Guidance for learner complaints
This procedure is for:
- authorised representatives of the learners and
It sets out when and how to complain about post 19 training and education providers where the course in question is funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
The training and education providers covered by the GLA procedure are:
- general further education (FE) colleges;
- independent training providers;
- independent specialist providers;
- local authorities;
- institutes for adult learning;
- sixth form colleges and
- providers of college education
Your education provider will have policies in relation to safeguarding, prevent and whistleblowing, as well as policies available to raise complaints. Please tell your tutor, or a member of the faculty in the first instance - your provider may be able to solve your problem. If you do not have the complaints procedure, ask the human resources team or people manager at your education provider for a copy. The complaints procedure should tell you:
- what you need to send to make your complaint, for example a completed form or written evidence
- where to send your complaint
- how the organisation will treat your complaint, for example who will see it and possible outcomes
- when you expect a decision
If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you can refer the complaint to the GLA.
What the GLA can investigate
We can only consider complaints on behalf of learners whose courses we fund
We cannot re-investigate a complaint you have made to the organisation. We can review whether the organisation has investigated your original complaint in line with their procedure.
We can only investigate if you have exhausted the organisation's own complaints procedure, including any appeal.
We can investigate complaints about the organisations we fund in relation to:
- the quality, management or experience of education and training
- undue delay or non-compliance with their published complaints procedures
- poor administration
- the quality of assessments for example, how an assessment or an end point assessment has been done (excluding outcomes)
- equality and diversity (except where there is a more appropriate mechanism for dealing with the matter, for example through the court, tribunals or other organisations)
How to complain to the GLA
We only accept complaints in writing by email or letter, except where we are required to make reasonable adjustments. Please let us know if this applies to you, either through a third party or by calling us, and we will arrange for someone to handle your complaint accordingly.
If you have difficulties in providing details in writing, we will consider complaints made on your behalf by a third party. You will need to confirm that we can communicate with that third party on your behalf. If the complaint is on behalf of more than one person, we will need written permission from everyone.
You must contact the GLA within 12 months after the issue happened. Email or post your complaint to the GLA Skills and Employment unit:
Provider complaints, Skills and Employment unit, Greater London Authority, 169 Union Street, London SE1 0LL.
When you contact us about your complaint, you will need to provide us with the following:
- the name of the organisation you are complaining about
- details of what your complaint is, together with the relevant documents
- evidence that you have fully exhausted the organisation's complaints procedure including, any appeals process (for example written correspondence confirming the outcome)
- permission to disclose details of your complaint to the organisation concerned
- if you are acting on behalf of a learner, evidence that you have their permission to do so
We can only investigate on behalf of learners whose courses we fund. We may ask you for further information to help us confirm this.
What happens next?
On receipt of your complaint we will check:
- if we fund the course/ organisation
- if it falls into one of the categories we can investigate
- if the original decision or action complained about occurred more than 12 months ago
- whether you have exhausted the organisation's complaints procedure including any appeals process
We will acknowledge receipt and send a copy of this procedure. We will also inform you of whether the complaint is one that we can investigate. If we cannot investigate your complaint, we may also signpost you to another organisation that may be able to help you.
We will appoint an officer with appropriate knowledge and expertise to investigate your complaint.
If we can investigate we will email a summary of the complaint to you. In some complex cases we will request that you agree to the summary. Where this happens you will have five working days to respond to us.
Within ten working days of agreeing a summary we will send the information that you have provided along with a summary of the complaint to the provider. We will then ask the organisation to share with us:
- details and copies of the relevant procedure
- confirmation that their procedures have been exhausted
- a response to the summary of complaint together with relevant documents
- confirmation that we can share the information provided with the complainant
If the organisation's procedures have not been exhausted, we will let you know that we will not investigate the matter further until that has happened. If we decide the organisation has unduly delayed resolving the complaint, or will not resolve the complaint within a reasonable timeframe, we may continue to investigate. If we determine that you are self-funded we will write to you to say that we cannot investigate the matter further.
If we need more information we may contact those involved to get further information or evidence.
We aim to finalise the findings within 25 working days of your complaint summary being agreed. We will notify you of the outcome and our findings and that will conclude the investigation.
If at any point during the investigation we encounter a delay in responding to or providing correspondence, we will notify you of the delay and provide details of when you can expect a response.
This procedure does not cover the following:
- complaints concerning a provider in relation to courses which are not funded by the GLA contract such as adult learner loans, should be directed to the Education and Skills Funding Agency
- complaints concerning higher education (HE) courses in FE colleges, which you should direct to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE
- complaints concerning higher education institutions (HEIs) or universities, which you should direct to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for HE
- organisations that we do not contract with directly, including those who are delivering for another organisation that we do fund
- learners who are self-funded
- allegations of misuse of public funds or financial irregularity which we pass to our allegations team
- awarding bodies or awarding body documentation and or text books; you should direct to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)
- complaints about inspections by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), which you should direct to Ofsted
We cannot help with complaints about:
- issues with a provider who does not have a contract with the GLA
- issues that are more than 12 months old
- examination results, grades, marks assessment outcomes or curriculum content
- employment issues including potential employment (such as recruitment) with colleges, providers and employers; this includes employment concerns for an apprenticeship or a member of the college's staff
- governor or other voluntary employment issues at colleges and providers
- contractual or commercial disputes or arrangements between a provider and a party providing services to the provider or someone who is not a learner
- disputes between an employer and a provider in relation to the apprenticeship levy
- matters that are the subject of legal action
- matters that are better investigated by the police (we will assess this on a case by case basis and will explain our decision to you)
- claims for compensation, a refund of fees or costs incurred when a learner must transfer to another provider
- issues we have classified as serial (if this is the case we will have informed you of this) allegations of fraud, financial irregularity, whistleblowing and allegations of incentives or inducements from either providers; in the case of transfers between two employers these should be directed to the Allegations team via email to [email protected]
- safeguarding concerns and complaints about the prevention of extremism and radicalisation, which are not covered by the complaints procedure but we will pass these onto the appropriate team within the GLA who will contact the provider. We may also contact other organisation such as Ofsted and local authorities
What action the GLA will take
The organisations we fund are independent bodies and the GLA has limited power to intervene in their day-to-day running. The GLA's role is to ensure they have acted according to their complaints procedure.
If your complaint is upheld we will consider action against the organisation, such as:
- asking them to review their complaints procedure to ensure non-recurrence
- asking them to review their handling of your case
Working with other teams, agencies (such as Ofsted or the ESFA) and/or intelligence we may consider:
- whether we continue to fund the organisation
- invoking clauses from the funding agreements, financial memoranda and/ or contracts between the GLA and the organisation
If you are unhappy with the GLA response
You can refer the complaint through the GLA complaints policy if you are unhappy with how the GLA has dealt with your complaint.