It’s never a pleasant experience having to complain, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Although speaking ill of your child’s teacher can seem like a daunting task, you shouldn’t let this deter you from filing a complaint.

The happiness, education and welfare of your child must come first and no complaint is too small or trivial when these things are at stake.

If you go about complaining in a civil and professional manner then you should have nothing to worry about.

It should be the job of schools to keep parents and guardians informed about how best to go about complaining. They should make you feel comfortable expressing your concerns and confident that they will be taken seriously and followed up.

In some cases this is true.

However, not all schools are great at communicating information to the parents.

If you are reading this as a parent 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.

Though unfortunately this is not always the case, so we'll address this by creating a simple step by step process you can use to file a complaint successfully.

If you’re wondering how to complain about a teacher then start with the first step, as it may be all you need to do to get the message through.

But if this doesn’t work, read on and find out what the next step you can take is to ensure your complaint gets through.

Contact the Teacher

You can give the teacher a ring or send them an e-mail to talk things through.

For a minor problem or a small isolated incident, we advise that you speak directly with the teacher involved about any concerns you have.

The best way to do this is to book an appointment with them so you can guarantee that they will be free to discuss the problem, without taking up their time.

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 the situation 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 in a civil manner.

It would also be a good idea to go in with some thoughts about how the problem could be resolved, but you should also remain open minded to any alternative resolution the teacher may suggest.

Hopefully, through this discussion you will reach a resolution that is satisfactory for all parties involved.

It’s also a good idea to have a word with other parents you know whose children attend the same school.

This can be a great way to find out whether the problem is affecting more children, which will make it a bigger issue for the school to take a look at.

Better still, if you can get other parents on board, you will feel like you aren’t alone and the teacher is far more likely to respond to complaints coming from several sources.

Contact the Teacher’s Superior

If you don’t manage to reach a resolution this way, then the next step you can take is to speak to the teacher’s head of department, line leader or superior.

You’ll want to try this approach for any of the following reasons:

  • 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 is to allow each person to voice their opinions in order to find a way to solve the issue.

Contact the Head of School

pen writing letter
If you don't get the response you're looking for from the teacher, it might be time to pen a letter to the head of the school.

If the problem continues to persist and is affecting the education and/or welfare of your child 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.

This is another situation when speaking to other parents could be of great advantage to you, since it’s unlikely that the head of the school will ignore complaints coming from several sources.

It will be in their best interests to at the very least look into the problem, and assess the teacher’s behaviour in the classroom.

The benefit of speaking with the head of school is that at the very least the teacher will be aware that they are now being scrutinised by someone in a position of real power.

This can be enough for many teachers to get their act together and work to resolve whatever issues may be occurring in your student’s class.

It can also lead to a variety of solutions, depending on how cooperative the head of school is.

For example, the head of school could determine that it’s best for the teacher involved to be replaced in that specific class and reassigned elsewhere.

The head could also decide to observe the teacher during lesson time to see what is really going on.

Write to the School Governor

If you’ve already spoken with the head teacher and nothing has come from the conversation, 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.

This may seem intimidating, but again, the wellbeing and education of your child are at stake here so nothing should be ruled out.

Hopefully it doesn’t get to this stage, but if you feel like your problems have been belittled at every step of the way, then this is a more decisive form of action to take.

Contact the Press

Reach out to the local newspaper if things still don't seem to be improving.

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.

The benefit of contacting the press is that everyone in the school will be under intense scrutiny within the community, which has to lead to some form of change.

While certain morally dubious teachers might ignore or belittle your valid complaints, it’s hard to ignore the spotlight of the media.

This is especially true for the school governors and the head of the school, since if the press gets involved, this could affect the financials significantly and make it less attractive for prospective students.

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 will be closed.

This means that the teacher can potentially continue to cause issues for other children, which of course is an outcome you don’t want to happen.

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 concerns they have with the appropriate people.

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.

If you’re looking for help with tutoring your child at home, there are English courses on Superprof which can provide them with the tools to succeed in English.

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Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.