Every parent wants their child to do well at school and to be happy and successful in life. Excellent home-school communication is one of the key ingredients for educational success.
Barriers to good communication
However, building and maintaining a 'climate of trust' with our child's teachers and other professionals can be difficult. Elaine McEwan, a distinguished head teacher and school leader, has listed the following reasons why parents and teachers sometimes struggle to have good relationships:
- today’s world is stressful, fast paced and fragmented – many parents are short of time, suffering from communication overload and often feel ‘disconnected’ from their child's school.
- we can feel swamped with confusing new plans and policies.
- despite the constant flood of information, somehow we never seem to find out what we really need to know
- we worry that our child is being left behind and it seems that no one has the time or resources to listen to our concerns and give our child the help needed
- we are asked for advice and feel that it has been ignored.
Many parents are anxious about raising their concerns about their child's education for fear of harming relationships with the school. The SEND Advice Service has a duty to act impartially and therefore is ideally placed to support parents at meetings and help resolve disagreements between parents, schools, or the local authority.
Both David and Ruth have received professional training in conciliation skills and dispute resolution. We use these skills, together with our wealth of experience, to clarify any misunderstandings which have been caused by a breakdown in communication, identify the key points which need resolving and help find practical solutions which meet the child's needs.
We will also support parents if needed at follow up meetings to monitor whether agreed actions are being carried out and help ensure that a climate of trust has been re-established.
If dispute resolution is unsuccessful, formal mediation is a way of resolving disputes between parents and the local authority (and/or schools) without going to the SEND tribunal or to court. It has some distinct benefits as an alternative to more lengthy, and possibly costly, adversarial approaches to dispute resolution:
- Mediation is a flexible process in which a neutral person actively assists the parties in dispute to work towards a negotiated agreement, with the parties themselves deciding whether to settle and the terms of resolution:
- Parents can choose mediation at any stage before or during tribunal proceedings. A parent's right of appeal to the tribunal is not affected by the decision to try mediation.
- Mediation is 'confidential' and without prejudice (nothing said in the mediation is admissible as evidence in the tribunal without the consent of both parties)
- Any settlement reached is binding once put into writing and signed by the parties.
If you would like more information, please phone the SEND Advice helpline - 01234 276 267.