Dealing with complaints effectively

Ko te aro tika ki ngā amuamu

Complaints are part of life at school and need to be dealt with effectively. A minor concern may be resolved easily and informally. A serious complaint may require legal advice or referral to a government agency like the New Zealand Police.

Your responsibilities as a board

As a board, your responsibilities are set out in legislation. Under section 65 of the Education Act, boards have the power to appoint, suspend and dismiss staff in accordance with the State Sector Act 1988 and subject to the relevant employment agreement and law. Meanwhile, the State Services Commission provides clear guidelines on natural justice and dealing with complaints within the public service.

What you need to know about complaints

All members of the school community should be aware that the board has a complaints policy underpinned by procedures, and a copy of the complaints process may be included with enrolment information and attached, as a reminder, to a school newsletter early each year.

When dealing with complaints, both management and board should act in accordance with policy and procedures, dealing with each case fairly and on its merits.


Why it’s important to treat complaints seriously

It’s important to treat complaints seriously. That’s because school boards who take all concerns and complaints seriously from the outset are more likely to create a positive teaching and learning environment and enjoy a high standing within the community.


What boards can achieve with neutrality

Neutrality is really important when it comes to dealing with complaints - everyone wants to be treated fairly. As a board, make a point of maintaining neutrality, following policy and procedure and carefully documenting your responses to every complaint in writing. That will put you in a good position to resolve any issue from day one.


How to effectively deal with complaints

Effectively dealing with a complaint starts with making sure your school has a clear complaints process. You'll also need a policy and set of procedures for dealing with complaints about everyone from the principal and board members to teachers, students and other members of your school community. Not sure where to start? Feel free to contact NZSTA at any time.

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