15 September, 2015
During the school holidays there was a programme on ITV called "Exposure - Making the Grades". The programme concerned schools where it was alleged that pupils had been allowed to re-take exams on a number of occasions with the effect of allowing them to increase their grades and improve the statistics for the school. This got us thinking, because of course it was only one side of the story - the employees'. How do we strike a balance and understand the other side of the story?
The answer is to investigate - don't accept the situation presented to you as a given and formulate a conclusion until you have all the facts.
It is often the case that we are asked to advise schools, about how to deal with complaints from members of staff prior to them becoming formal grievances or beyond. It seems to be the case that if things are not "nipped in the bud" that they will escalate and become formal grievances. In some cases, this can include allegations of whistleblowing, which by their very nature, become more involved and time consuming as well as costly to the school. When we talk about cost that is not just the financial cost of obtaining legal advice, but the cost of management time and other resources that could be spent more wisely, in helping schools to achieve the best outcomes for their pupils.
Ask yourselves when did you last review your Grievance or Whistleblowing Policy? If the answer is "I don't know" or "not for a while" then our advice would be to dust off those policies and be clear about what happens in your school when a complaint is made. Frequently, it is our experience that things go wrong when Schools don't follow their own policies or action matters quickly enough. Not because the schools don't have the best of intentions in dealing with a complaint or grievance.
Employees need to have confidence that when they do raise a complaint, that it will be handled efficiently and effectively to achieve the right outcome for the school, the pupils and of course the employee. It is only by carrying out investigations into complaints that the school can truly know whether the complaint is genuine, what could be done to improve things and to satisfy the complainant. We do not live in a world where it is satisfactory any longer to sweep things under the carpet and in any event you are only storing up trouble for later if you do so. A proper and reasonable investigation will of course reveal both sides of the story.