Clauses 1.7, 5.4 and 6.1 to 6.6—Supporting and informing learners; managing complaints and appeals
The RTO determines the support needs of individual learners and provides access to the educational and support services necessary for the individual learner to meet the requirements of the training product as specified in training packages or VET [vocational education and training] accredited courses.
Where there are any changes to agreed services, the RTO advises the learner as soon as practicable, including in relation to any new third party arrangements or a change in ownership or changes to existing third party arrangements.
Complaints and appeals are recorded, acknowledged and dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively.
The RTO has a complaints policy to manage and respond to allegations involving the conduct of:
- the RTO, its trainers, assessors or other staff
- a third party providing services on the RTO’s behalf, its trainers, assessors or other staff
- a learner of the RTO.
The RTO has an appeals policy to manage requests for a review of decisions, including assessment decisions, made by the RTO or a third party providing services on the RTO’s behalf.
The RTO’s complaints policy and appeals policy:
- ensure the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness are adopted at every stage of the complaint and appeal process
- are publicly available
- set out the procedure for making a complaint or requesting an appeal
- ensure complaints and requests for an appeal are acknowledged in writing and finalised as soon as practicable
- provide for review by an appropriate party independent of the RTO and the complainant or appellant, at the request of the individual making the complaint or appeal, if the processes fail to resolve the complaint or appeal.
Where the RTO considers more than 60 calendar days are required to process and finalise the complaint or appeal, the RTO:
- informs the complainant or appellant in writing, including reasons why more than 60 calendar days are required
- regularly updates the complainant or appellant on the progress of the matter.
- securely maintains records of all complaints and appeals and their outcomes
- identifies potential causes of complaints and appeals and takes appropriate corrective action to eliminate or mitigate the likelihood of reoccurrence.
Where the RTO is an employer or a volunteer organisation whose learners solely consist of its employees or members, does not charge fees for the training or assessment, and does not have in place a specific complaints and appeals policy in accordance with clauses 6.1 and 6.2, the organisation has a complaints and appeals policy which is sufficiently broad to cover the services provided by the RTO.
What clauses 1.7, 5.4 and 6.1 to 6.6 mean for your RTO
To maximise the chance of a student successfully completing their training, your RTO needs to:
- identify any support individual learners need prior to their enrolment or commencement (whichever is the earliest) (see also clause 5.1)
- provide access to the required support throughout their training.
This may include providing support through:
- LLN support
- assistive technology
- additional tutorials including online tutorial support
- other mechanisms, such as assistance in using technology for online delivery components.
If this support attracts an additional cost to the student, you must make this clear in your pre-enrolment information.
If there are limitations to the support your RTO is able to provide, you must clearly state these limitations in information provided to potential students before they enrol or commence the course (whichever is earliest).
Keeping students informed
You must also notify students when any change occurs that may affect the services you are providing them.
This includes any changes to the educational and support services identified in accordance with clause 1.7 as well as:
- any change in ownership of the RTO
- any changes to or new third-party arrangements your RTO puts in place for the delivery of services to those students.
Managing complaints and appeals
Your RTO must have a policy for dealing with complaints about your organisation, third parties, staff or other students. You must also have an appeals policy, in case your RTO is requested to review or reconsider a decision it has made
(e.g. an assessment decision).
You must make these policies publicly available, for example, by including them on your RTO’s website and/or displaying them in common areas for staff and students.
Make the process for lodging a complaint or appeal clear and explain what will happen as a result. Ensure people are not disadvantaged. Specifically, do not:
- require them to complete overly complex forms, which can be a barrier to students expressing their concerns
- require students to provide extensive written information as part of the complaints process.
Your RTO’s complaints and appeal processes must follow the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness by allowing anyone subject to a decision by your RTO, or anyone who has allegations made against them, to tell their side of the story before a decision
Ensure that the decision-maker is independent of the decision being reviewed (e.g. an assessor should not consider or decide an appeal against an assessment decision they made).
If the person making the complaint or appeal is not happy with the outcome, make arrangements for an independent third party to review the complaint or appeal. Disclose any costs associated with a third-party review in your policy, so all parties are aware of any costs they may need to pay. (Note that ASQA is not able to act as the independent third party for reviewing complaints.)
Deal with complaints and appeals promptly. Identify the timeframes that will apply to resolution of complaints and appeals, so that complainants know how long it should take to get a response from your RTO at all stages of the process. If a complaint or appeal (including any review process) will take more than 60 days to finalise, write to the people involved explaining the delay.
Record all complaints and appeals received, and document outcomes. Use this information to review your RTO’s processes and practices to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again.
A guide to compliance
RTOs must to be able to demonstrate that for each student:
- they identify any additional support required
- that this support is made available (either directly or through arrangements with a third party).
At minimum, support should include:
- identifying particular requirements that students would need to meet to complete each course (for example, literacy, numeracy, English language or physical capability requirements)
- developing strategies to make support available where gaps are identified.
While a formal assessment process is not required, you must be able to demonstrate how your RTO identifies support needs—for example, by requiring students to complete an Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) test or a self-assessment as part of the enrolment process.
Where additional support requirements have been established, you must be able to demonstrate that this support has been made available.
RTOs must retain evidence that they have a publicly available policy or policies to deal with complaints and appeals. Your complaints policy should specify that anyone lodging a complaint must follow your RTO’s complaints process before making a complaint about the RTO to ASQA. If your RTO uses third parties to deliver services, the policy or policies must be made available to prospective students of the third parties.
Where a complaint or appeal has been received, your RTO must keep evidence of how the matter was dealt with and the outcome (including the timeframes). You will need to show that you have identified the cause of the complaint or appeal and what steps have been taken to prevent the situation happening again.
How can my RTO demonstrate and provide evidence of compliant practice?
Remember that ASQA will be seeking evidence to verify that:
- you have systems and processes in place to identify students’ needs
- your practice aligns with your systems
- there is alignment between your training and assessment strategies and the educational and support services provided.
In online surveys and at interviews ASQA might ask students to give their views about:
- whether their RTO asked them if they have any special learning needs
- whether they have been given information about support services
- if they have been told how they can get help if they have a problem or find the course difficult
- whether they receive support to use technology and access the learning resources they need
- if they understand how to make a complaint about their training or support services if they are not satisfied
- whether they were told if the agreed services are changed.
Your RTO could:
- show what questions prospective students are asked about their particular learning needs (for example, anything related to physical ability, cultural background or educational background)
- provide evidence of the arrangements in place with third-party expert service providers, including by
- showing examples of how individual students’ progress is monitored once their needs have been identified and support has been made available
- demonstrating what training is in place for staff so they are equipped to identify students at risk and in need of support services.
If you use a LLN test, consider:
- whether the test will be used with all students
- how effectively it identifies LLN issues, particularly those that might be specific to the proposed qualification—you may need to develop tailored rather than generic tests
- how to ensure the right staff are involved in administering the tests and making decisions about the support services
- the need for guidance to staff on:
- the expected level of performance that would qualify a student for entry into the course
- how to interpret the score achieved
- how to identify appropriate support.
Evidence to demonstrate the effective management and resolution of concerns, complaints and appeals could include:
- information about how prospective and current students, staff and third parties are advised of the policy and process
- information about staff professional development in relation to the complaints and appeals policy and effective responses/management
- data about complaints and appeals that shows how complaints and appeals are monitored and reviewed to ensure timeliness, identify systemic issues and improve your RTO’s operations and services
- a complaints register that shows:
- records of actions taken to address the root cause of complaints
- minutes of staff meetings at which actions arising from complaints were agreed
- changes made to your RTO’s systems as a result of reviewing complaints and appeals.
Case study—Getting the calculations right
GHI Training identifies that a qualification that they deliver requires the ability to carry out complex calculations quickly and accurately. GHI training provides this information on their website so prospective students are aware of this requirement. The website also includes information about optional tutorials that are available at extra cost for students who need additional support in this area.
As part of the enrolment process, prospective students undertake a short assessment based on the type of calculations they will need to be able to complete. Students’ assessment results determine whether they will need additional support or whether they should undertake further study in this area before enrolling in the course.
If a student is identified as needing additional support, GHI Training arranges tutorials to allow the student to increase their skills before these components are scheduled in the course.
Case study—Delivering broadcast technology training to Aboriginal community members
An RTO, Media Technology Australia, has been asked to deliver training to Aboriginal community members in a rural western Queensland town. Access to production and broadcasting equipment allows the town to replace mainstream broadcasts with
Aboriginal community members want to transmit their own local news, music, and general interest stories over the radio station.
Staff of the local radio station, teachers from the local high school and Aboriginal community members formed a committee to meet with the RTO’s training manager to outline their plans and seek advice on delivery of a suitable qualification.
The shows will be written, edited and delivered by local Aboriginal community members, with a group of people working on each program area and taking it in turns to speak on the radio.
These groups will consist of Aboriginal students from the local high school, Aboriginal people looking for work and interested Aboriginal community members.
The training manager of Media Technology Australia has developed a training and assessment strategy to guide the delivery of the qualification Certificate III in Broadcast Technology. To complete the strategy, the training manager needs to:
To identify the support services that may be required, Media Technology Australia decides that the language, literacy and numeracy assessment process:
The assessment is carried out prior to commencement of the course and identifies five people from across the three groups who require additional numeracy support to complete the course.
In consultation with the full group enrolled in the course and community members, it is decided that:
Teachers from the local high school agree to continue to provide additional support when the trainer and student support officer are unavailable.
The tutorials will be related to the performance criteria, but will make use of local examples and use as much practical learning as possible.
The trainer for this program will be made aware of the needs of the five participants. The trainer will ensure that when she is using numeracy throughout the training, she will utilise a range of resources to assist the participants to gain competency.
Resources and techniques the trainer may use include:
Case study—Using complaint outcomes for business improvement
HIJ Training publishes a combined complaints and appeals policy on its website. On enrolment, all students are directed to the policy and must confirm that they understand their rights in this area. While complaints can be submitted online, the policy sets out that people are able to speak with a staff member about their concerns and the staff member will complete the form on their behalf if required.
Any complaints are acknowledged in writing and directed immediately to the RTO’s training manager, who either investigates them or refers them to the general manager if there is any conflict of interest (e.g. if the complaint is about the conduct of the training manager). The RTO conducts separate interviews with both the person making the complaint and the person the complaint is about.
In the case of appeals against assessment decisions, the training manager initially reviews the decision and the evidence used to make the decision. The assessor and the student are interviewed separately to find out whether there is any relevant information not contained in the student’s file.
Regardless of the outcome, all parties are to be notified of the outcome within 30 days.
A mediator can be provided by the Australian Mediation Association. HIJ Training agrees to pay the cost of one mediation session of up to two hours and advises that, should the matter require further mediation, it will be at the cost of the complainant or appellant.
Once complaints and appeals are finalised, they are presented to the management team at their monthly meeting, where they are reviewed to see if there is a need to change any procedures or practices.
All complaints and appeals are recorded on a register that includes relevant details to allow analysis of matters over time and identify any common factors that may need action.