The idea of mediation is that is creates a safe space to discuss a situation. An independent person, the mediator, helps to make sure everyone is heard and tries to ensure that everyone understands each other and what they need. A SEN mediator will have special training to make sure they understand the issues.

Whenever you have the right to appeal against a decision that the local authority makes about an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) – you also have a right to mediation. In some cases you have to talk to the mediation service and consider mediating before you can appeal to the SEND Tribunal, and if you only want to challenge the education setting that’s named, you don’t have to consider mediation, but you still have the right to mediate if you want to – It’s always your choice.

Mediation can sometimes prove a much quicker way to resolve a lot of issues, and agreements that are made in a mediation meeting hold just as much weight as a tribunal decision.

If you decide to try mediation, you contact the mediation service and they’ll start by listening to the issues you’re having and asking what you want to happen. They will then contact the local authority, who are required to agree to mediation and to give a date for the meeting (which is usually online) within 30 days. 

The mediator will have talked to you and the local authority before the meeting so they should a have a clear idea of the situation and the issues that need to be resolved. The person the local authority sends to the meeting has to be able to make decisions on those issues so you really can get a result on the day. Sometimes it’s useful for other people to be at the meeting, eg someone from school - and you are allowed someone there to support you.

In the meeting, the mediator will make sure everyone has a chance to explain their point of view, including your child, if they want to be involved or there’s another way to make their voice heard in the proceedings. The mediator is always impartial, they are not on one side or the other. It’s not their job to come up with solutions but they are good at helping move things forward and making sure you have a useful conversation. At the end of the meeting, they will make sure any agreement made is properly recorded in writing and will work out appropriate time limits for the actions to be taken if these aren’t already set out in the legislation.

Even when a mediation doesn’t resolve everything, you will often find you can agree on some ways to improve the situation, and just the sharing of information can increase everyone’s understanding and open the door to new ideas and options. Importantly, you still have the right to appeal to the tribunal if you haven’t managed to reach agreement.

What lots of people don’t know, is that you can get professional help from a mediator for any situation around your child’s special educational needs via the Disagreement Resolution service – even if they don’t have an EHC plan – This service is entirely voluntary so the school or the local authority would need to agree to talk in this way but if they do, it can be a great way of helping you to be heard and to better understand the reasons behind decisions.

There’s more information about mediation here: