When I’m not blogging about books or the school run, when I’m not being a Mummy, a doting wife (!) or a children’s author (!!!) I am a mediator. Often confused with meditation as in practising the ability to focus and calm our minds thus achieving a highly relaxed state (like the Stick Insect in my book), but mediation – an alternative form of conflict resolution. I mediate workplace disputes, community and neighbourhood disputes, occasionally family disputes and also those which revolve around a child’s Special Educational Needs and Disability.
It does amaze me how many people still don’t know about mediation, how many people believe it’s ‘airy fairy hippy stuff’. So I thought I’d share a contribution that I recently made to a piece for the Optimus Education Portal focusing on the role of mediation in Special Educational Needs and Disability disputes which highlights a few FAQs.
And of course because I’m so passionate about mediation it never hurts to spread the word a little further. It really does work!
- What is SEND mediation?
SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a trained mediator assists two parties in conflict over an issue related to a child’s special educational needs or disability to resolve their dispute collaboratively. For example: disagreements between a school or local authority and parent / carer; disagreement related to school placement, provision or exclusion.
The role of the mediator is to facilitate an open, honest and respectful conversation between the parties, to ensure that each side is heard and is treated fairly in order for an outcome to be reached which both parties are satisfied with. The mediator is impartial and does not take sides nor give a judgment about who is right or wrong.
- How does it work?
When all parties are in agreement to proceed with mediation the process would usually follow these steps:
The mediator will contact both parties by telephone to introduce himself or herself, to explain the process and to arrange a convenient time for a face-to-face meeting. The mediator will also explain their role in the process. At this stage the mediator will also emphasise the voluntary nature of mediation: that it is not legally binding and it is confidential. This initial discussion is an opportunity for the parties to ask any questions they have about the process or to discuss any anxieties.
The mediator will then meet with both parties separately to discuss the history of the case and the impact of this, the needs of each party and their ultimate goal from mediation.
Finally, a meeting will be arranged in which both parties and the mediator are present. The mediator will use constructive techniques and skills in order to restore the lines of communication between both parties to enable them to begin to work toward a solution that both sides are satisfied with. This will then be drawn up as a written agreement.
- Does mediation always result in a positive outcome?
Mediation frequently results in the parties reaching a solution which they are both happy with. On the occasions that an agreement is not reached several positive factors can still be taken from the process:
Mediation provides a safe, secure and confidential environment to enable broken relationships to be rebuilt and lines of communication to be repaired. Even without an agreement being reached during the mediation, this open dialogue may enable the parties to work together cohesively when faced with future difficulties.
The process focuses each party on the issues, the needs and ways of moving forward. It also gives the opportunity for each party to reflect on alternative methods of communication.
In addition to offering each party the opportunity to be fully heard, the mediation process empowers all parties to take control of the dispute and form a solution that is right for them.
- 3 Top tips to anyone taking up SEND Mediation
Mediation works best when both parties are fully committed to the process – they have a real desire to resolve the dispute and a willingness to participate in the mediation.
Prior to mediation both parties might try to overcome the idea that because there is conflict one party will win and the other will lose. Mediation works towards a win/win situation. Whilst it is hard work, it is less time consuming, less costly and less stressful than tribunal or court proceedings and the positive outcomes may be longer lasting.
Neither party has anything to lose by trying mediation. If necessary, an appeal can still be made to the Special Educational Needs and Disability tribunal (SEND). All matters discussed in the mediation are confidential and cannot be referred to in a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
Thank you for reading!