Tips and advice for effective complaining

Introduction

The best education happens when families and schools work together. The Department of Education aims to work in partnership with parents, carers and families to create positive learning environments for students.

There will be times when you want to ask a question, raise an issue or make a complaint about our schools. We encourage families to raise any concerns with us early, so that prompt action can be taken. If you aren’t satisfied with our response, you can make a complaint.

The complaints process can be time-consuming and emotionally demanding for everyone. We commit to treating families promptly, fairly and respectfully during this process. It helps us to understand your concerns and take action if you provide the information we need clearly and promptly. Here are some helpful tips on what to consider and the steps you can take when making a complaint.

Be clear

When contacting the Department of Education it is useful to be brief and focus on the facts relevant to your issue. Although you may feel strongly about the issue, it helps to communicate reasonably, rather than emotionally.

Be polite

When you speak to the person handling your issue with respect, they are more likely to respond respectfully. Avoid sarcasm as it can make your complaint appear less clear. Using rude or abusive language may lead to the complaint manager terminating the conversation.

Be honest

The person handling your issue will often make further inquiries to the appropriate people. It’s always best to tell the truth and stick to the facts. If you can support your information with records, it helps improve your credibility.

Be realistic

Think about what you would like to have happen and whether the school can reasonably do what you are asking. As schools can be busy places, it might take some time for things to happen – be realistic about your expectations and the timeframe for schools to respond.

Be informed

It can be useful to read the Guide for parents, carers and students and other information on the NSW Department of Education’s website. If there is something you don’t understand, ask questions.

Be cooperative

Help the person handling the issue by providing all the information necessary early on. If you have new information, keep them updated. If you do not wish to continue the matter, let them know.
We encourage you to approach teachers early, but keep in mind that teachers are often dealing with many issues at once.  At first, they may only have time to talk briefly. In this case, you can arrange a time to speak with the teacher later.

More information is available on our website:

This material has been adapted from the NSW Ombudsman smart complaining fact sheet 2018,

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