Independent adjudication aims to help parents resolve certain disagreements about their child's education with a school or local authority. Here, you will find information about the adjudication process. 

What is independent adjudication?

If you are not happy with aspects of your child's education, independent adjudication gives you and your local authority the chance to explain your disagreement in writing to an independent person (or adjudicator). Adjudicators are appointed by the Scottish Government. They look at the information both you and the authority provide and suggest how the disagreement might be settled.

When can independent adjudication be used?

It's important for you to raise any concerns about your child's education and additional support needs with their school, and if necessary, the local authority. However, if your concerns can't be resolved by working with the school, you may be able to use independent adjudication.

An independent adjudicator can look at the following possible grounds for disagreement between you and your child's school or local authority:

  • whether or not your child has additional support needs
  • what exactly your child's needs are
  • whether your child receives enough support or the correct support
  • whether or not an assessment or examination should be carried out on your child
  • who should carry out an assessment or examination
  • whether a request for help should be made to another agency, such as health, to help meet your child's needs.

The application process

How do I apply for independent adjudication?

You must write to the Scottish Ministers and include:

  • your name and address
  • your child's name and address
  • details of your disagreement and the school(s) concerned
  • your views on the issue
  • your child's views
  • copies of any documents or information that help to put your views across.

The Scottish Ministers will forward the information to your local authority.

Our Education Rights Service can help you with preparing your application. 

Is there a deadline for applying?

There isn't a time limit for sending your application for independent adjudication. However, if you apply a long time after your disagreement began there's a chance that your application may not be considered reasonable and could be refused. 

There are important deadlines once the adjudication process has begun, which the local authority should tell you about.

What happens to my application?

When the local authority receives your application from the Scottish Ministers, they should accept it unless:

  • it is not something the can be reviewed by adjudication
  • they think it is unreasonable.

Within ten working days the authority will:

  • send you an acknowledgement
  • contact the Scottish Ministers and ask them to nominate an independent person to act as an adjudicator.

The adjudication procedure

Who will the independent adjudicator be?

The Scottish Government has a panel of adjudicators. All panel members must:

  • have knowledge and experience of additional support needs
  • not have been an education officer with an interest in the matter for five years before being appointed. 

Will the local authority be able to present their views?

The local authority will also write to the adjudicator with their views on:

  • the disagreement
  • your application
  • how they think the disagreement could be settled.

You should receive a copy of the local authority's letter within ten working days from the date your application is accepted.

How will the adjudicator reach a decision?

The local authority will gather all required information about your disagreement and send it to the adjudicator within 25 working days from the date your application was accepted. 

Once the adjudicator receives it, they have 15 working days to come to a decision and suggest ways that an agreement might be reached. Very occasionally the adjudicator may ask you to attend a meeting before they reach a decision.

Within ten working days of the adjudicator’s decision, the local authority must tell you:

  • what they intend to do and why
  • how they think this will affect your child.

What happens if the authority doesn't follow the adjudicator's suggestions?

The local authority doesn't have to follow what the independent adjudicator suggests, but it is hoped that both parents and authorities will accept the adjudicator's decision and suggestions. If this doesn't happen, you may wish to contact the adjudicator or Scottish Ministers for advice.

What happens if I disagree with the adjudicator's suggestions?

If you're not happy with the adjudicator's suggestions, you can make another application about the same matter, but not for a period of 12 months.  

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: 24 May 2016.