It may be hard to bring up a concern at school, but it can make a big difference.
Who to talk to first
If your child is in primary school, the best person to talk to first is usually your child’s classroom teacher. If your child has an aide, you might be able to talk to them, but the teacher is responsible for what happens in class.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the teacher, you can go to the assistant principal or principal. You can ask for an extra Student Support Group meeting if you want. If school has a Koorie education worker or welfare coordinator, you could also talk to them.
If your child is in secondary school, you can contact their year level coordinator, or a Koorie education worker, welfare coordinator or special needs coordinator. The special needs coordinator is the staff member responsible for all students with special needs.
Speak up early
If you are worried about something at school, it’s a good idea to speak up early. Often, the school will appreciate this. It means they can do something before a small problem turns into a big drama.
“My little grandson, he’s very hard to understand. I know with his problem, he’s going to go through a lot of problems, and be teased. Cross fingers, not yet … But if we do hear that, we’ll address that situation straight away. If there’s a problem, you’ve got to try and talk with the teacher. And we’ve got a gem of a teacher – two grades now. Just fantastic, and understanding where we’re coming from.” – Aunty Faye
If it’s something small, you can chat about it with the teacher at drop off or pick up time. But often, it’s better to make time for a longer yarn, when there aren’t too many people around. If it’s hard for you to get to school outside class time, ask for a time to talk on the phone. If your child has a communication book, you can write concerns in there. You can also write the school a letter or an email.
Get help and advice
If there are problems at school, it can be very upsetting. If you’re feeling very angry or upset, or if just unsure what to do, get some help and advice. You can get help from a support person. They can listen to your concerns, give you information, help you write a letter or prepare for meeting. They might even be able come with you sometimes.
Don’t give up
If you bring up a concern at school and it isn’t dealt with to your satisfaction, don’t give up. You can get help to take it further – as Aunty Faye says.
“You don’t have to accept what’s said as gospel. You keep going until you get the best outcome for your child. And that’s what it’s all about, you know? You can’t be there all the time. But don’t give up. I felt like doing it myself, but I thought, ‘Youse don’t know. You don’t know my boy. And I’m going to try this.’
“You get help to do this. There’s always help out there. And don’t stop at one. Not at one, no. It’s your child, and you want the best for your child.”– Aunty Faye
So if talking with your child’s teacher didn’t address your concern, talk to the principal or ask for a Student Support Group meeting. If talking with the principal doesn’t achieve the results you are seeking, contact the Department of Education and Training regional office. You can get help from a Koorie Education Support Officer or an outside support person, if you are writing to or meeting with the department.
Making a complaint
You can just talk to the department about your concerns, or you can make a formal complaint.
If talking to the department doesn’t sort the problem out, you might be able take a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. You can always ring their advice line for a yarn. You don’t have to give your name or make a formal complaint unless you want to.
Sometimes in the end, you might decide that your child needs a different school – one that you feel can support their needs better. You can still make a complaint if you want.
- Find out more about changing schools.