This section is about how to speak up effectively for your child at school, especially if you have a concern. It draws on the stories of parents and carers, and the experience of our support staff.
On this page:
- Video: Raising a concern with school
- Be confident, get help, and get informed
- Prepare to raise your issue
- Get support to speak up
- Supporting your child’s input
- Negotiating for the best outcome
- Next steps, putting things in writing and getting organised
- Conserving your energy and building your relationships with staff
Video: Raising a concern with school
Some of the parents and carers interviewed for Learning Together share their raising a concern with school.
Be confident, get help, and get informed
Many different strategies are discussed in this section, which you can explore or revisit as needed. But in reality, you have probably been advocating for your child for many years, negotiating with support services and others to get the best outcome you can for your child. This is a central role for parents and carers of children and young people with a disability, and something that many become very good at, over time.
Many of the tips in this section might just be useful reminders, which can help if you’re facing a tricky problem or dealing with a staff member inexperienced in responding to concerns from parent and carers.
Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Consider whom you can reach out to – whether someone from your current circle of support, a support worker from an advocacy or disability organisation, or someone in your family or community network.
Perhaps most importantly, get informed about your rights, and your child’s rights in the system. Read resources like Learning Together, share strategies with other parents and carers, and seek support from advocacy organisations.
“I’m not so afraid of confronting those sorts of situations again. I’ve done it once, so I can do it again.
I’ve gained in confidence. In the past I’ve gone, “Oh, you know, I don’t want to upset anybody. It’s not about upsetting people. It’s about educating people and moving forward.”
It’s been a really good experience for me, and I’ve learned a lot. And even if I don’t have all the information, I’ve got avenues of how to find it. And if I’m not sure about something, the Association for Children with a Disability are always at the end of the phone. That support was amazing to me – it really empowered me. And it has empowered me for future challenges.
My son’s 14. There’s going to be so many more things that come up in his world, whether it be about education, or supports. That’s just a fact. I think I’m getting more skilled up now than what I was before. That’s good.” Christel
Prepare to raise your issue
When you are worried or concerned about something at school, planning your approach carefully will help you achieve the outcome you want.
- Gather information and consider what outcome you want
- Concerns and complaints: different ways to raise an issue
- Consider where and how to raise your concern
- Consider what you want to say, and how best to say it
Get support to speak up
Many parents and carers find it very useful to get support to speak up for their child at school, for example from an advocate, support person, or a therapist or other specialist.
- You are not alone: an advocate or support person can help
- How can you find an advocate or support person?
- Use specialist input to make your case
Supporting your child’s input
Your child is often a crucial source of information about any problem or concern at school. As they grow older, most children and young people can have a significant say in raising issues, resolving problem and making decisions that affect them.
Negotiating for the best outcome
How you go about raising and negotiating your concern can have a big impact on the school’s response and the eventual outcome. These pages include many tips for effective communication and negotiation with school, including how to handle conflict and strong feelings.
- Meeting tips 1: Raising and investigating the problem
- Meeting tips 2: Negotiating the best outcome you can
- Meeting tips 3: Agreements and follow up
- Meeting tips 4: Handling conflict effectively
- Meeting tips 5: Dealing with strong emotions
Next steps, putting things in writing and getting organised
What if you just can’t resolve an issue with the school? It’s good to know what your other options might be. Other key tips for being an effective advocate for your child include putting things in writing, and having a good home-filing system, so you can find the information you want, the next time an issue arises.
- What next? Taking it ‘up the ladder’ and other options
- Putting things in writing and keeping good records
- Getting organised for now and the future
Conserving your energy and building your relationships with staff
Parents and carers have the right to speak up with the school about any issue of concern. However, its also important not to feel pressured to raise every issue, or to do so all at once. Whatever you can do to help your child is valuable.
A strong working relationship with school staff will serve you well, if problems arise.
- See our section on Building a partnership with school, for tips and strategies on building your relationships with your child’s educators.