Learner Complaints & Grievance Policy and Procedures

Learner / Apprentices Complaints & Grievance Policy and Procedures

Complaints & Grievance Policy 

  1. Introduction 

The Academy is committed to providing a high-quality experience for each learner and encourages learners to highlight any causes for concern. These Learner  Complaints and Grievance Procedures therefore exist to enable learners including apprentices, their employers and/or representatives to raise and make complaints about such matters. They seek to ensure that complaints made by learners are treated seriously and, if found to be valid, are acted upon to ensure that the interests of learners are protected as far as it is possible for the academy to do so. 

  1. Definition and Scope 

These procedures cover all learners enrolled on programmes delivered by the academy, including those studying post graduate qualifications. Former learners may raise issues of complaint within the timescales stated below. 

They are intended for use in the case of any complaint or grievance concerning a person or persons attached to Smart Dental Academy. 

These procedures do not cover: 

  • Appeals against Assessment Board decisions (which are covered by the Academic Appeals Procedure); 
  • Appeals against End-Point Assessment decisions (These should be raised to the EPAO)
  • Complaints or grievances of a safeguarding nature (which shall be dealt with in accordance with the academy’s Safeguarding Policy). 

Smart Dental Acamdemy defines a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction (oral or writte) about the provision of any of our services provided.

In all Stages of these procedures the learner may, if they wish, be accompanied by a person of his/her choosing. The accompanying person may be legally qualified but may not act as the learner’s legal representative. If the learner wishes to be accompanied, they shall inform the Academy Program Director in writing in advance of the meeting. They shall also inform the Academy Program Director if the person attending is legally qualified. 

The final decision under this Complaints Procedure shall be considered the final decision of the academy, and further consideration of the same matter may not be made under a different academy procedure. 

Each complaint will be considered on its own merits. A learner will not be treated less favourably by the academy if s/he makes a complaint in good faith, regardless of whether the complaint is successful. 

Anonymous or vexatious** complaints will not normally be considered and the latter may lead to action under the Learner Conduct and Discipline Procedure. 

Any member of staff mentioned in a complaint will not be treated less favourably by the academy simply because a complaint has been made. 

If, however, the complaint against a member of staff is upheld, that member of staff may be subject to further disciplinary action. 

Complaints will be handled with an appropriate level of confidentiality and the academy expects that learners will treat both the complaints processes and each other with respect. 

  1. Timeframe for Making a Complaint 

A learner who is, or was recently an enrolled learner, or a group of learners wishing to complain, should normally do so within three months of the latest event which has given rise to the complaint. In exceptional circumstances, complaints received outside of this time frame will be dealt with sympathetically. 

  1. Group Complaints 

Where the issues raised affect a number of learners, those learners will be encouraged to submit a complaint as a ‘group complaint’. The principles and timescales outlined in these regulations will also apply to a group of learners making a complaint. The group shall nominate a spokesperson with whom the academy shall liaise and correspond and who shall ensure that all members of the group are in agreement regarding the nature of the complaint. The final outcome(s) of the complaint will be communicated by the academy to all members of the group. 

Complaints & Grievance Procedure 

  1. Stage 1: Informal Early Resolution 

Wherever possible, every effort should be made to resolve complaints or grievances informally, personally and amicably and as early as possible. 

A learner should, if at all possible and in the first instance, address his/her complaint to the member of staff (or learner) most directly involved in the event leading to the complaint, in order to give that person the opportunity to address the concerns. 

If the learner feels that this is not possible and has a complaint or grievance about their academic programme, then this should be raised in the first instance with the learners tutor. If the complaint relates to a more general, non-academic matter, then it should be raised with the Academy Program Director. If a learner is unsure to whom their concern or complaint should be addressed in the first instance, then they should raise it with their tutor, who will either provide advice or will pass on the concern or complaint as appropriate. 

**Vexatious complaints may include: complaints which are (a) unreasonable e.g. obsessive, harassing or repetitive; (b) without merit which are unreasonably pursued and/or for unrealistic outcomes; (c) meritorious but pursued unreasonably; (d) designed to cause disruption or annoyance; and (e) demands for redress which lack any serious purpose or value. 

In both cases, these learner representatives will take up the concern or complaint with the relevant member of staff within the academy in order to attempt to resolve the complaint simply and quickly. The learner Representative may invite the learner to a meeting to discuss the matter in an attempt to reach an early resolution. 

Stage 1 complaints will be dealt with in as timely a manner as possible and those involved will agree a timescale for the complaint’s investigation. The learner will be informed of these timescales. Wherever possible, the investigation shall be concluded within 28 calendar days. The learner will receive a written response (either from the member of staff concerned or the Learner Representative, where appropriate) which will either detail the proposed solution or, if no resolution has been found, explain the circumstances for this.

  1. Stage 2: Formal Complaint 

If the learner is not satisfied with the outcome of Stage 1, they may then choose to proceed to Stage 2. At this stage the procedure becomes formal. A Stage 2 complaint will normally only be considered following the completion of Stage 1. 

A learner should submit a written completed Learner Complaint Form - within 21 days of receiving the written response to Stage 1 - to the Academy Program Director. The written complaint should outline succinctly the issue and actions taken at Stage 1, along with the reasons for proceeding to Stage 2, and the learner should attach a copy of the Stage 1 written response and any documentary evidence relevant to the case. 

The Stage 2 complaint shall normally be acknowledged by the Academy Program Director within 7 working days

The case will be considered appropriately, reviewing the written complaint and meeting with all parties concerned with the aim of settling the issue. In addition, the case may be discussed confidentially by the Leadership Team. 

Stage 2 complaints will be dealt with in as timely a manner as possible and those involved will agree a timescale for the complaint’s investigation. The learner will be informed of these timescales. Wherever possible, the investigation shall be concluded within 21 calendar days from the date of the sent acknowledgement. The Academy Program Director shall inform the complainant and any subjects of the complaint, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation. 

  1. Stage 3: Academy Level Review (Formal) 

If, and only if, the learner considers that: 

·  there has been a procedural irregularity in the conduct of the Stage 2 investigation; 

·  new material information has come to light which they were demonstrably and for 

         the most exceptional reasons unable to disclose previously, or 

·  the decision reached was unreasonable based on the information that had been

         available to the academy when the case was considered, they may then choose to 

         proceed to Stage 3 to request an academy level review of the Stage 2 investigation. 

This is not a reopening of the original complaint. 

Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Stage 2 investigation is not a valid reason for requesting a review. The learner should submit a written request for review within 21 days of receipt of the written response to Stage 2. The review request should be submitted to the Academy Program Director and should include all paperwork and communications from the earlier Stages of the complaint/ grievance’s consideration under this procedure, together with details of any procedural irregularities in the earlier Stages or information which has newly come to light. 

Where the Academy Program Director is the subject of the complaint, the learner should address the request to the Academy Financial Controller. 

The Stage 3 review request shall normally be acknowledged by the Academy Program Director within 7 working days. The Academy Financial Controller shall review the case to consider whether the outcome of Stage 2 was reasonable rather than reconsidering the original case and its evidence. The review shall include an investigation which may include further discussions with the learner and/or the subject of the complaint and with members of staff involved at Stages 1 and/or 2. 

Stage 3 reviews of complaints will be dealt with in as timely a manner as possible and those involved will agree a timescale for the complaint’s investigation. The learner will be informed of these timescales and kept informed of any changes. Wherever possible, the investigation shall be concluded within 21 calendar days from the date of the sent acknowledgement. 

The Academy Program Director/Academy Financial Controller’s decision (which may involve disciplinary action) is final, and the outcome of the review shall be confirmed to the complainant and the subject of the complaint in writing.

The outcome of the review will result in one of three decisions: 

  1. To uphold the previous decision, with any action points or recommendations 


2. To dismiss the case, giving reasons in writing; 

3. To seek an alternative solution, with any action points or recommendations. 

Note* These complaints procedures and any decisions made under them are not intended to give rise to legal rights, or obligations on the academy to pay compensation either in respect of a decision made pursuant to the procedures or for a breach of these procedures. 

The academy will hear and consider a complaint only if lodged by a learner or group of learners themselves and will not deal with third parties, even with the permission of the learner(s), except in exceptional circumstances which prevent a learner representing him/herself. 

  1. Stage 4 (For Apprenticeships only)

Where all of the above processes have been exhausted you may escalate your complaint to the ESFA Apprenticeship Service Support on 08000 150 600 or helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk

  1. Monitoring & Enhancement 

These procedures shall be reviewed annually by the Academy Program Director, assisted by the Academic Administration Team, to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. Should a complaint be upheld, the matter shall be referred to the Academic Board for the purposes of (a) identifying any learning points, and (b) agreeing any necessary changes to academy procedures.