Complaints processes in the independent schools system

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Independent schools are broadly independent, but they are also accountable to the Victorian peak body for accreditation, registration, certification and quality – the VRQA.

On this page:

Introduction

This page provides more detail about complaints processes within the independent schools system.

All Victorian schools are required to have a proper complaints policy and processes. You can ask for a copy of your school’s policy. You are always entitled to seek information, advice and support to raise a concern or a complaint from an advocacy organisations like ACD.

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Read your school’s complaints policy and procedures

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) is the body responsible for accreditation, registration, certification and quality of all Victorian schools. Victorian independent schools must comply with relevant laws and VRQA standards (see our introduction page to complaints processes in Catholic and independent schools) but are broadly independent. A key VRQA standard is having a complaints policy, but what this and other policies look like is largely up to the school. School must provide parents and carers with copies of their policies on request.

Schools generally require that parents or carers first try to resolve any complaint with the relevant teacher. Also consider raising the issue with you child’s Program Support Group, or with the school welfare coordinator or integration coordinator. If this is unsuccessful, you can take your complaint to the principal, or if necessary to the chair of the school board.

If you are unhappy with the school’s response, you can take your complaint to the VRQA, or use an external complaints mechanism.

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Taking it further: the VRQA and external complaints mechanisms

You can complain to the VRQA if you believe that your child’s school or training provider has breached the minimum standards for school registration. These standards cover things like how the school is run, enrolment, student learning and the curriculum, student welfare and school facilities. Complaints about schools not meeting the needs of a student with a disability could be raised, for example, under standards relating to:

  • student learning – this standard says that school should plan learning for all students, including those ‘at risk’, or
  • student welfare – which says that secondary schools should have ‘policies and procedures in place that are consistent with any relevant legislation to ensure the care, safety and welfare of students and the provision of opportunities for students with special needs to access the course.’

If the VRQA investigates your complaint and finds that it is justified, the VRQA can order the school to comply with the relevant standard. However, the VRQA does not have other powers to resolve complaints, such as ordering compensation for the person making the complaint.

  • For more information, visit the VRQA website and click on ‘Complaints’, or search on ‘minimum standards’.

If you are unsatisfied with how a VRQA staff member responded to your complaint, you can take it to the Manager of the VRQA Complaints Unit, or if you are unsatisfied with the VRQA’s decision in relation to your complaint, you can take it to the Victorian Ombudsman or another external complaints mechanism.

You can take your complaint to an external complaints mechanism at any time. You are also entitled to seek legal advice and representation.

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Independent Schools Victoria

Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) is the peak body for independent schools. ISV will not act as a mediator between you and your child’s school, but if you have tried to resolve an issue with the school and you feel that the school failed to take your concerns seriously, ISV might be able to give you more information, to help you understand the school’s position. In talking with ISV, you can request anonymity and need not name the school. If you do name the school, ISV will contact the Principal to advise that a complaint has been received, and the nature of that complaint.

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