Tag Archives: first tier tribunal

Compulsory Mediation – Good Idea?

17 Sep

So the draft legislation has been out a few weeks now and one of the biggest changes that has stood out most to me is that of Compulsory Mediation.

As things stand at the moment, A parent can lodge an appeal to the first tier tribunal as soon as the local education authority (LEA) has written to the parent setting out a child’s proposed provision in the form of a draft statement. If the parent doesn’t agree with the provision offered they then have the instant right to appeal. This is done by making an application to the first tier tribunal. In the meantime the parent can request that the LEA meet for Mediation which is conducted by an independent mediator. However, the appeal process is still well underway and most will find that this gives the LEA that much needed kick up the backside.

The draft legislation which has been written to assist the changes in SEN provision in the near future states…

… Mediation: This section applies where a child’s parent or young person intends to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal under section 28 in respect of anything done by a local authority, or the content of an EHC plan maintained by a local authority.
This section does not apply in respect of an appeal concerning only of

(a) the school or other institution named in an EHC plan;

(b) the type of school or other institution specified in an EHC plan;

(c) the fact that an EHC plan does not name a school or other institution.
The childís parent or young person must notify the authority of his or her intention to appeal.

The local authority must then arrange for mediation between it and the parent or young person.

The child’s parent or young person must take part in mediation under this section before making an appeal.

The authority must arrange for the mediation to be conducted by an independent person.

For the purposes of subsection (6), a person is not independent if he or she is employed by a local authority in England.

At the conclusion of the mediation, the mediator must issue a certificate to both the local authority and the parent or young person
(a) setting out what has been agreed by the parties (including any agreed time limits), or

(b) stating that no agreement has been reached.

The parent or young person may make the appeal only if

(a) no agreement has been reached, or
(b) the local authority does not act in accordance with what is set out under subsection (8)(a) before any agreed time limits expire.

Regulations may make provision about mediation under this section, in particular
(a) about giving notice;
(b) imposing time limits;
(c) enabling a local authority to take prescribed steps following the conclusion of the mediation;
(d) about circumstances in which mediation under this section is not necessary;
(e) about the circumstances in which the parties to mediation need not meet face-to-face during the mediation;
(f) about the consequences of failure to take part or properly take part in the mediation;
(g) about who may attend the mediation;
(h) where a childís parent is a party to the mediation, requiring the
mediator to take reasonable steps to ascertain the views of the child;
(i) about the provision of advocacy and other support services for the
parent or young person;
(j) requiring a local authority to pay the other partyís reasonable travel expenses and other expenses of a prescribed description, up to any prescribed limit;
(k) about the training, qualifications and experience of persons who may act as a mediator;
(l) requiring a parent or young person to take prescribed steps when appealing to the First-tier Tribunal under section 28 after mediation;
(m) requiring the First-tier Tribunal not to determine an appeal under section 28 if requirements imposed under this section have not been met.

Appeals which only concern the name of a school, college or other institution specified in the Education, Health and Care Plan or the type of school, college or institution specified in the Plan or the fact that the Plan does not name any school, college or other institution can be made without going to mediation. This is because the parent or young person will already have been able to request a particular school or institution in the further education sector, and had discussions with the local authority about which institution should be named on the Plan. Requiring mediation in these circumstances would involve repeating the same discussions. The clause gives the Secretary of State regulation-making powers concerning mediation as listed in the clause.

So, what does this mean exactly? Basically parents will not only have to agree to mediation but undergo it before lodging an appeal with the tribunal.

This seems somewhat odd to me. There is no mention of tribunal timescales which will need to be adjusted to fit the proposed changes. The only timescales mentioned are those agreed during mediation.

Worryingly, from what I have read this new legislation will only make the appeals process longer than it currently is which in all honest is already far too long! I understand that we need to reduce the number of appeals reaching the tribunal but this should only be due to the fact more children are getting their needs met and therefore no longer require the help of a judicial decision to ensure it happens.

Let’s be honest here! For most parents it’s only the lodging of the appeal that makes the LEA that little bit more active when it comes to communicating with parents! Most parents will request mediation but the majority of LEAs will take forever to respond. I understand that the legislation states the LEA must arrange this but as mentioned there is no mention on just how long they have to do so.

The draft legislation also states that the Mediator must be independent (not work for the LEA)! This is already meant to be the case and most mediators work for independent charities. However, it’s my experience that most parents feel bullied by the LEA even with a mediator present. The majority of SEN case workers come armed with a legal representive for the LEA as well as half the council. Most parents can’t afford to do the same and it’s often the case that only one parent can attend.

It was my understanding that the proposed changes to SEN were being put in place to not only help the child but lower the stresses put on parents. The Government should be confident enough that the proposed changes are enough to reduce the number of cases being brought to tribunal. Compulsory mediation is just another hurdle a parent must overcome before getting their case heard by a tribunal.

Why not state that LEAs and parents must take part in mediation before the case is heard by the tribunal. Stating the parent has to overcome all these hurdles before even lodging an appeal is nothing other than barbaric. It just seems like another way of putting parents off.

I’ve read the entire draft and there are a number of areas that concern me. Nonetheless there is only so much writing I can do tonight!

So, are you a parent of a child with SEN? Have you ever undergone mediation with the LEA? Have you ever take the LEA to the tribunal? What do you think of the proposed legistation in regards to mediation?

Check out the draft legislation here

A little bit of inspiration

23 Jul

As I sit here happily, typing while listening to some Mary J. Blige, I think back to a time when things weren’t so pretty!

This time last year I saw myself battling and fighting for my sons rights. I was at the start of a discrimination claim against my Sons old mainstream primary school and was still, like thousands of others desperately trying to obtain a statement of special educational needs so my son would get the support needed in a school better suited to his complex needs. These two battles pushed me to the core, not only was I becoming stressed both physically and mentally, so was my son. I knew I couldn’t give up, not when my son was being treated like an outsider and even faced the prospect of permanent exclusion. He was never allowed on trips or was hidden away during inspections or when the parents of prospective pupils toured the school. He was highly misunderstood and it was slowly killing me! I was never quit prepared for what it would take to get myself through them hard and deliberating days. I had heard some talk about the battles fought to obtain these statements, get children into schools that catered to their needs, yet you never quite realise the true extent of what it takes out of you till your neck high in it! Honestly, I cannot begin to put this into words, those parents of children with SEN (special educational needs) will know what I mean when I say, “It could have quite possibly caused me to experience a full on mental break down! There were tears, shit… far to many tears, appointments, meetings, exclusions and phone calls, over and over again. Some days I was close so very, very close to giving up! Yes, I would often vacillate between giving up or pushing on! I remember all those voices, the ones that told me, “Don’t give up Claire, Its worth it in the end.” Yet it made no difference to me then! That light at the end of the tunnel was nowhere in sight.

It’s one year later and my children have just broken up from school! Unlike last year, I don’t dread the day my son returns, not now he will be returning to a better place. Yes, as many know already, Little man is in an Independent special school for children who have autism/aspergers as their primary need.

Little man spent so long isolated in mainstream, then home schooled before finally getting a great tutor. However he was still without a peer group! I really did think that it would take so much longer to settle in this new school than he actually has. He is already up one sub-level in his reading and earned himself a fantastic school report. His school have told me his a, “Great lad and a lovely boy!” For me this is amazing and almost brought me to tears. Silly… I think not! If you have ever watched your child’s education and self confidence fade away, then you will understand this feeling of joy I’m now feeling inside.

I know there are still hundreds of thousands of parents still fighting that same battle and by god do I empathise! The experience affected me in such a way that in November last year I started a voluntary role advising parents on their children’s educational rights and helping them through the tribunal process. I also started a Facebook page a few years back that now has over four thousand members, parents like me and young people on the spectrum comment daily about the lack of support received from the system. I hear our own story repeated over and over, so similar in so many ways it’s scary. I try and encourage them parents not to give up and remain strong for themselves and their child, yet I know that like me they must think, “It’s no use!” But those who have read my story over the past three years would have read some of my most testing moments, from pre diagnosis to full diagnosis, court cases brought against myself for non school attendance and the battle to bring Little mans discrimination at school to a final end. You will remember the posts that I wrote through tears at the inability to get my child what he needed,  “A Statement” and the tears I cried for once I had succeed it was hardly worth having. Then there’s the fight for an amended statement and a long search for a place in a special needs school. Gosh the sheer pain I felt discovering that every school the LEA approached just refused him, stating his needs could not be met, No one would give him a chance! The LEA would not agree to my parental choice of an independent special school, so… I fought and fought and with all my strength giving all I had, we made it… we finally made it here!

 Achievement slips and certificates replace the dreaded exclusion letters. Phone calls are made and emails are sent containing words of prise! Although his had some difficulty days, those around him understand why, they remain consistent,  they just get it! This was something I found difficult to vision a year ago. I never dreamed I would be displaying a picture of a smiling Little man at his new school, Yes that special school I fought for! I never imagined that I would proudly post a picture of all his rewards. This wasn’t because a lack of faith in my child, but a lack of faith in a system that had continually let us down.


I’m not stating we will never face a difficult moment again, and will always now remain overcautious. I’m sure we will have our ups and downs, but for once, for the first time in a long time, I feel we have achieved something amazing. My son is writing, literally putting pen to paper, something he had refused to do for a whole year! Things like these are the little things a parent of a child that has no difficulties could easily take for granted. For us these are reasons to celebrate.

Do you know how long it is since my son did a parenting and actually enjoyed it… To long! When he brought this painting home today I was incredible proud, so much so I could have burst.

I have a few reasons why I decided to bring you this post today. I of course had a desire as a mother to shout from the roof tops, “Check it out my sons star of the week at school” (the worlds of the proud mother). My second reason was to post in the hope that all my readers, the ones who are in that dark place I was in a year back, take some inspiration from it, they remember my story and think, “If she can do it, so can we!” and lastly because today is Special Saturday

I wish every single one of you the best of luck, stay strong, I’m always here to listen.

Training with a passion

10 Nov

As many of you already know, I’ve been training to become a tribunal support adviser. I’ve never known what  I really wanted to do in life in-till now and this is something I’m sure on. I am seriously hoping to succeed in this chosen path I’ve now taken.

Autism awareness is something I’m passionate about, and as many will already know, either from their own experiences or somebody else’s… autism and the Sendist first tier tribunal seem to go hand in hand with one another here in the UK. I acknowledge that not all children on the autism spectrum have Special educational needs (Sen) but a good chunk of them do and It’s then that many families are faced with problems and a good proportion of the time are faced with the prospect of a fight that eventually ends up in the hands of the tribunal to try and resolve! Ok some are lucky and school’s and LEAs have no problems providing the adequate education for the child! But in my opinion it’s a very small percentage that do.

It’s “funny” how one day everything is rosy in the land of education, but then before you know it, it’s all changed! It could come along and take any parent/career by surprise! It happened to me and it could happen to you!

When I discovered little man had Aspergers I didn’t know the first thing about Sen. The thing is as far as I was aware my child wasn’t on the sen register at school. As many fail to understand… “Having a child with an autism spectrum disorder don’t necessary mean they have special educational needs” I suppose the fact little man refused to even attend school most days, meant the extent of his problems were not seen within his school environment. Well, my point is… I had a great deal to learn back then!

Of course now we are in a completely different situation! Yes, my little man does have problems in school, considerably so that at present his going through the statutory assessment process, is currently part-time schooling and we have a pending DDA tribunal case in the near future. I suddenly had to learn everything from IEPs to exclusion.. all things I’ve never needed to think about before. It’s bloody hard when it goes from being told your child has no issues within school to issues so bad and complex your child now awaits the decision of an emergency “Special school placement” Because their level of need is now so high they cannot cope within the mainstream environment they currently with-side. You hear all this mind-boggling jargon and all you wanna do is SCREAM…”WHAT IN GODS NAME ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” School action, school action+, statutory assessments and statements.. “WHAT?” So much time is spent trying to work out what you as the parent needs to be doing to make sure your child is getting the very best education available that you have little time for anything else. I know when I first stepped into the world of autism and special ed I didn’t have a clue! Much of my day was spent running back and forth to and from school only later  spending hours trailing the net for answers or calling autism/education advice lines.

It was from then I armed myself with a hardback copy of the  Sen code and got myself a tool kit. I  also started reading the Education Act (Mainly schedules 26 & 27)  & The Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) (England) Regulations. With this I began to gradually feel more confident in dealing with little mans special educational needs. The loneliness you feel when your child is diagnosed and when autism and Sen come together is immense. I thank all those that were there advising me along the way, making me strong! If it wasn’t for the likes of .…NAS, Ace, Ipsea and other organisations of this kind I would not have been this strong, I would have likely gone insane! I certainly would not have chosen this route (advising others on their rights within the education system) But that’s just it! By going through it I discovered that I wanted/needed to do more. I cannot thank those that have helped me enough, now this is my way of giving something back.

There was many reasons that made this chosen position feel right for me! The prospect that I will help other parents that like me had no clue where to turn, not knowing when and if they have a right to appeal, deadlines looming while all the time their child is failing or worse still being failed. This was my biggest reason! If my work helps just one family then all this training was worth it!

So… finally here’s the good news!. I passed the distance learning modules (All ten of them) These modules covered a great deal. I swear I’ve read the entire Ed act on Sen, followed by the Cop. I got the email in the middle of last week confirming my place on the two training weekends in Canary Wharf in the Clifford Chance Law offices. The trainers, managers and co-ordinator of the TSS service are fantastic and made us all feel relaxed and very welcome. The first day (Saturday) after a really long training session 10-5:30 p.m. (Ok it’s been a while since I did anything other then be mummy) me and the other trainees were taken out for dinner in this lovely Italian restaurant situated right below one of the tallest buildings, not far from the water. It was a wonderful evening and although I had just met everybody that day I was really comfortable in their company. Sundays training was very practical.. Yes I worried half the night I would mess this one up but it went pretty well.

Well, I’m back for my last bit of training on the last weekend of this Month, and yep I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again and getting stuck in! After that… It’s for real, I’m on my own!! As well as being on the front-line I will also undertake casework, and to be honest I can’t wait!!!

Canary Wharf London




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