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Complaint management and reporting

This is part of a mandated policy under the operational policy framework. Any edits to this policy must follow the process outlined on the creating, updating and deleting operational policies page (staff login required).

The 3 levels of complaint handling applied by the department

The department aims to resolve complaints at a local level with either the original decision maker or their line manager. Wherever possible, staff will be adequately equipped to respond to complaints, including being given appropriate authority, training and supervision.

Level 1 – frontline complaint handling and early resolution

If a customer is not happy with a decision made or action taken by a school, preschool or corporate office they should first contact the original decision maker to discuss the matter and raise their concerns directly. This might be a Teacher, staff member, Principal or Preschool Director. This is often the quickest and easiest way to resolve a complaint. 

Level 2 – central complaint resolution

If a customer is not satisfied that their complaint has been addressed after they have exhausted options at the school or preschool level and with the Preschool Director or Principal, the Customer Feedback Unit (CFU) is the next level contact.

The role of the CFU is to give advice about the issues behind a school or preschool decision and to confirm if departmental policy and procedure has been followed. The CFU role is to liaise with schools and preschools to help all parties to explore appropriate options for resolution. CFU is not a disciplinary or investigative body. Customers will be informed of the outcome to their complaint and advised of other available internal or external review options.

If a complaint has been raised directly with the original decision maker in a corporate office and/or their line manager and the customer is not satisfied that the complaint has been addressed, the matter can be lodged with CFU for referral to the appropriate executive to action.

Level 3 – external complaint resolution

Customers may seek an external review from an independent body if all avenues to resolve the complaint have been used and the matter remains unresolved. An external review can be sought through the Ombudsman SA.

Refer to internal and external review for school and preschool complaints for more details.

How to make a complaint or provide feedback to CFU

Anyone who has been affected by a decision or action at a school or preschool (including a failure to make a decision or take action) can make a complaint. A customer can lodge a complaint about a school or preschool to CFU by phone, (free call 1800 677 435) or in writing by using the online form. Refer to tips to make a complaint or give feedback before making a complaint for help.

For more information refer to:

Anyone can provide feedback to CFU about departmental services. CFU will ensure all feedback, compliments or suggestions are passed on to the appropriate area or person. The difference between a complaint and feedback is outlined in our complaint management policy.

Complaints received about a corporate office will be forwarded onto the relevant Manager or delegate for action. CFU does not resolve complaints directly related to a corporate office. 

If you need help to make a complaint refer to support for making a complaint.

We accept anonymous complaints and feedback. If there is enough information we will action and/or respond. However, if there is insufficient information and no contact details, the matter can't be followed up.

Reporting on performance

To measure the performance of the department, regular reports are gathered on:

  • Level 1 complaints – principals, preschool directors and team leaders monitor and record complaint handling compliance, statistics and trends. Particulars of the volume, nature and results of complaint handling, including whether resolution occurred locally or was referred to CFU is reported annually by schools and preschools.
  • Level 2 complaints – CFU provide a quarterly report to the department’s Senior Executive Group and to relevant executives monthly. CFU complaint data is also published in the department’s annual report.

An analysis of these reports is undertaken regularly to identify and monitor trends, review the quality of service and make improvements. 

Managing unreasonable conduct towards a school or preschool

If a customer’s unreasonable conduct persists or becomes extreme, there are a range of options to manage the unreasonable conduct towards school and preschool staff.

Depending on the severity and frequency of the behaviours, school or preschool actions can range from changing or limiting access to staff, students and school premises through to involving police. Unreasonable behaviour includes bombarding staff with phone calls, visits, letters and emails after being requested not to. 

Where steps to manage unreasonable conduct have been exhausted at a local level, education directors can contact the Manager, CFU for help. By negotiation, and depending on the circumstances and conduct, the Manager, CFU may consider:

  • developing a case plan with the school or preschool
  • provision of specific staff complaint handling training and support tools
  • mediation (intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise)
  • a once-off facilitated negotiation meeting (parties to a dispute identify the issues they want to negotiate - the facilitator may advise on or determine the process of facilitation)
  • creating a single point of contact to the school or preschool for non-urgent matters over a specified period.

If schools and preschools need help with managing misbehaviour by persons on school or preschool premises, or advice about the managing trespass and misbehaviour procedure, contact the department’s Partnerships, Schools and Preschools Division, education.partnershipsschoolsandpreschools [at] sa.gov.au

Managing unreasonable conduct towards a corporate office

If there is unreasonable customer conduct towards staff, a staff member may:

  • identify the unreasonable behaviour to the customer
  • ask the customer to change their behaviour
  • state the possible consequences if the behaviour continues (identify the limits)
  • advise that a call or meeting will be terminated if the behaviour continues
  • contact the police if needed.

If the unreasonable behaviour continues, the staff member will document the behaviour and advise their Manager or Team Leader. Depending on the severity and frequency of the behaviour, the Manager or Team Leader may consider changing or limiting access to the officer and/or corporate office.

All changes or restrictions to communication must be given in writing to the complainant, outlining the reasons for restriction. This must include:

  • date
  • time
  • location of behaviour
  • the duration and when the restriction will be reviewed.

Unreasonable conduct is defined in the complaint management policy.

Policy information

This information is part of the complaint management policy v2.3.

General enquiries

Phone: 8226 1000
Free call: 1800 088 158
Email: education.customers [at] sa.gov.au