Partnership between parents, schools and local authorities works best when everybody involved feels able to say what they think at meetings, feel confident that they understand what is being discussed and are included in decisions.
But no matter how well these partnerships are working, there are times you may feel unable to put your views across or feel that the school or local authority is not taking account of your views.
You have the right to have a supporter or advocate present at meetings or discussions with the school or local authority about your child’s needs. You also have the right to independent mediationMediation is a voluntary process during which a neutral third person (a mediator) helps those involved in a disagreement or dispute to work towards an agreement that is acceptable to... to help reach an agreement with the school or local authority about the best way forward for your child.
It can be helpful to let the school know you are planning to take somebody along with you.
A supporter can be anyone you want to take along to a meeting with you - a relative, friend, befriender or somebody who works for a voluntary organisation. A supporter can also be a professional working with the family, as long as there is no conflict of interest with their professional role.
A supporter can help you to prepare for meetings, attend discussions or meetings with you, take notes, suggest points for clarification and give advice.
You can appoint an advocate to act on your behalf if you feel you need help to share your views. Depending on your situation an advocate could:
- help you to understand the education system
- support you express your views
- make sense of your concerns and options
- represent you at meetings
- write letters for you.
An advocate can be from worker from a voluntary organisation who are supporting you (such as a carer’s centre) or from a dedicated advocacy service.
Local authorities do not have a duty to provide or pay for supporters or advocates. They do have a duty to provide information about Enquire and the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance who can give details of support and advocacy providers where available.
Regardless of how hard parents, carers, schools and local authorities try to work together, there will be times when disagreements arise or relationships break down. This can happen because of differences in opinion between what you think is best for your child and the school or local authority’s views, disagreement over what support is being provided or a breakdown in communication.
If you have a disagreement with the school you can use independent mediation to try to resolve a disagreement. It gives everybody involved the opportunity to raise their concerns and offer solutions, with the help of an impartial mediator. The focus of the mediation is on finding a solution that is in the best interests of the child or young person. Mediation is voluntary so all parties must agree to take part. Mediation can be used to resolve any issues relating to additional support needs.
If you are thinking about making a referral to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland you can access a free advocacy service called Let's Talk ASN who will advocate on your behalf throughout the Tribunal proceedings. They will work with you to ensure your views are heard and represented.
- call the Enquire helpline. Advisers will listen to your concerns and provide useful information for talking to your child's school.
- find a local advocacy service and check they are able to help you.
- visit the resolving disagreements section of this website for more information.