It’s never a pleasant experience having to complain, but sometimes it is absolutely crucial to do so. Although complaining about your child’s teacher can sometimes seem like a daunting task, you can never let this put you off. The happiness, education and welfare of your child must come first and no complaint is too small or trivial when these are at stake. Also, if you go about complaining in a civil and professional manner then you should have nothing to worry about.
Of course, it is the job of schools to keep parents and guardians informed about how best to go about complaining, to enable you to feel comfortable expressing your concerns and confident that they will be taken seriously and followed up. However, not all schools are very good at communicating information to parents so, if you are a parent reading who is confused about the best way to file a complaint, hopefully this blog post will give you a clearer idea of the steps you can take if you have concerns about a teacher.
In an ideal world, complaining about a teacher should not be a complex process that involves many steps. However, unfortunately this is not always the case so to accommodate for those of you with more complex or serious issues or whose complaints are not being resolved; I will break down the complaint process in to steps, to accommodate for both minor and major circumstances.
For a minor problem or small isolated incident, it would be advisable to directly contact the teacher you have concerns about to discuss the problem with them. The best way is to book an appointment with them so you can guarantee that they will be free to discuss the problem, without having to rush off. This way you allow the teacher an opportunity to listen to and address your concerns so you can both figure out the best way to resolve it and move forwards. Before entering this situation it would be helpful for you to make sure you know exactly what you want to say so that you can express your concerns clearly, succinctly and civilly. It would also be advisable to go in with some idea of how you think the problem can be resolved, but remain open minded to any alternative resolution the teacher may suggest. Hopefully, through this discussion you will both be able to resolve the problem calmly, politely and swiftly.
However, if this is not the case then the next step you can take is to speak to the teacher’s head of department, line leader or superior. This stage may become necessary for you if:
- Your conversation with the teacher failed to resolve the problem.
- For whatever reason you feel you cannot talk to the teacher you have an issue with.
- The problematic behaviour you complained about has persisted.
After you have spoken to the teacher’s superior, they will most likely call a meeting with you and the teacher in order to discuss the issue. Your child may also be invited to the meeting, if appropriate. The outcome of this meeting will depend largely on the nature of the problem but its purpose it to allow each person to voice their opinions in order to find a way to solve the issue.
If the problem continues to persist and is affecting the education and/or welfare of your child and/or other pupils then this is a serious problem. Under these circumstances, the next step is to contact the head of the school about the problem.
And if the head teacher fails to solve the problem then you can complain to the school governors in writing. To legitimise this complaint, you will need to provide evidence to support your claim. If the school governors also fail to take action, you can make a formal complaint to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). You can alternatively choose to contact your local MP, who may write to the Department for Education on your behalf. For more information about complaining to the Department for Education please visit their website.
If you have carried out all of the above steps without any results, your only option left is to contact the press. However this is definitely a last resort which is only necessary if all other means of complaint have failed. Before deciding to take this action, it is important to consider the implications it would have on your child and your family, especially if your child has already gone through an ordeal, during the process of complaining. However in some extreme cases some people do resort to contacting the press which has resulted in the problem being resolved.
Flaws in the complaints system
Unfortunately there are a few significant flaws in the complaints system. For example, if you are unhappy with the decision reached by the school governors concerning your complaint, although you can contact your local council and ask them to appeal, the council cannot actually change the original decision made. Also, a school is a law unto itself. Therefore if the staff are not willing to deal with an issue, the governors may simply adhere to whatever the school wants, even if that means disregarding and covering up a major problem. Furthermore, if you choose to move your child to another school to protect them from the problematic teacher, the case is furthermore closed. This means that the teacher can potentially continue to cause issues for other children, which of course is extremely concerning.
For the time being all parents can do is to communicate with their children, encourage them to share their school experiences and to voice any worries they have. Also parents should not have to feel nervous about complaining if they are concerned about a teacher’s behaviour or ability to perform their duties. Complaints do not have to be inflammatory and schools should appreciate parents playing an active role in their child’s education.