Who to approach with different concerns or complaints

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Different types of concerns or complaints should be raised first with different people in the school system.

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This page discusses the complaints process for government schools – mainstream and specialist settings, although the content of this page is broadly relevant and might be useful for those in non-government settings.

Trying different approaches

Where you first take a complaint depends on the nature of your complaint, and sometimes on your relationship with different staff members at the school. Sometimes you might need to try a couple of different approaches to get the outcome you want. If you are unhappy with the first response you get, you can take it to the next level.

Another consideration is whether you wish to raise a concern, make a complaint or give feedback. This might have an impact on who you approach, how you raise the issue (e.g. through an informal discussion or a letter) and what outcome you are seeking.

Many schools list who to approach for different types of concerns in their school complaints policy. The following is a general guide, but it is worth checking your schools complaints policy as well.

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Raising concerns or complaints with your child’s teacher

Many issues are best raised directly with your child’s teacher. In primary school you would speak first with your child’s classroom teacher, and in secondary school their homeroom teacher. They are usually in the best position to work with you and your child to find and implement a solution.

Issues that are best raised first with the teacher include learning issues, issues in the classroom and incidents that happened between students in their class or friendship group.

To resolve some issues, you might need to talk with one of your child’s subject teachers (in secondary school), or a specialist teacher such as an art or sport teacher in primary school. But in most cases you would be best to raise your issue with your child’s classroom or homeroom teacher first.

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Other staff members

If your child receives support from education support staff (aides) in the classroom and beyond, you might sometimes raise a minor issue with them. However, teachers are responsible for directing the work of education support staff, and might be best approached first. In primary school, this would be the classroom teacher.

In secondary school, whom you approach will depend on the school. Early on in your child’s time at the school, ask who your best contact would be for asking questions or raising issues. In some schools this might be the special needs or integration coordinator, or the student welfare coordinator. In others it might be the year level coordinator, or the assistant principal. Sometimes it will depend on the relationships you develop with different staff. Your child’s SSG has a major role to play in responding to issues and coordinating communication with your child’s teachers at secondary school.

If issues involve students from several classes, talk to the principal or assistant principal (in primary school) or the year level coordinator (in secondary school).

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Your child’s Student Support Group

You can raise concerns of any kind directly in your child’s Student Support Group (SSG). You should be having regular SSG meetings, at least once per term. Any member of the SSG, including you, has the right to request an additional meeting if needed, at any time.

Concerns or complaints about your child’s learning and supports are best raised with the SSG. This includes concerns about the curriculum that your child is undertaking, their educational progress, specialist classes and activities, and extra-curricular activities such as camp or sports.

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The principal

You might raise your concerns directly with the principal if:

  • it is a matter of school policy, or a school-wide issue
  • the issue is very complex
  • your concern relates to a staff member’s actions or how they are doing their job
  • it is a serious issue (although you should refer concerns about violence or abuse to police – see below)
  • you have tried to resolve the issue with your child’s teacher or another staff member, and you are unhappy with their response.

You should always put serious concerns in writing, perhaps by sending the principal a letter or formal email, and requesting an appointment to discuss the issue.

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Your local regional DET office

You would only raise a concern about your child’s school directly with your local regional DET office first in special circumstances, for example if your complaint relates to the actions of the principal, or if your complaint is related to more than one school, such as schools sharing information that breaches your child’s or family’s confidentiality.

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If you are concerned about your child’s safety

Every child has the right to be safe at school. If you are ever concerned that your child is at risk of or is being subjected to any form of violence or abuse at school, this is a matter for the police, rather than the usual complaints processes.

You do not have to go to the school first, or inform them that you are contacting police. Schools have a special duty of care to their students. If you have any concerns about the safety of your child, or any child at school, please do not hesitate to contact the police. The same applies if you are concerned about any potential criminal matter.

  • In an emergency you should always telephone 000. Or you can contact your regional Victoria Police SOCA (Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) Unit. Find contacts at police.vic.gov.au – search under “SOCA unit”.
  • Read more about your child’s rights and safety at school.

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