When you raise a concern or a complaint, there is a range of possible outcomes.
On this page:
- Before making a complaint, think about the outcome you would like
- Possible outcome 1: your complaint is resolved
- Possible outcome 2: your complaint is dismissed
- Possible outcome 3: your complaint is unresolved
This page discusses the complaints process for government schools – mainstream and specialist settings, although the content of this page is broadly relevant and might be useful for those in non-government settings.
- Read more about complaints processes in Catholic and independent schools.
Before making a complaint, think about the outcome you would like
It’s a good idea to be as clear about what outcome you would like, before raising your concern or complaint. Try to clarify this in your own mind, and be clear about it in your communications with the school.
Your child has a right to the learning and supports they need at school. You also have the right to stand up for your child, to ask for what they need, and to get support to do so. You are more likely to succeed in resolving your concern if your desired outcome is based on a good understanding of:
- your child’s rights (and your rights) in the school system
- the support system students with disabilities, and
- how education planning works for students with disabilities, including how schools are required to consult with parents and carers to understand and address their child’s disability and its impact on their educational needs.
Follow the links above to learn more, or talk to a support worker, for example at ACD or another advocacy organisation. They can often help you to clarify what outcome would address your concerns.
- Read more about how an advocate can help
- Contacts for advocacy organisations
- Learn more about successful strategies for raising a concern with the school.
Possible outcome 1: your complaint is resolved
A complaint is resolved if you (and your child, where relevant) and the school and/or DET agree on a solution. Depending on your concern, a solution might comprise one or more of a range of actions. These might be undertaken by the school, by DET staff, by you or your child. Agreed actions should be undertaken as soon as possible.
Possible actions might include:
- The school explains what happened, and why it happened
- You and the school acknowledge each other’s perspectives on something that happened, and agree on how similar issues will be handled in future
- Relevant professional development for staff in how to respond to complaints and/or to improve knowledge and skills in another relevant area
- The school expresses: regret for its actions, an apology for its actions, or an admission of fault for its actions
- The school changes a decision that it made
- The school changes a policy, procedure or practice
- Agreement on what constitutes acceptable behaviour by a student, staff member, parent or carer or other member of the school community
- An undertaking that unacceptable behaviour will change from a student, staff member, parent or carer or other member of the school community
- The school waives debts relating to school fees and payments and/or issues a refund for payments
- The school provides or funds counselling or other support for you and/or your child.
Possible outcome 2: your complaint is dismissed
There are limited circumstances in which a complaint may be dismissed without being investigated. Such circumstances may arise where a complaint has already been investigated by the school or by DET, and there is no further information available to warrant re-investigation, notwithstanding that the parents or carers might be dissatisfied with the outcome. Otherwise, a complaint may be dismissed without investigation where the complaint is vexatious; that is, where preliminary enquiries indicate that there is no basis at all to the complaint, and that it was made for the purpose of causing embarassment to someone, or to create conflict.
Possible outcome 3: your complaint is unresolved
A complaint is unresolved if you and the school cannot agree on a solution, or if the agreed course of action cannot be implemented. If this happens, the school must seek support from the DET regional office – you also have the right to approach the DET regional office directly. If the regional office cannot successfully resolve your complaint, the school (or you) can refer the matter to DET central office. If your complaint is still unresolved after all of DET’s procedures are exhausted, DET can refer you to an external complaints body such as the Victorian Ombudsman.
You can also take your complaint to an external complaints mechanism at any time.
You are also entitled to seek legal advice and representation. Bear in mind that if you do this in relation to a government school, your issue will be referred to DET’s legal services department. At this point, the DET complaints policy no longer applies, and your complaint will be referred to lawyers representing DET.
- Find out more about taking your complaint to the DET regional or central offices.
- Find out more about external complaints mechanism, including the Ombudsman and human rights bodies.