Most concerns and disagreements about a child or young person’s additional support for learning can be resolved by speaking to your learner, their family and your colleagues as needed.
However, there will always be some situations which are a little trickier to agree a way forward on. In this section we’ll cover:
- top tips for trying to address concerns at a nursery or school level
- what options are available to help you, your learners and/or their families to resolve disagreements.
It’s always best, for everyone involved, to try and address any concerns about a child or young person’s additional support for learning at the earliest possible stage. Open, honest and early communication often helps nurseries and schools avoid minor concerns from escalating into entrenched disputes or relationship breakdowns with families.
For tips on working together with children and their families, including preparing for and getting the most from meetings, see our pages on:
Remember you can always contact Enquire or encourage parents or carers to do so. Enquire can help explore ways you can try to work together to address any concerns about a child’s additional support for learning. You can also direct families to our resources, like our factsheet on Working together with your child’s school
Involving your colleagues
Remember, you are part of a team who can work together with children and young people and their families to make sure they get the support they need. This includes seeking support from your colleagues to get things back on track when necessary.
If you’ve been unable to resolve a disagreement after chatting with a child or young person, or their family, you can speak with their pastoral care teacher or year head. They may arrange a meeting with the learner and their family to discuss any concerns more fully. Ideally, they will agree a plan of action that everyone is content with, and a date to review how any agreed changes are going.
If there has already been a recent review meeting with a child or young person and their family, and you have not been able to agree a way forward, it may be helpful to involve senior management. This might be your nursery manager, head of support for learning, or a deputy or head teacher.
Proactively involving these colleagues can help learners and their families see that you’re taking any concerns seriously, and trying to get the right people in the room who can agree to any changes that may be needed.
When concerns can’t be resolved by the nursery or school alone
Every local authority must have arrangements in place to help resolve disagreements about additional support for learning. Your local authority will have a named officer that you, your learner or their family can contact for advice or information about additional support for learning. You can find out who this is on our website: www.enquire.org.uk/local-authorities.
If the local authority are already involved, and there is still a disagreement about what is best for the child or young person you’re supporting, there are further options that can be considered.
It can be helpful to let families and young people know about their options, so they can consider how they want to try and resolve things. Remember, families can get independent, impartial advice by contacting Enquire . We will help them consider their options, and how they can try to work together with you to resolve disagreements in as quick, efficient, and amicable a way as possible. You can also direct families to our resources, like our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems
Mediation is when a neutral and independent third person (a mediator) helps people involved in a disagreement come together and agree on the best way forward. It is a voluntary process between parents or carers (or young people aged 16 or over) and the school, nursery or local authority. Mediation can help rebuild relationships and communication by focusing everyone on the best interests of the child or young person.
Every local authority must provide independent mediation services free of charge for parents, carers and young people to use. You can find your local ASL mediation service provider on our Find a service search tool.
Parents and carers can learn more about this option by reading our factsheet on Independent mediation .
Raising a formal complaint
Parents, carers, children and young people can also use the local authority’s complaints procedure. Senior management at your nursery or school should be familiar with your procedures, including timescales for responding to complaints and concerns.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman also offer advice, support and guidance for professionals (of public services) on best practice on How to handle complaints.
Seeking support from a local MSP or elected counsellor
MSPs and local counsellors can choose to write to a nursery, school or local authority on behalf of one of their constituents to try and help them resolve a disagreement.
People can search for their local MSP’s contact details at https://www.parliament.scot/msps. Local authority websites will also have information about who local councillors are.
Educational appeal committees
Every local authority has an education appeal committee. They can consider specific disagreements about:
- appeals about exclusions from school or nursery – there is no set deadline for this, and children and young people can look to appeal their own exclusion, as well as parents or carers doing so on their behalf.
- most refused placing requests to mainstream schools or nurseries – parents, carers and young people (aged 16+) must raise their appeal within 28 days of receiving the decision.
Parents and carers can learn more about this option by reading our factsheet on Education appeal committees
Additional Support Needs Tribunal
Formally known as the Health and Education Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal for Scotland, the ASN Tribunal is an independent, expert, judicial body. The tribunal can consider specific disagreements about additional support for learning. The local authority must do what the tribunal directs them to do. Things the tribunal can consider include:
- 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 child or young person 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 one of these kinds of appeals (known as “making a reference”) to the tribunal. Only parents, carers, and young people aged 16 or over can appeal placing request decisions. However children 12 or over may be able to make a reference about the other issues listed above.
The tribunal also hears claims of disability discrimination against learners. Disability discrimination claims can be raised by parents, carers, young people, and potentially children aged 12 and over. Their claim must be raised within six months from the date the discrimination occurred.
Parents and carers can learn more about this by reading our factsheet on The Additional Support Needs Tribunal
Independent adjudication is when 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 parents, carers, young people, and potentially children aged 12 and over, get the opportunity to submit relevant documents along with their views on what should happen next. The local authority will be given the same opportunity to respond.
It can be used to challenge decisions made about whether a learner has additional support needs, what their support needs are, if they are not getting the support they need. Parents and carers can learn more about this option by reading our factsheet on Independent adjudication
Section 70 Complaint
Scottish Ministers can consider complaints by parents, carers, young people, and potentially children aged 12 and over. If an interested party believes the local authority has failed to carry out a legal duty under education law, they can raise a section 70 complaint.
This option is generally a last resort when other attempts to resolve a disagreement have not worked. Parents and carers can learn more about this option by reading our factsheet on Section 70 complaints
1. Remember, the earlier you acknowledge and address concerns, the less likely they are to escalate or entrench
Encouraging parents to get independent advice and support from Enquire and other services can help encourage earlier, more amicable resolutions
If you’re struggling to reach an agreement, remember there are other steps you can take and there are lots of options available for parents, carers, children and young people.