Mediation is a way for parents, schools and local authorities to resolve disagreements about a child's education. Here, we will look at how you can access mediation and what might happen during the process.

We also look at the procedures available if you need to take things further. These are:

Mediation

Mediation aims to help resolve disagreements through discussion. The discussions are chaired by an independent mediator, trained to help all involved negotiate a settlement on their own terms.

Mediation tries to avoid fault and assigning blame; everyone should get a fair chance to speak and to make their own decisions during the process.

This is a voluntary service, taking part does not affect your right to take a different course of action. It can often be arranged easily so that everyone involved can try to resolve disagreements as soon as they arise. 

Mediation is often used during the early stages of disagreements but can be used at any time. Those involved may use it to resolve parts or all of the matters in dispute and can help build and rebuild relationships.

The mediation process

How can I access mediation?

If your child has additional support needs and you have any concerns about their education, discuss these with your child's school. 

If you disagree about your child's needs and can't resolve the disagreement by talking to the school, you can ask to take part in mediation. You have a right to access mediation and your local authority must make this available to you free of charge.

What can happen during mediation?

Mediation is a flexible process that caters to the needs of those involved. However, here is a guide to what might happen.

The mediator will meet all concerned separately to explain how mediation works and listen to their views. They help everyone to be clear about their concerns and prepare for a joint meeting.

This meeting will take place at a neutral venue where people feel comfortable. This is an opportunity for everyone to have their say, listen to other points of view, and explore all the issues and options. 

The mediator helps everyone to look for agreements and strategies for working together in the future. Agreements reached are not legally binding, they belong to the people who have made them, as a mediator doesn’t tell people what to do or make agreements for people.

It is good practice for the mediation service to contact people a few months after mediation has finished, to see if the agreements are still in place or if there are any further difficulties.

Taking things further 

Mediation is voluntary, you don’t have to take part, neither does your child's school or local authority. If you feel that mediation won’t or hasn’t resolved your issue, you can take further action. 

Independent adjudication can be used for certain disagreements relating to additional support needs, assessment and provision.

The Additional Support Needs Tribunal for Scotland is a way to resolve disagreements about a co-ordination support plan, post-school transition and certain placing requests while education appeal committees in Scotland deal with exclusion and certain placing request appeals.

Further help from our charity

The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service can provide information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements for children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Useful reading

Supporting children's learning: code of practice. Scottish Government (2010).

Autism toolbox. A resource for Scottish schools. Scottish Government.

Last reviewed: 28 November 2016.