, the body representing England’s academy trusts has said.

The Confederation of School Trusts told members today a rise in complaints is “not sustainable” and putting “significant pressure on school leaders”.

It is pushing for three policy changes:

  • Complaints by the Department for Education and its agencies into complaints must only be launched if they have already been investigated by schools or the trust
  • DfE should set up a “single front door” to “triage” complaints and decide where each goes so they are “investigated once and not multiple times”
  • The Teacher Regulation Agency should only be able to accept referrals from an employer or the police, not members of the public

“We are in no way suggesting that parents to do not have a right to complain,” the email to members, seen by Schools Week, stated. 

Volume of complaints ‘not sustainable’

“Public services learn all the time from complaints. But the volume of complaints we are seeing is not sustainable in our schools and it will have an impact on our ability to retain our leaders.”

“This is why we have been raising a series of issues with the DfE about the processes regarding parental complaints and have included changes to the process in in our election asks.”

A report from the charity Education Support last year revealed senior leaders had noticed a shift in public attitudes since Covid, with one noting: “It’s like people have got angrier.”

This had coincided with schools having to deal more with children’s complex needs, while juggling parents’ expectations and often being “blamed” for problems in the community.

Teacher Tapp surveys in 2023 also showed 10 per cent of school staff were threatened or abused on social media last year, up from 6 per cent in 2019. 

Amanda Spielman

Schools Week revealed in July there had been a rise in parents complaining to Ofsted post-Covid.

Speaking at the Confederation of School Trusts annual conference in Birmingham in October, then Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman revealed she was pushing the government to create a “coherent model”, given people “often spray complaints” at multiple organisations.

Staff are also receiving more abusive, Schools Week investigations have revealed – with trusts introducing codes of conduct, writing letters to parents about their “personally abusive” complaints and calls for a national campaign to crackdown on such abuse against school staff.

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