You have the right to raise a concern or a complaint about your child’s education. This section explains the official complaints process. You can get support to make a complaint.
On this page:
- In this section and elsewhere
- If you are concerned about your child’s safety
- Understanding school complaints processes
- Catholic and independent school complaints processes
- Taking your complaint further – all schools and training providers
- Good practice in complaints handling
- Raising a concern or complaint effectively
In this section and elsewhere
This section outlines how the complaints process for Victoria schools should work. It includes detailed information on government school processes, and an outline of processes in the Catholic and independent school systems.
Much of the information in this section is relevant across all sectors, and of course, all Victorian schools are bound by the Disability Standards for Education and relevant state and Commonwealth laws.
To learn more about your child’s rights and how to raise a concern effectively, also see:
- Education and your child’s rights, including links to all relevant laws, policies and guides
- Raising a concern with school, for stories and tips shared by other families and our parent support staff, in how to effectively raise a concern and advocate for your child
- A guide to supports for students, to understand what your child is entitled to, and
- Education planning for your child, for an explanation of how school should work with you to tailor your child’s learning and supports to their individual needs.
“I think what changed is that we ended up making a formal complaint to the school. That stayed within the school, and we went through that. They became aware that we really did have legitimate concerns. They became aware that there were the Disability Standards, and that they were not necessarily fulfilling their responsibilities.
What changed was the willingness on their part to take it seriously. Up until then, I felt very brushed off. You know – ‘Here she comes again’. No one was hearing our concerns.
We actually withdrew Ruby from the school until that complaint was settled. It remained within the school, but we said, ‘If you cannot satisfactorily respond to this, we will take it further’. That was all done through letters.
That’s another thing. The school probably wouldn’t see it as positive, but keeping everything in writing – in a really nice way. That’s a way of keeping track of who said what, and what was said.
That was the catalyst for change, that complaint. Not because they were scared of legal ramifications, but only because they actually stopped and listened.” – Denise
If you are concerned about your child’s safety
All schools have a special duty of care to their students. All children and young people have the right to be safe at school. If you are concerned that your child is at risk of, or is being subjected to, any form of violence or abuse at school, this is a matter for the police.
- In an emergency you should always telephone 000. Or you can contact your regional Victoria Police SOCA (Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) Unit. Find contacts at police.vic.gov.au – search under “SOCA unit”.
- Find out more about safety and your child’s rights.
Understanding school complaints processes
It’s important to understand and follow the proper complaints processes for your child’s school. This gives you the best chance of success, and helps you, if you need to take your complaint further. These pages are most relevant to government schools, although the page on core principles is broadly relevant to all schools.
- Core principles of the complaints process
- Complaints processes in government schools
- When the usual complaints process does not apply
- Who to approach with different concerns or complaints
Complaints should be resolved, wherever possible, with those most directly involved. But if you raise a complaint and are not satisfied with the first response you get, you have the right to take it further.
Catholic and independent school complaints processes
Catholic and independent schools are bound by the Disability Standards for Education and all relevant laws, and as publicly-funded institutions, they must also have proper policies for complaints handling. Processes vary, but there are several avenues open to parents and carers who wish to raise a concern or complaint.
- Complaints processes in Catholic and independent schools: an introduction
- Complaints processes in the Catholic education system
- Complaints processes in the independent schools system
Taking your complaint further – all schools and training providers
If you have been unable to resolve your complaint through complaints processes described in the pages above, you might be able to use an external complaints mechanism, such as a human rights body or the Ombudsman. You are always entitled to approach an external complaints body to ask for advice or make a complaint. However, depending on the nature of your complaint, they might ask you to use the school complaint system first, before they intervene.
You are also entitled to seek legal advice and representation. Bear in mind that if you do this in relation to a government school, the DET complaints policy will no longer apply, and your complaint will be referred to lawyers representing DET.
- External complaints mechanisms, including human rights bodies
- Staff codes of conduct and teacher registration
Good practice in complaints handling
The Victorian Ombudsman is a statutory body that can be very helpful in resolving issues that Victorian people have with government-funded agencies, including government, Catholic and independent schools. We discuss the Ombudsman’s role in the page on External complaints mechanisms.
The Ombudsman has produced a guide for all Victorian public sector agencies to help them handle complaints well, and in accordance with the Victorian Human Rights and Responsibilities Charter. This guide can be used by schools to evaluate their existing complaint handling system, or as an aid to establish a new system.
Raising a concern or complaint effectively
How you go about raising your concern or complaint can have a big impact on the school’s response, and the eventual outcome. It is important that everybody involved is respectful of each other, and of the proper process. We summarise successful strategies and tips from our parent support staff and families in Raising a concern with school.