Complaints Process

Cornwall Training is committed to ensuring that all our customers receive the best possible service from us, however, we recognise that, sometimes, some of our customers will experience problems.

Our Awarding Body Complaints Procedure seeks to resolve any customer dissatisfaction as soon as possible.

Thorough, impartial and fair investigations of customer complaints will be undertaken, where appropriate, so that we can make evidence-based decisions on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Complaints give us valuable information we can use to improve customer satisfaction. Handling complaints consistently and well will enable us to address our customers’ dissatisfaction and gives us an opportunity to prevent the same problems happening again.

For our staff, complaints provide a first-hand account of our customers’ views and experience and can highlight problems we may otherwise miss. Resolving complaints early saves money and creates better customer relations.

These are the promises we make to all customers who raise issues with us:

  • We will listen to you and make every effort to understand the reasons for your complaint.
  • We will endeavour to resolve your problem at your first point of contact.
  • We will take ownership of your complaint to ensure it is resolved.
  • We will offer fair solutions quickly.

We also welcome positive feedback from customers about our services and staff.

The internal process for handling customer complaints is designed to enable us to keep our promises to:

  • listen to people who have a complaint and make every effort to understand the reasons for their complaint
  • endeavour to resolve the problem at their first point of contact, if possible
  • take ownership of the complaint and ensure it is resolved
  • offer fair solutions quickly

What is a complaint?

In order to develop a more fully customer-centric culture, it is important that we register and monitor all instances of customer complaints being made and processed.

A complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction about Cornwall Training action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided.

An ‘expression of dissatisfaction’ is an issue where a customer or member of the public is dissatisfied with a CTC product or service which is unable to be resolved through an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, and immediate action can be taken to resolve the problem.

A complaint may relate to:

  • our failure to provide a service
  • inadequate standard of service
  • disagreement with a decision where the individual cannot use another procedure (for example an appeal) to resolve the matter
  • CTC failure to follow the appropriate administrative process
  • treatment by, or attitude of, a CTC member of staff, appointee or nominee

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone who receives, requests or is affected by our services can make a complaint. Sometimes an individual may be unable or reluctant to make a complaint on their own. We will accept complaints brought by third parties as long as the individual has given their personal consent.

CTC can receive complaints from centre staff, from candidates and representatives acting on their behalf (often parents) and from other members of the public expressing their views on our services.

If a customer complains to SQA about the service of another agency or public service provider, but SQA has no involvement in the issue, the customer will be advised to contact the appropriate organisation directly.  However, where, a complaint relates to a service provided by SQA and the service of another agency or public service provider, (for example a centre), and SQA has a direct interest in the issue, the complaint about SQA will be handled through the complaints handling procedure.  If it is necessary to make enquiries to an outside agency in relation to the complaint SQA will always take account of data protection legislation and SQA guidance on handling our customers’ personal information. SQA’s guidance on handling our customers’ personal information has been written in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s detailed guidance on data sharing and the data-sharing code of practice.

What we will do when we receive a complaint

Complaints can be received by a variety of methods. The list below is not exhaustive:

  • Telephone call direct to CTC
  • E-mail direct to CTC
  • Telephone call direct to any member of staff
  • E-mail direct to any member of staff
  • Freedom of information request[1]

Initial analysis of a complaint

 When a CTC staff member recognises that an issue has become a complaint, it is important to record and handle the complaint appropriately, and to try to resolve the complaint at the earliest possible stage.

  • What exactly is the individual’s complaint (or complaints)?

It is important to be clear about exactly what is causing the individual to complain. CTC staff member may need to ask the individual some questions in order to gain a fuller picture. It is helpful to be clear whether the individual’s dissatisfaction relates to

 What does the individual want to achieve by complaining?

At the outset, we will ask what outcome the individual is hoping to achieve. Of course, the individual may not be clear about this, so we may need to probe further to find out what they expect and whether we can achieve what they want.

Individuals must exhaust any relevant appeals process in their centre or offered by CTC before they can register a complaint on the same matter. If the individual wants to complain about their experience with their centre, it is important to confirm that their centre’s complaints process has been exhausted before the Awarding body can start looking at the complaint.

  • Can we achieve this, or explain why not?

If we can achieve the expected outcome by providing an on-the-spot apology or explanation, we will do so.

The individual may expect more than we can provide. If the individual’s expectations appear to exceed what the organisation can reasonably provide, we will tell them as soon as possible in order to manage expectations about possible outcomes.

We may require to convey the decision face-to-face or on the telephone. If we do so, we are not required to write to the individual as well, although we may choose to do so. We will keep a full and accurate record of the decision reached and communicated to the individual, together with the basis for that decision.

  • If we can’t resolve this, who can help to resolve it?

If the CTC staff member initially engaged with the complainant cannot deal with the complaint because, for example, they are unfamiliar with the issues or area of service involved, they will pass details of the complaint immediately to the Customer Service Team who will ensure that it is handled by the correct team. We will endeavour to pass the details of the complaint to the Customer Service Team within 24 hours of receipt.  

 Sending the details to the Customer Service Team

Whether or not we have been able to fully resolve the complaint straight away, it is still important that these and any other relevant details are passed to the Customer Service Team as quickly as possible. This will mean that we can build a complete record of complaints and can improve our services based on this valuable feedback.

It is important to be clear when passing the details on to the Customer Service Team whether the SQA staff member considers that they have been able to close the complaint or whether the complainant is expecting a further response. The contact details for the Customer Service Team are:

  • e-mail to
  • telephone: 01726 932293


Further detailed analysis of complaint

The Customer Service Team will log all complaints received on the central complaints register, whether the complaint is open or closed.

Closed complaints

For closed complaints, no further response will be provided. Because the complaint has been logged, we will be able to spot any patterns and take appropriate action.

Open straightforward complaints – frontline response

For open complaints, the Customer Service Team will quickly identify whether the complaint is straightforward enough that it can be fully addressed by issuing a frontline response. If so, the frontline response will be issued and the complaints register will be updated to show that the complaint has been closed. This procedure must be concluded within five working days after SQA received the complaint.

Open complex complaints

For open complaints where the Customer Service Team identifies that the complaint cannot be fully addressed by issuing a frontline response, an acknowledgement will be. This will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and will indicate that although we are investigating the issue, we have not yet made a decision around the merits of the complaint.

Acknowledgements will be communicated using the most efficient and appropriate matched to the complainant’s requirement or preference, i.e. if received electronically this method should be used to acknowledge receipt. The complaint should be acknowledged within two working days of receipt.

As it is very important to record our acknowledgement, and thereafter our response, any open complaints which are notified to the Customer Service Team by telephone call or in-person should, where possible, have the main detail confirmed in writing by the complainant.

The Customer Service Team will allocate a complaint reference number to each individually reported issue. This number will be used to monitor and track the progress of any response or resolution. It should also be quoted as a reference number to the complainant and to colleagues preparing the complaint response.

Co-ordinating responses to complex complaints

Not all complaints can be resolved quickly. Some complaints are complex or require a detailed examination before we can reach a decision. In these cases, we aim to establish all the relevant facts relevant to the points made in the complaint and to give the complainant a full, objective and proportionate response that represents our final position.

For open complaints where the Customer Service Team identifies that the complaint cannot be fully addressed by issuing a frontline response, the Customer Service Team Leader will identify and task an appropriate Complaints Co-ordinator to lead on preparing a substantive response to the complainant

In addition to leading on the response and/or resolution of the issue, the Complaints Coordinator must ensure that all contact with the complainant is co-ordinated and appropriate in the circumstances.

An estimated resolution target date will be set and recorded on the register. This should not generally exceed 20 working days after first received the complaint. Where it is anticipated that the investigation will exceed this timescale the complainant will be advised of the reasons for any extension together with a new estimated resolution target date. The section Extended response timelines for complex complaints provides further information on timelines for responses.

Investigating complex complaints

CTC approach to investigating complex complaints includes the following steps:

  • Agree on the scope of the complaint and investigation
  • Investigation — planning, gathering evidence, analysing and evaluating
  • Reaching a decision — evaluating the information to identify any difference between what should have happened and what did happen, identify responsibility for any difference and any actions that can be taken to change the particular case or prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • Securing senior-level approval and communicating the decision — in a response that covers all the points made in the complaint and personalised to reflect the individual’s circumstances
  • Follow-up actions required

Agree the scope of the complaint and investigation

It is important to confirm our understanding of the nature of the individual’s complaint and the outcome they are seeking to achieve.


The aim of the investigation is to examine what should have happened in the individual’s situation and what did happen in their case. Having mapped out the individual’s grounds for complaint, it is helpful to plan out the relevant information and evidence that will be needed to examine these grounds.

It is very important that Complaints Co-ordinators ensure that records relating to complaints are kept securely while responses are being considered, and that case files are retained centrally within the central complaints system for three years after CTC issues its final response.

When gathering evidence as part of an investigation, due regard will be given to information that may be confidential, sensitive, restricted or even covered by data protection legislation, with consent to access records being obtained where appropriate.

Reaching a decision

The following points could be considered when evaluating the evidence you gather:

  • Authenticity — is the evidence genuine and of certain origin?
  • Credibility — does the evidence contain error or distortion?
  • Genre — what type of evidence is it (for example, a letter is likely to carry a different set of implications compared to a report)?
  • Relevance — is the evidence relevant to the issues under investigation?
  • Meaning — is the evidence understandable?
  • Representation — is the evidence representative of its kind or a one-off?
  • Sufficiency — do you have enough evidence to answer the core questions raised in the investigation?

Communicating the decision

It is important to appropriate senior-level approval is secured for the decision taken, and for the drafting of the response to the individual. The response should:

  • be personalised to the individual’s circumstances
  • address all points raised and give a detailed explanation which is customer-focused and demonstrates empathy and understanding of the impact the issue raised on the complainant irrespective of whether a fault has been identified
  • use plain language as much as possible, avoiding technical terms and the use of acronyms
  • be structured to help readers navigate their way around the response
  • ensure that the information given is accurate
  • reach a conclusion — it should be clear what conclusion has been reached and this should flow clearly and logically from the relevant information and evidence gathered
  • apologise, if appropriate — ensure the response makes a meaningful and sincere apology if errors or problems have been identified or agreed
  • include contact details in case the complainant needs to clarify any points in the response
  • include information about the complainant’s right to refer matters to the Awarding Body if they remain dissatisfied
  • have dates, names, spelling and grammar double-checked by the relevant Complaints Co-ordinator to give the reader confidence that we have investigated properly
  • be recorded by the Customer Service Team —all correspondence relating to the investigation including a copy of the finalised response will be retained (indicating the complaint outcome, whether the complaint has been fully upheld, partially upheld or not upheld) by the Customer Service Team to ensure a full record of the complaint has been logged.

Extended response timeline for complex complaints

Frontline resolution

In exceptional circumstances, where there are clear and justifiable reasons for doing so, an extension of no more than five working days may be agreed with the customer. This must only happen when an extension will make it more likely that the complaint will be resolved at the frontline resolution stage.

When an extension is requested, authorisation must be sought from the appropriate senior manager, who will decide whether an extension to effectively resolve the complaint is necessary. Examples of when this may be appropriate include staff being temporarily unavailable. If, however, the issues are so complex that they cannot be resolved in five days, it may be more appropriate to escalate the complaint straight to the investigation stage. An explanation must be provided to the customer about the reasons for the delay, and when they can expect a response.

If the customer does not agree to an extension but it is unavoidable and reasonable, a senior manager must decide on the extension.  The customer must be informed about the delay and the reason for the decision to grant the extension must be explained to them.

It is important that such extensions do not become the norm. Rather, the timeline at the frontline resolution stage should be extended only rarely. All attempts to resolve the complaint at this stage must take no longer than ten working days from the date the complaint was received.

Complex complaints

CTC will provide a response to the complaint as soon as possible but not later than 20 working days from the time the complaint was received for investigation. If it is not aware of a response having been issued before this, the Customer Service Team will confirm with the Complaints Co-ordinator on day 15 that the response is on track to be issued by day 20. The central complaints log will be updated to record progress at this stage.

There may occasionally be cases where it becomes apparent that it will not be possible to provide a full response in 20 days. As soon as this is known, a revised target response date should be agreed between the Complaints Co-ordinator and the Customer Service Team. The Customer Service Team will contact the complainant to apologise and explain the delay, and to let them know when they should now expect the response.

The revised target response date should be fixed for the earliest possible date when the lead Co-ordinator is confident that CTC will be in a position to issue a full and considered response. CTC must continue to progress the complaint response as a priority. The response should be sent as soon as it is ready, even if this is before the revised target response date.

If it becomes apparent that the agreed revised target response date will not be achieved, the Customer Service Team will escalate the issue within the Complaint Co-ordinator’s reporting line.

Learning from complaints

At the earliest opportunity after the closure of the complaint, the complaint handler will always make sure that the customer and staff of the department involved understanding the findings of the investigation and any recommendations made.

Senior management will review the information gathered from complaints regularly and consider whether our services could be improved or internal policies and procedures updated.

As a minimum, CTC must:

  • use complaints data to identify the root cause of complaints
  • take action to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • record the details of corrective action in the complaints filed, and
  • systematically review complaints performance reports to improve service delivery.

Where CTC has identified the need for service improvement:

  • the action needed to improve services must be authorised
  • an officer (or team) should be designated the ‘owner’ of the issue, with responsibility for ensuring the action is taken
  • a target date must be set for the action to be taken
  • the designated individual must follow up to ensure that the action is taken within the agreed timescale
  • where appropriate, performance in the service area should be monitored to ensure that the issue has been resolved
  • CTC must ensure that staff learn from complaints.

Complaints about staff

From time to time, we may receive complaints about the attitude, behaviour or perceived competence of a CTC staff member. These complaints can be difficult to handle. We will ensure that these complaints are investigated fairly, objectively and where applicable, taking account of existing policies and procedures in place to deal with such issues. It is important to be mindful of matters relating to confidentiality and it will normally not be possible to inform complainants of the outcome of an investigation as it relates to the individual.

 Regulated qualifications

For qualifications regulated by SQA Accreditation, the customer may have the right to approach SQA Accreditation if they remain dissatisfied with SQA Awarding Body’s response to their complaint.  The circumstances in which they have the right to approach SQA Accreditation are explained on the ‘how to complain’ page of the SQA website. Where this right applies, SQA Awarding Body’s complaint response letter must let them know about it.

For qualifications regulated in England, the regulator is usually Ofqual.

For qualifications regulated in Wales, the regulator is usually Qualifications Wales

Retention of records

CTC must retain records, including all materials and evidence until the complaint has been resolved. Thereafter, records for complaints should be retained within Ivanti the central complaints system for three years.