Taking your complaint further: to the SSG, the principal or DET

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If you have raised a concern with your child’s teacher or another staff member, and are unhappy with the response, don’t give up. You have the right to take your complaint further.

On this page:

This page discusses the complaints process for government schools – mainstream and specialist settings.

Consider approaching another staff member

Depending on your concern or complaint, there might be many different staff at the school that you could approach. Don’t give up, just because you’ve spoken to one staff member, and are unsatisfied with their response. Not everyone has been trained in responding to complaints, or has the necessary skills or personal attributes to respond appropriately to them. Consider whether you should approach the principal at this stage, or if another staff member might be able to help.

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Take it to your child’s Student Support Group, or to the principal

Your child’s Student Support Group is a critical forum for exploring the challenges your child might face at school, and for working with the people most involved in finding solutions, and supporting your child day-to-day. The principal or their nominee should be a member of your child’s SSG, and should have the skills and authority to respond to your concerns, and work with you and the other members of the SSG to find a solution.

Do not hesitate to ask for an extra SSG meeting if you have something urgent to discuss. You can have an advocate or support person with you in meetings.

You should never hesitate to approach the principal directly, if you have a concern or complaint. They are the leader of the school, and thus responsible for any problems that arise at school. As the saying goes, ‘the buck stops with them’. You can ask for an appointment, or raise your concerns in a phone call, letter or email. You have the right to take an advocate or support person with you to meetings with the principal, if you wish.

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Taking your complaint to the DET regional office

If you have tried to resolve a concern or complaint with your child’s school, but are unhappy with their response, you can take the complaint to your regional DET office. It is a good idea to seek advocacy advice and support from an organization like ACD at this stage, if you have not already done so.

It is DET policy that concerns and complaints should be resolved at school level if possible. That means that if you approach your local DET office directly with a concern or complaint, they will ask you to try to resolve the issue with your child’s school first, except in special circumstances – for example, if your complaint is about the principal. Sometimes DET regional office staff can offer advice or support to help resolve an issue, before it becomes a bigger problem or a formal complaint.

Regional offices offer training to their own and local school staff in how to address complaints; this can include training for school council members. Schools can seek support from the regional DET office to resolve a complaint.

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What the DET regional office will do

Various staff in the regional office can help, including the regional director, assistant regional director or community liaison officer. DET must immediately acknowledge your complaint in writing, and must attempt to address and hopefully resolve the issue within 20 schools days of your first contact with them.

You should be given one key contact from the regional office, who will ask you for a complete account, in writing, of your concern or complaint, and why you believe that the school has not addressed it adequately. If you need to provide this information in person, rather than in writing, you can do so. DET must provide an interpreter if you need one.

Schools and DET staff must comply with privacy requirements in attempting to resolve complaints, and in communicating the outcomes of concerns and complaints to you and the school. Schools and DET staff can make use of services provided by the Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria (DSCV), which includes a free mediation services.

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Taking your complaint to the DET central office

If your complaint cannot be resolved by the DET regional office working with you and the school, then you (or the school) can refer the issue to the central DET office. Again, if a complaint comes first to the DET central office, it is likely to be referred back to the relevant regional office or the school for investigation.

Complaints referred to the central office go to the Deputy Secretary in the Regional Services Group. They will ask you to state, in writing, why you think that your complaint is unresolved, and what you think a realistic course of action would be to resolve the complaint. The Deputy Secretary will then work through their own processes to try investigate and try to resolve the complaint.

If your complaint raises complex issues for the school system, the Deputy Secretary can refer it to an external agency for review and/or to the DET Group Coordination Division. This section of the Department can also examine any policy issues that a complaint might raise for DET or the Victorian government more broadly.

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If this does not resolve the issue

If all DET processes have been implemented and you still feel that the issue is unresolved, then the Deputy Secretary can refer you to the Ombudsman. Alternatively, you can approach the Ombudsman yourself, or use another external complaints mechanism such as a human rights body.

You can take your complaint to an external complaints mechanism at any time. This should not affect your right to proper process through the DET complaints policy. You are also entitled to seek legal advice and representation, but bear in mind that if you do, the DET complaints policy will no longer apply, and your matter will be referred to lawyers representing DET.

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