Whistle-blowing Policy

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1 Whistle-blowing Policy Introduction Heath Mount School is committed to conducting its business honestly and with integrity and demands the highest standards of conduct from both its staff and its pupils. All members of staff are expected to carry out their duties in accordance with both contractual obligations and the school s policies and procedures and an open dialogue between staff and managers is actively encouraged. However, as with any organisation, there is the concern that occasionally something may go wrong, or that the school may unwittingly have engaged in or harboured illegal or unethical conduct. The school s commitment to creating a culture of openness and accountability is essential to minimise the risk of such situations occurring and to address any such issues promptly when they arise. The procedure contained within this policy is not a substitute for normal line management processes, but an addition to them and, equally, does not supersede the school s Safeguarding Policy. Members of staff are encouraged to use normal line management procedures for addressing any concerns initially (i.e. through HoDs/ Director or Studies if the concern is academic or through HoYs/ Deputy Head Pastoral if it is a welfare concern). The whistle-blowing procedure should only be used where the issue cannot be resolved through these normal channels. The whistle-blowing procedure is only for the purpose of raising concerns about wrongdoing. It is not a substitute or alternative for existing internal procedures through which staff may raise concerns (see, Staff Grievance Procedure, Complaints Procedure and Safeguarding Policy for further details). The whistle-blowing procedure should only be used where all other existing internal procedures have been exhausted, are felt to be inappropriate or when a member of staff feels inhibited in going through the normal procedures. The whistle-blowing procedure does not prevent staff from raising concerns through their trade union. The whistle-blowing procedure is not a route through which employees can raise concerns about mismanagement, arising from weak management rather than malpractice. 1

2 Aims The aims of this policy are set out below: to encourage staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible, knowing that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly, with confidentiality; to provide guidance on how to raise any such concerns; to reassure staff that they can raise genuine concerns, in good faith, without fear of reprisals, whatever the outcome of an investigation. The whistle-blowing procedure has been written with reference to the advice given in the Whistle-blowing Arrangements Code of Practice issued by the British Standards Institute and also advice given by Public Concern at Work. This policy applies to all staff, whatever their position or terms of employment and is designed to reflect the school s current practices. However, it does not form part of an employee s contract of employment (it is written for guidance purposes only) and the school reserves the right to amend it at any time. Whistle-blowing Whistle-blowing is the disclosure of information relating to suspected wrongdoing or dangers at work. This may include, but is not limited to: criminal activity; child protection and/or safeguarding concerns (the school s safeguarding guidelines will offer additional guidance and must ALWAYS be followed if the concern is of a safeguarding nature, even if this means direct contact with an outside agency, see the school s Safeguarding Policy for further information); miscarriages of justice; risks to health and safety; damage to the environment; failure to comply with legal or professional obligations or regulatory requirements; financial fraud or mismanagement; negligence; breach of the school s internal policies and procedures, including its Staff Code of Conduct and Safeguarding Policy; conduct that could damage the school s reputation; unauthorised disclosure of confidential information; deliberate concealment of any of the above. 2

3 A whistle-blower is someone raising a genuine concern, in good faith. If you have genuine concerns about suspected wrongdoing or danger affecting any of the school s activities (a whistle-blowing concern) you should report it using this policy as a guide. However, complaints relating to staff s own personal circumstances should be reported using the Staff Grievance Procedure, as they are unlikely to relate to a whistle-blowing offence. If you are uncertain about whether or not a concern is within the scope of this policy you should seek advice from the Headmaster. If the concern is in relation to an alleged wrongdoing by the Headmaster, you should seek the advice of the Designated Governor, the Chair of Governors Mrs Juliette Hodson.. How to raise a concern Heath Mount School hopes that in many cases, staff members will be able to raise any concerns with their Line Manager in the first instance, either by speaking to them in person or by putting the concern to them in writing. Your line manager could be either the HoD or the HoY, depending on whether the concern is academic or pastoral. You may also contact the appropriate member of SMT (Director of Studies for an academic concern or Deputy Head Pastoral for a welfare concern). This should be sufficient to resolve the issue. However, where a concern is more serious, or you feel that your Line Manager has not addressed your concern adequately, or you feel unable to raise the concern with them for any reason, you should contact the Headmaster in the first instance or Public Concern at Work. The Headmaster The Headmaster will arrange a meeting with the whistle-blower, as soon as practicable, to discuss their concern. He will record in writing details sufficient to enable the matter to be thoroughly investigated. The Headmaster will record, as a minimum, the name of the employee (indicating whether or not the individual wishes his/her identity to remain confidential) and the nature of the concern. It will not always be possible to maintain employee confidentiality and the Headmaster will explain this. In such cases, the employee has the choice to withdraw their statement or to agree to his/her identity being known during the resolution of the concern. All staff members may bring a colleague or trade union representative (who must respect the confidentiality of the disclosure and any subsequent investigation to any meetings held as a result of a whistle-blowing accusation). 3

4 The Headmaster will ensure that notes are taken throughout proceedings and that a written summary of the concern raised is produced. A copy of these notes must be provided to the whistle-blower as soon as practicable after the meeting. The school also aims to give the whistle-blower, as soon as practicable after the meeting, an indication of how it proposes to deal with the concern raised. It should be noted that, if an individual misuses this procedure (e.g. by making malicious or repeated unsubstantiated complaints against colleagues) this could lead to disciplinary action being taken against the employee. If the Headmaster knows or suspects that an employee falls into this category, then he will take advice from the Designated Governor, the Chair of Governors Mrs Juliette Hodson, who will help to determine the appropriate action to take. However, this advice should not prevent you from taking action or even repeated action if you are doing so in good faith. Remember don t think What if I am wrong? think What if I am right?. Public Concern at Work If you are in any doubt about how a concern you raised has been dealt with, or if you are unsure about whether or not you should raise your concerns, you can seek advice from Public Concern at Work, an independent whistle-blowing charity, who offers a confidential helpline. Contact details below: Helpline: Website: The NSPCC whistleblowing helpline is available for staff who do not feel able to raise concerns regarding child protection failures internally. Staff contact number: (8am 8pm Monday to Friday) Concerns against Governors Concerns raised against governors are treated in the same way as any other concern and receive the same serious consideration. The concern will be raised by the Headmaster with the Chair of Governors, who will decide how it should be dealt with. 4

5 If the concern is against the Chair of Governors, then the concern will be taken directly by the Headmaster to the Deputy Chair of Governors. Such a concern would then normally be referred to the Department for Education. Confidentiality Heath Mount School hopes that its staff will feel able to voice whistle-blowing concerns openly under this policy and that you always feel able to voice other concerns through the appropriate school procedures. However, if you wish to raise a concern confidentially, the school will endeavour to keep your identity secret, as far as is possible whilst still adhering to the procedures set out above. If it is necessary for anyone investigating your concern to know your identity, the school will discuss this with you first. Heath Mount School does not encourage you to make disclosures anonymously. Proper investigation may be hindered or even impossible if the school cannot obtain further information and the credibility of the accusation could be called into question. A whistle-blower who wishes to remain anonymous due to concern about possible reprisals should speak to one of the contacts listed above and every effort will be made to preserve confidentiality or protect the whistle-blower during and following investigation of a concern. External disclosures This policy provides an internal method for reporting and investigating whistle-blowing concerns. In most cases it will not be necessary to alert any external investigatory bodies. However, the law acknowledges that it may be appropriate for staff to report their concerns to an external body in some cases. You should remember that it will very rarely, if ever, be appropriate to alert the media. If you do so and your concern is later found to be unsubstantiated, you may be subject to disciplinary procedures or even in breach of contract, having brought the school into disrepute (see Staff Code of Conduct for further details). All staff members are encouraged to seek advice before reporting a concern to any external body. The independent whistle-blowing charity, Public Concern at Work, should be your first point of contact if your concern is not of a safeguarding nature (in cases of safeguarding you should consult the school s Safeguarding Policy, as it may be appropriate and necessary to alert the police or other external agency prior to an internal investigation), but you are unsure how to proceed internally. They also have a list of prescribed 5

6 regulators, which may be helpful in determining to whom you should report your concern. Whistle-blowing concerns are usually related to school staff, but may occasionally be related to a third party, such as a contractor or service provider. The law allows you as a member of staff to raise a concern, in good faith, with a third party, if you reasonably believe it relates mainly to their actions or something that is legally their responsibility. However, you are encouraged to report such concerns internally first, contacting one of the individuals named above for guidance. Investigations and outcomes Once a concern has been raised by a member of staff, the school will carry out an initial assessment to determine whether and how an investigation should proceed and the scope of that investigation. The school will inform the whistleblower of the outcome of this initial assessment. It may, at this point, be necessary for the whistle-blower to attend further meetings before an investigation can begin. In most cases, a panel of three governors will investigate the concern. In exceptional cases the school may appoint an investigator or team of investigators from the wider staff body, if they have relevant experience of investigations or specialist knowledge of the matter being investigated. The investigator(s) may subsequently make recommendations for changes that will minimise the risk of future wrongdoing by the school, if the whistle-blower s concern is found to be substantiated. The school aims to keep the whistle-blower informed of the progress of the investigation and the likely timescale to its resolution. However, sometimes the need for confidentiality may prevent the school from giving specific details of the investigation or any disciplinary action taken as a result of a whistle-blowing concern. The whistle-blower must treat any information about the progress of the investigation, or its resolution, as strictly confidential. If the school concludes that a whistle-blower has made false allegations maliciously or with a view to personal gain, the whistle-blower will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. The school cannot always guarantee the outcome that the whistle-blower might have been seeking, but will try to deal with the concern appropriately and justly. If you, as the whistle-blower, are not happy with the way your concern has been handled, you may raise it with one of the key contacts outlined above or seek further advice from Public Concern at Work (as outlined above). 6

7 There are no rights of appeal against decisions taken under this procedure, but an employee or the Headmaster has the right to refer any given case to the Designated Governor, the Chair of Governors Mrs Juliette Hodson, for review. The need for confidentiality and sensitivity means that the whistle-blower will not always know the final outcome of the investigation, which followed them raising their concern. Protection and support Whistle-blowers are often worried about possible repercussions following them taking action to report a concern. Heath Mount School encourages staff who raise genuine concerns in good faith under this policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken, to feel confident that they will not face any unfair or prejudiced treatment at work following their disclosure. Staff will not suffer any detrimental treatment (including, but not limited to; dismissal, disciplinary action or threats, as a result of raising a concern in good faith. If you, as a whistle-blower, believe that you have suffered any such treatment, you should inform the Headmaster directly. You may also raise the issue using the school s Grievance Policy. Other members of staff must not threaten or retaliate against whistle-blowers in any way, during or following an investigation and its conclusion. If you are found to be involved in any such conduct you will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action. Last Updated: September 2016 C Gillam 7

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