As a specialist mediator my role is to ensure that the mediation is fair, that no-one is bullied, or compromised or pressured. I have significant experience of the rules and regulations around SEN, a thorough understanding of the Code of Practice and I deliver training around the Equality Act and good practice in schools.
Mediation can offer an opportunity to everyone involved in seeking the right outcome for children a forum and a process where views can be shared in a confidential, neutral environment - and where solutions can be explored.
Mediation is not counselling, it not part of any assessment process, it is not compulsory - but it can be highly effective.
Seeking mediation does not mean that the parent waives the right to go to court or tribunal. Complaints processes can still be used and investigations pursued.
SEN mediation can address issues in the classroom, about provision of suitable learning resources, inclusion, school trips, medical intervention and even communication with third parties.
There is an expectation that the school or LA funds the mediation - but the mediation agreement, that is discussed fully with everyone prior to participation in the process is very clear about the process. Everyone involved in the process is clear from the outset about the extent of decision making ability - there is no point reaching an agreement if it cannot be put into practice – or if someone else has to have the final say.
What mediation does do it to put the parents’ views and child’s needs at the heart of the discussion, and ensures that any agreed solutions are child focussed.
Mediation is not be compulsory – but there is an expectation that families will consider mediation before an application to the 1st tier tribunal. Mediation will have to be offered, as is currently the case, and it is hoped by government that mediation will divert cases from the tribunal and enable agreed settlements to be reached.
Many individuals and organisations were concerned about the proposed compulsory nature of mediation. Concerns about the value of mediation must be taken seriously, but they must be set against the opportunity to resolve matters without the need for drawn out, stressful and potentially very expensive legal proceedings.
Mediation is not always the answer. Sometimes seeking an order from the court or tribunal is the only way to get a determination, however sometimes mediation can provide a very effective alternative route.
'The first time I spoke to John I put the phone down thinking I’d just spoken to a friend, not a solicitor that I had never met. Throughout, John communicated to me on my level and was always clear, easy to understand and prepared to explain his reasoning.'MW