What next? Taking it ‘up the ladder’ and other options

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It’s important to try to resolve your concerns with the school first. But you have other options if, in the end, you are unsatisfied with the school’s response to your concerns.

On this page:

Why things can get stuck

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you and the school will be unable to reach agreement on a resolution to your concerns. There are many reasons why this might happen. Perhaps the school is not fully aware of their obligations to students with disabilities, or of the resources available that can help, for example through the regional DET office.

Perhaps staff are unwilling to change how they work, or do not have strong skills in handling conflict or responding effectively to concerns from parents or carers. Schools can get training from DET in the skills needed to respond to concerns from parents and carers, and can get support to do so from the regional office.

And of course, you need to feel confident that what you are asking for is reasonable, and within your child’s rights. All the information you need to check this is available in the various sections of Learning Together, including:

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Taking your concerns ‘up the ladder’

Whether you are in a government, Catholic or independent school, a key principle of the complaints system is that you start at the ‘local level’ to try to resolve your complaint first, for example with the teacher, the SSG or the principal. There will occasionally be issues where this is not appropriate – for example if your complaint is in relation to the school principal.

Different concerns should be raised first with different people. This varies in different schools, and school’s complaints policies will often list whom to approach with different issues. Here is a general guide:

But in general, you would begin with your child’s teacher first (or with their homeroom teacher in secondary school), or by raising the issue in your child’s SSG. If that does not resolve things, you would go to the SSG (if you have not already) or to the principal. Only if this does not work would you approach the DET regional office (or the equivalent for Catholic or independent schools). It’s a good idea to seek support from an advocacy organisation like ACD at this point, if you have not already.

The section A guide to the complaints process includes a detailed explanation of the complaints system for government schools, including approaching DET and external complaints mechanisms such as the Ombudsman, and options such as mediation. It also includes a general guide to the system for Catholic and independent schools.

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The role of DET in helping resolve complaints

If you take your complaint to the DET regional office, their main role will be to provide information and support to the school. The aim is to help the school better understand the department’s expectations on them, and to give them resources to better support students with disabilities, and better respond to families’ concerns.

In the experience of parents and carers in Learning Together, this can often lead to resolution of their issue. It also has the benefit, often, of helping schools be more informed and supported in their work with students with disabilities.

If, after the regional office has attempted to resolve your issues, you are still unsatisfied, you can then take your complaint to the central DET office, or seek support from an external complaints mechanism like the Ombudsman or the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

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Is this the best available school for your child?

Also remember that if things really aren’t going to work at your child’s current school, there are usually other options, although these often more limited in regional or outer metropolitan areas. Some families end up moving house in order to access new options, but this is not an choice available to everyone. Bear in mind that there might be more viable local options than you think. It’s important not to make decisions based only on what other people tell you. We encourage you to contact and visit other schools, and see for yourself.

The decision to change schools is a momentous one, and there are usually pros and cons of every option – including the option of not changing schools. The section Choosing a school includes detailed information about all schooling options, and positive stories from many families – some of whom worked things out in the child’s current school, and some who moved to a school setting that was a much better fit for their child.

Whether or not to change school is a very personal decision. Many families seek support and advice in making the decision, but in the end, only you can decide what is best for your child.

  • Read more about the options, and issues to consider if you’re thinking of changing schools in Choosing a school.

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