Be bold and complain;Career development

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
If you're not happy with the course you're following, don't keep quiet, say something, writes Jean Maskell

We hate to complain. It's a British stereotype but it's true. We fume inwardly and moan to our friends, but say nothing to the person who has caused the problem. Be it a shop, restaurant or a training course, we should let people know how they are doing.

Say you sign up for a short course. The description sounds fine, but it doesn't turn out as you expected. You go home feeling the day has been a waste of time. If you enrolled in a taster session and are disappointed that you are not being transformed into an expert, then your expectations are the problem. You may be wasting time on short courses when what you really need is a longer-term course or a qualification.

However, if you genuinely feel that the trainers aren't addressing the course objectives, have a quiet word with them - they may be able to adjust the emphasis. Maintaining the quality of such courses improves standards of teaching and, ultimately, performance in schools.

Service First, the Government agency that advises public services on improving standards of customer care, says that people should not be afraid to comment. It recommends a five-step approach:

* Complain on the spot and see whether anything can be done immediately * Be clear about why you are not satisfied * Say what you want to happen. For example, do you want a change in the way things are done?

* Keep a record * If you are not satisfied, ask if there is an independent adjudicator Reputable trainers will have some form of feedback procedure. They realise they have to ensure their courses are relevant and of good quality if they are to survive in a competitive market.

John Latham, head of in-service education at Liverpool John Moores University, says: "All our short courses are evaluated by a simple questionnaire. We are also subject to Office for Standards in Education inspection of our in-service education and training provision. We always take complaints seriously and learn from them for future events."

But we should always remember that trainers are teachers, too, and that they will welcome positive comments as well as constructive criticism. So, if the course you did was good, why not drop them a line - and tell your friends.

For more details on your right to complain: The Charter for Higher Education, tel: 0845 60 333 60; A Framework for Local Accountability of TECs, tel: 0171 735 0010; Service First, tel: 0171 270 6179; Maskell is a senior education officer in Liverpool, but this article has been written in a personal capacity

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