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Dealing with complaints effectively

Ko te aro tika ki ngā amuamu

Dealing with complaints fairly, without bias and in a timely and consistent manner, is a must for all school boards. 

To do it effectively, you need to have a policy and set of procedures for dealing with complaints and you need to know how a complaint is defined at your school. Monitoring and reporting on the complaints received at your school is also part of good governance, as is engaging with your community about the relevant issues when you need to.

Not sure where to start? Keep reading this guide – and check out the useful resources attached here to guide you.

You may want to sign up for the NZSTA professional development programme or contact us with your questions. The good news is there’s plenty of help and support available from NZSTA to help guide you.

Your responsibilities as a board

As a board, it's important to know you are legally responsible for having a complaints policy in place and a set of procedures for dealing with complaints effectively. Organisations such as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the Education Review Office provide information about good practice for managing complaints. 

What you need to know about dealing with complaints

Your best approach is to treat every concern or complaint fairly and consistently from the outset. Understand the difference between a minor concern and a serious complaint. Be consistent in how you deal with them. If you’re unsure about what to do, contact NZSTA for advice and support. We’re here to help.


Who complaints are typically directed at

Anyone can be the subject of a complaint. Complaints can be directed at board members, the principal, teachers, school staff, parents, students and other members of the community.


What support is available to boards

Your school should have a policy and procedures to guide you in how you deal with complaints but don’t hesitate to contact NZSTA if you need additional help and guidance at any time.


How does a complaint escalate to the board

Ideally, all concerns are fully resolved at the lowest level of intervention.

The complainant must follow the school's concerns and complaints procedure. i.e. initially by addressing the concern to the relevant staff member.

If not satisfied with the outcome, the complainant may escalate their concern according to the school's procedure and ultimately, if necessary, to the principal.

If still not satisfied, the complainant may then escalate their complaint to the board in writing. Then, and only then, does the board become involved.

Refer to governance framework documents, C4, C4.1 and D9 for more.

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