This section provides guidance for local authorities on the mediation process.
It outlines what Local Authority Officers should consider before making a referral and explains how to decide whether a case is suitable for mediation.
Before making or agreeing to a request for mediation, local options to dispute resolution should be considered.
- Has advice and guidance been offered by the Parent Partnership Officer and/or relevant voluntary agencies?
Offering information, providing advice and encouraging dialogue are often the first steps towards preventing the escalation of disputes.
- Have informal meetings to resolve the disagreement taken place with Parent Partnership Officers/ SEN Staff/ Schools?
Parents value being listened to. Offering informal meetings with parent partnership, SEN staff and schools encourages positive communication.
If all local options have been explored proceed to the next set of questions, if not, consider what else could be done at a local level to resolve the disagreement.
Please consider the following set of questions. Your answers should enable you to decide on whether on balance this case is suitable for mediation.
- Is the main issue one that would set a precedent on which the Local Authority / School is unable or unwilling to concede?
- Is there any room for negotiation on the issues raised?
- Is there goodwill on the part of the Local Authority / School to settle the dispute?
- Who should attend the mediation? (in addition to an Local Authority officer, it can often be useful to invite a a school representative, an educational psychologist, or a speech therapist etc.)
- Does the Local Authority officer and/or additional representative have both the ‘authority to settle’ and appropriate interpersonal and negotiating skills?
- Would those attending have a thorough knowledge of the case? (if not, consider who could additionally attend to facilitate discussion)
- If the case is going to tribunal, do the timescales allow for mediation?
- What would the Local Authority/ School hope to achieve by entering into mediation?
Making a Referral
Permission must be obtained from parents to disclose their details to the service. Once this has been received, referrals can be made either by telephone or email. Referrals will be responded to within 48 hours during the working week.
Dates for mediation can be offered within two-three weeks of the referral date, depending on all parties’ availability.