You will often get a better response if you choose the right time and place to raise your issue, and if you raise it first with the most appropriate person.
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Consider whom to approach first
Different complaints are best raised first with different people in the school system. For example, issues in the classroom are usually best raised first with your child’s teacher (or home-room teacher in secondary school), and concerns about your child’s learning and supports might best be raised in your child’s Student Support Group. Other issues might be raised first with the integration or welfare coordinator, or the assistant principal or principal.
Who to approach on different issues should be written in the school complaints policy. Ask the school early on who is the best contact person for queries or concerns. Who you approach might also depend on your relationships with different staff. But you should not feel worried about raising a concern with any staff member, even ones you don’t know – this is your right as a parent or carer.
- Suggestions for whom to approach with different concerns or complaints.
“In working with high schools, putting things in writing assisted, because often the welfare person might also be a vice principal. They’re a very busy person. And phone calls weren’t always reliable to catch them.
It’s sometimes a bit harder to put into words what you might like. It can become really long and messy. So I’d try to really think about – what outcome do I want here? And how can I help them want to help me, in this thing? It’s not always easy to do. It takes a little bit of practice.
It worked best to keep things simple. Sometimes sharing, ‘He forgot his lunch today. I’d really love to catch up with you on Friday about 1, 2, 3 points,’ is probably all you need. And then there’s a sense of keeping in touch. I found that if I kept in touch too much, that wasn’t well received.
When I’ve raised issues with the school, I’ve had to be mindful about how they might hear me, and what that experience might be like for them as well – having a mum come to school and say ‘my child needs this and this and this’. And to give them space to respond to some of the things that I’m asking.
And I try to acknowledge as well their role as expert in my child’s education. Because I’m not a teacher, and I don’t have those skills that they have. But I always try to still request reasonable adjustments for Patrick’s learning, that will be of benefit to him.” – Tania
Consider how to raise the complaint
You can raise a concern or complaint on the phone, in a letter or in an email, in a one-or-one chat or meeting, or in an SSG meeting or other meeting with the school. In many (but not all) cases, you might choose first raise your issue through a less formal process, such as a chat with your child’s teacher. If this does not resolve the problem, you might ask for an appointment with the principal, or consider making a formal complaint.
- Read more about different approaches to raising your issue.
Find the right time and place
The best time to raise an issue depends on how things work at your child’s school. If appropriate, you might raise the issue informally first, for example at drop-off or pick-up time. Or you could mention the issue briefly in person or via email, and request a meeting to discuss it. If childcare or other needs make it difficult for you to meet with staff in person, you can request an appointment for a phone discussion.
Even if you choose to raise your concern via an email, letter or phone call, you will probably then need to make an appointment to discuss it further, whether with a teacher, another staff member, the principal, or your child’s Student Support Group.
Try to avoid discussion in a busy corridor or classroom. If a teacher or principal starts discussing the issue somewhere like that, ask to move somewhere more private, or to defer the discussion to a suitable meeting, when you are more prepared. You have the right to do this, and to not be ‘put on the spot’ when you are not ready for a discussion.
The meeting should be at a time and in a place where everyone can speak and listen without interruption. You have the right to have an advocate or support person at any meeting with the school, and to ask for an interpreter if you need one.