What is it?
An independent service for all parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs, which has been set up to deal with disputes between: -
- Parents and schools
- Parents and the Local Education Authority
Who is it for?
- All parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs
- Parents and carers of children with or without Statements
- Those seeking an alternative to Tribunal
It does not take away the parent’s right to appeal to tribunal and disagreement resolution can run alongside an appeal to Tribunal. Normally it will take place within the eight week time period for appeal. Individual meetings will not normally exceed 2 hours.
What can Disagreement Resolution achieve?
- Brings people together in a neutral environment
- Opportunity to meet face to face
- Allows everyone to be heard and to explore solutions
- Facilitates problem-solving strategies being put in place
- Mediators can clarify the situation and consolidate and monitor agreements
What Disagreement Resolution does not do: -
- Mediators do not enter into the discussion; they merely facilitate fair and balanced debate
- It is not their role to express a view on either side
- What is said during negotiations must not later be repeated at tribunal unless mutually agreed
- It does not handle complaints or past grievances; the emphasis is on moving forward
- No statutory decisions can be made
Some questions answered
When should disagreement resolution start?
Where usual discussions or the normal complaints procedure have been exhausted.
What is mediation?
It is a process where an impartial third party helps those who are in disagreement to come to an agreed outcome.
What is the cost to parents?
The service is free.
What is the cost to schools?
The service is free.
Are solicitors involved?
Legal representatives for either side are not included.
Can someone accompany me for support?
Parents and carers can bring a friend or helper to the meeting.
Is SEN mediation specifically aimed at avoiding Tribunals?
Not necessarily. Mediation may be appropriate at any stage of the Code of Practice. It is for any disagreement arising out of SEN legislation (part 4 of the 1996 Education Act as amended by the SEN & Disability Act 2001).
Does mediation always involve a ‘face to face’ meeting of all parties?
Not necessarily. Some disputes may be resolved by phone calls, some by the mediators seeing one party and communicating with the other, and in some cases each party may need to be seen separately. However, at least one ‘face to face’ meeting of parties to the dispute is generally helpful for successful mediation.
Who should attend for the LA and/or the school?
It is essential to ensure that those present have the authority to settle the key elements of the disagreement as mediation works best if the parties present can come to an agreement without having to take proposals to someone else. However, this may not always be possible. The parent may need to consult the child or the other parent, the LA officer may need to take some aspect of a proposed agreement to a ‘panel’, the SENCO may not commit other colleagues to the details of an agreement. Getting other parties ‘on board’ may need to be part of the agreement.
How long is the mediation expected to take?
Experience shows that most useful progress is made within two hours. Few meetings would go on longer than that. There may be a need for a second mediation meeting, or a meeting that may take place without the need for an impartial mediator.
Does embarking on mediation affect my right to go to tribunal?
No. A parent can still pursue the tribunal route if no satisfactory agreement is reached. Ideally, disagreement resolution should take place within the two month statutory time limit for appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND), but can also take place once an appeal has been lodged. Parents still have to make an appeal within the two month time limit.
The disagreement resolution service can be accessed by contacting the Devon Parent Partnership Service on tel 01392 383080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Devon Parent Partnership Service can also support SEND appeals.