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How are disagreements about additional support needs resolved?

Photo: Support to resolve disagreements about additional support needs

Informal discussion

When there are disagreements about how additional support is provided, it’s often possible to sort these out by talking with the school or LA. You should be involved on an ongoing basis with what’s happening at school and so it’s worth raising any concerns you have as soon as possible.

However, when agreement can’t be reached, there are other options available – mediation, independent adjudication and appeal to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.

Mediation

Mediation is a way of resolving disagreements or misunderstandings early on, to prevent them escalating. It’s not like a tribunal or court. It allows you to meet a relevant person from the school or LA, and try to agree a solution. You can have a supporter or advocate with you to help get your views across.

The LA must offer mediation and it must be available free of charge. However, whether you choose to take part is up to you. You still have the right to appeal any decisions you disagree with later on if the mediation isn’t successful.

Independent adjudication

Independent adjudication involves a formal review of the case by someone who is independent of your LA. They need to have expertise in dealing with children who have additional support needs. You may decide to go for this option if the mediation hasn’t worked or if you feel there has been a breakdown in the relationship with the LA.

The adjudicator has a more formal role than a mediator and will consider the circumstances leading to the disagreement, then reach a decision and make recommendations to everyone involved. Although there’s no legal obligation for the recommendations to be acted on, both parties are expected to accept the outcome.

Additional Support Needs Tribunal

See Making a complaint about your child's education.

Support and advocacy

You have a legal right to make use of supporters or advocates to assist you in meetings with education or school staff.

A supporter is someone who attends a meeting with you to lend moral or emotional support. They play a more passive role in meetings than an advocate.

An advocate is someone who may attend a meeting with you to speak on your behalf. They might also advocate for you in other ways (e.g. by making written submissions to the local authority (LA)). They are more proactive than a supporter.

If you want to bring a supporter or an advocate to meetings about your child’s additional needs the LA must allow this, unless the request is unreasonable. The LA might consider it unreasonable to include a supporter or advocate in discussions if it believes they’re unable to represent you or if they’re in some way holding the process back. If this happens, you must be given clear reasons for the decision.