More formal routes for resolving disagreements

More formal routes for resolving disagreements

When communication has broken down and you cannot reach an agreement through discussions and meetings with the school, nursery, or local authority, it may be necessary to involve others to make decisions or suggestions about what should happen next.

Below we have summarised some of these options and the situations when you can use them. If you haven’t already, we’d suggest trying the steps on our Solving problems with school page before taking the actions below.

Formal complaint against the local authority

All local authorities have complaints procedures that you can follow if you are unhappy with the way they have dealt with a situation. Information about the process for making a formal complaint should be on the local authority’s website or you can contact the local authority to ask for this.

You can use formal complaints for most disagreements about education that you cannot resolve in a more informal way.

If the local authority does not uphold your complaint at the first stage, you will usually be able to take it to a second stage, where it will be fully investigated. If you disagree with the local authority’s final decision, you can refer your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

Independent adjudication

Independent adjudication is a way of resolving disagreements about additional support needs. An independent and neutral third person (an ‘adjudicator’) looks at information about a disagreement and then makes recommendations for how to resolve it. It is a paper-based exercise where you and the local authority both get the opportunity to submit relevant documents along with your views on what should happen next.

You can request independent adjudication if you disagree with the local authority’s decision about any of the following:

  • whether your child has additional support needs, or the kind of support needs your child has
  • refusing a request for an assessment of your child’s needs
  • the person doing an assessment, or the way it is done.

You can also use it if you think the local authority has failed to:

  • provide the additional support for learning that your child needs
  • request help from another agency, for example the NHS.

Your child may also be able to ask for independent adjudication if they are aged 12 or over.

Find out more in our factsheet on Independent adjudication.

  • Independent adjudication

    This factsheet explains how and when you can use independent adjudication to resolve a disagreement about your child’s support.

The Additional Support Needs Tribunal

The Additional Support Needs Tribunal is an independent and expert body that hears and decides on certain matters related to additional support for learning.

The tribunal can hear appeals (known as ‘references’) about:

  • decisions about co-ordinated support plans (CSPs)
  • refused placing requests to special schools or nurseries
  • refused placing requests to mainstream schools or nurseries if the pupil has a CSP or one is being prepared for them
  • failure to plan effectively for a young person leaving school
  • decisions about children aged 12-15 being able to use their rights.

There is a deadline of two months to make a reference to the tribunal for any of these reasons. There is a free advocacy and legal support service for families who have a right to make a reference to the tribunal called Let’s Talk ASN.

The tribunal also hears claims of disability discrimination against pupils. You have six months from the date the discrimination occurred to make a disability discrimination claim to the tribunal.

Your child may also be able to make references or disability discrimination claims to the tribunal if they are aged 12 or over. However, only young people aged 16 or over can appeal placing request decisions.

The local authority must do what the tribunal directs them to do. Find out more in our factsheet on The Additional Support Needs Tribunal.

Education appeal committees

Every local authority has an education appeal committee. Education appeal committees are made up of no more than seven people from the local area who are from a range of backgrounds, such as elected councillors, parents and teachers.

They can consider appeals about:

  • exclusions from school or nursery
  • most refused placing requests to mainstream schools or nurseries.

For exclusions there is no deadline for appealing but it is best to submit it as soon as you can so that the appeal can be heard as quickly as possible. Your child may also be able to appeal their exclusion.

For placing requests, you have 28 days from when you receive the refusal letter to submit your appeal.

Find out more in our factsheet on Education appeal committees.

  • Education appeal committees

    Factsheet explaining what appeals you can take to an education appeal committee, and how the process works.

Seeking support from your MSP or local councillor

You can contact your MSP or local councillor with a complaint about a school, nursery, or local authority. They may be prepared to make enquiries or write letters on your behalf, though they do not have to do this.

You can find out who your MSP is and how to contact them on the Scottish Parliament website. Your local authority’s website will have information about who your local councillors are.

Section 70 complaints

Scottish Ministers can consider complaints by parents or other interested parties who think a local authority has failed to carry out a legal duty under education law. This kind of complaint is called a section 70 complaint. Before you complain under section 70 you should try other ways of resolving your disagreement.

Find out more in our factsheet on Section 70 complaints.

  • Section 70 complaints

    Factsheet explaining when you can make a section 70 complaint to Scottish Ministers about a failure under education law.

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