The case studies below provide real-life examples of cases where mediation has brought benefits for everyone involved

Case Study 1: Successful Resolution of Disagreement over Named School (Part 4 of Statement)

Background information

Joel* was a five year old boy with Autism, about to start primary school. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. D, were dismayed to discover that the local authority had named the nearby mainstream primary on Joel’s statement.

This was a complete surprise to them as they had had a letter from the local authority a few months earlier saying that Joel could go to a special school, after he had spent his first two school terms in the reception class in mainstream.

Parents' Views

Mr. and Mrs. D were shocked, they thought: how could the local authority go back on its word when their son’s future was at stake? They believed that Joel would never cope in mainstream: he may have been five years old but he wasn’t toilet-trained. He also found large groups very difficult to deal with.

Mr. and Mrs. D were determined to apply to the SEND Tribunal and do anything they felt was necessary to help their son secure the educational environment they believed would be best for him.

Local Authority's Views

For their part, the local authority felt that, whilst Joel did have specific needs, as outlined in his statement, these needs could be fully met by the mainstream school, with the support provided for him in the statement.

Mrs. A, the Head of SEN, also felt that the parents didn’t understand that budgetary constraints meant that Local Authorities had to consider the most appropriate placement for the child, which was not necessarily the one preferred by the parents.

What happened at mediation?

At the mediation meeting various options were explored. At the end of the mediation, a creative solution to the disagreement was found; it was decided that Mrs. A, the Head of SEN, would investigate the option of a dual placement for Joel.

He would attend the mainstream school 3 days a week and the special school for 2 days. Both parties went away feeling happy with this outcome; unlike at Tribunal where someone always loses, with mediation neither party feels that they have ‘lost’ or given in to the other side.

How did parties feel about the issues discussed at mediation, afterwards?

The parents said they were delighted: “A very useful professional service” and, “A compromise was explored that we thought was not an option. We thought it was well structured.”

The local authority representative said, “Mediation was helpful, to meet with parents in a constructive setting.”

Case Study 2: Successful Resolution of Disagreement over Provision (Part 3 of Statement)

Background information

Abdul* attended a school for children with moderate learning difficulties. At the time this case went to mediation, he was 8 years old, and was unable to feed himself. His mother, Mrs. M, called us in a distraught state. She was sure that the Local Authority didn't understand the seriousness of her son's needs.

Despite several meetings with the Local Authority and the case being referred twice to panel, it had been felt that Abdul should remain in his current placement with a respite package from social services.

His mother lodged an appeal with the SEND Tribunal and also requested mediation. She wanted a placement which she felt could fully cater for Abdul's complex needs.

What happened at mediation?

Attending mediation were Mrs. M, her Advocate, the Head of SEN and a Social Services Team Manager.

4 hours passed, and Abdul’s needs were seen in a different light. The case went back to panel with the fresh information that had been uncovered. Residential placement was agreed. Tribunal was successfully avoided.

So, what was different?

Meetings had taken place before and the case had been discussed, in great detail, at panel meetings.
•Why then, on the third time, did the panel take a different view?
•Was it a case of he or she who shouts loudest wins?
•Was the panel simply caving in?

"No" is the answer to these three questions. The truth lies in the tangible difference the mediation process made.

Mediation allowed for a different quality of communication and therefore a different perspective was taken.

How did parties feel about the issues discussed at mediation, afterwards?

The parent said: “I feel that without the mediation meeting, it would have taken much longer to resolve. The mediation proved very beneficial.”

The social services representative said, "Made the process more personal, very useful…an excellent service.”

The Local Authority representative said, “I thought my interpersonal skills were good – but the mediator helped in a way I had not foreseen. I was able to sit back and reflect more, asking different kinds of questions that allowed a different outcome."

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.