Wherever possible we want to enable concerns and disagreements to be discussed and resolved at the earliest opportunity. To start with, this may be an informal chat with a teacher, social worker or health professional. Settings, colleges and services will have their own published policies and/or guidance for addressing complaints and disagreements. The arrangements described on this page are not intended to replace these.
Disagreement resolution can help parents and young people resolve disagreements with their local authority or their nursery, school or college. It covers all children and young people with any kind of special educational need or disability (SEND) – you don’t need an education health and care plan (EHCP) to access disagreement resolution services. Taking part is voluntary for all parties involved.
What is it for?
There are 3 areas of disagreement that a family may seek disagreement resolution services for:
if you and your family disagree with how a nursery, school, college or local authority carries out its education, health and social care duties. This applies if your child has any kind of SEND. Your child doesn't need to have an EHCP.
if you and your family disagree with your nursery, school or college about the special educational provision they are making for your child. This applies if you child has any kind of SEND. Your child doesn't need an EHCP.
if you and your family disagree with your local authority or Integrated Care Board (previously known as Clinical Commissioning Group) about health or social care provision for your child. You can only seek disagreement resolution services about health or social care provision during an EHC needs assessment or while an EHCP is being prepared or reviewed, or when your child is being reassessed.
Parents and young people can seek disagreement resolution at any time. Unlike mediation, it is also available at any stage in the EHC needs assessment process. Disagreement resolution meetings are confidential and without prejudice to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal process. Partial agreement achieved by using disagreement resolution services can help focus on remaining areas of disagreement in any subsequent appeals to the SEND Tribunal. Taking part in disagreement resolution is voluntary for all parties. The local authority has a duty to ensure that disagreement resolution services are available to children and young people and their families.
Who is involved?
Disagreement resolution meetings involve the parents/carers and/or young person with SEND, the local authority, integrated care board or a school/setting, and a disagreement resolution service. In Derbyshire, the service provider that is regionally commissioned by the local authority is called Global Mediation.
The parent/carers or young person with SEND contacts the disagreement resolution service, Global Mediation. The service then contacts Derbyshire local authority informing them of the request.
If the local authority agrees to the disagreement resolution, a meeting is held where concerns and options are discussed. The meeting is confidential and without prejudice. This means that the SEND Tribunal would not consider anything discussed at a disagreement resolution meeting. It provides an opportunity to resolve the matter outside of court.
You can bring someone to support you, such as a teacher, educational psychologist, SENCo, or a family member or friend. You can bring reports and important information from people who have opinions about the support the child or young person may need.
The Department for Education has published a useful guide for young people with SEND called 'When people can't agree'.
Further information is also available in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice paragraph 11.6 to 11.10.
Mediation is a free and impartial service which aims to help parents/carers and children/young people and local authorities resolve disagreements in relation to the EHC needs assessment process and education, health and care places (EHCPs). It can only be used once a final decision has been made by the local authority (e.g., a decision letter has been sent or a final EHCP issued).
Mediation can help parents or young people settle disagreements with their local authority or Integrated Care Board about education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and EHCPs. Parents and young people who want to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal must consider mediation first.
What is it for?
Mediation only covers specific types of disagreements. You and your family can request mediation services if your local authority has decided:
- not to carry out an EHC needs assessment or re-assessment of your child
- not to draw up an EHCP for your child, once they have completed an assessment
- not to amend (change) your child's ECHP following an annual review or re-assessment
- to cease to maintain (stop) your child's EHCP.
Where your local authority has issued an EHCP for your child, mediation is available if you disagree with:
- the description of the child or young person's special educational, health or social care needs in sections B, C and D of the EHC plan
- the description of the special education, health or social care provision to meet those needs set out in sections F, G and H1/H2 of the EHC plan.
Mediation is important if you are considering registering an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You will need to demonstrate that you have considered mediation and receive a mediation certificate before you can register an appeal. The only exception are appeals which are only about the school or other setting named on the EHCP (section I).
Go to mediation or make an appeal to the tribunal?
Once you have received mediation advice, it is your decision whether you want to try mediation before making any appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
Global Mediation will give you further information about the mediation services for the East Midlands.
You do not have to contact the mediation adviser prior to registering an appeal with the SEND Tribunal, if the appeal is solely about:
- the name of the setting/college/other institution named in the EHC plan,
- the type of setting/college/other institution specified in the plan,
- no setting or other institution is named.
Mediation advice is also not required where the disagreement is in relation to a disability discrimination claim.
You and your family can get a mediation certificate either by taking part in a mediation meeting, or by speaking to a mediation advisor and telling them that you do not want to take part in a mediation meeting. Taking part in mediation is voluntary for parents and young people. However, the local authority must take part in mediation if a parent or young person has requested this.
What are the timescales?
You and your family need a letter from the local authority telling you about their decision before you can ask for mediation. For example, this could be a letter telling you that the local authority has decided not to undertake an EHC needs assessment for your child. If you want to request a mediation meeting about the content of an EHC plan, you will need the final EHCP and the letter that accompanied it.
You have 2 months from the date of the decision letter to ask for mediation. Mediation meetings must be arranged within 30 days of the request being made.
If you and your family want to appeal to the SEND Tribunal, you must do this within 2 months from the date of the local authority's decision letter, or within one month from the date of the mediation certificate, whichever is the later.
Global Mediation were awarded the contract to deliver independent mediation advice. Global Mediation are appointed to provide mediation advice across the East Midlands region. This service is free of charge and can be accessed via:
Freephone number: 0800 064 4488 or 020 8441 1355 or
The parent or young person with SEND contacts the mediation service named in the decision letter. No paperwork is required. The mediation service provider will take details of the case and explain what mediation involves.
If you and your family do not want to take part in mediation, the mediation service will send you a mediation certificate within 3 working days. You can then appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
If you and your family do want to take part in mediation and your case covers one of the areas of disagreement outlined on this page, the mediation service will contact the local authority and set a date for a mediation meeting. Mediation meetings must be held within 30 days of the request being made. You can withdraw from the process at any time, request a mediation certificate and make an appeal to the SEND Tribunal.
Before the mediation meeting, the mediator or case worker will help you and your family prepare by meeting with you and by writing a case summary. They will also do this with the other party and the summaries are exchanged before the meeting if possible. You and your family will be asked to suggest who should attend the meeting and where it might be held.
On the day of the meeting, you can bring someone to support you, such as a teacher, educational psychologist, SENCo or a family member or friend. You can bring reports and important information from people who have opinions about the support the child or young person may need.
At the mediation meeting, your concerns and options will be discussed. The meeting is confidential and without prejudice. This means that the SEND Tribunal would not consider anything discussed at a mediation session. It is an opportunity to resolve the matter outside of tribunal. An independent SEND mediator will manage the meeting, which may take up to 2 hours. The mediator ensures that everyone's concerns are heard and allows the parties to form their own agreement.
What happens next?
Within 3 working days of the meeting, the mediation service will send you a mediation certificate. If you are not happy with the outcome of the mediation, you or your family will need a mediation certificate before you can register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal. You have one month from the date on the certificate or 2 months from the date of the original decision (whichever is the later date) to register an appeal with the SEND Tribunal.
If the local authority agrees to take the steps you are asking for, it is important that they clearly set out in writing what they have agreed to do. This is called a "mediation agreement". The local authority must carry out the actions written down in the agreement within specific time limits.
Please note: In Derbyshire, any decision that is part of the EHC needs assessment process is made via the Operations Panel. The officer representing the local authority at mediation may agree to refer the case back to the local authority's panel. This panel will consider any new evidence which has come to light during the mediation to ensure that there is consistency in decision making and that this follows the same process. Parents/carers will be informed of the outcome of the panel meeting by letter.
The department for Education has published a useful guide for young people with SEND called "When people can't agree".
Further information is also available in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice paragraph 11.13 to 11.38.