Okay, so you have discussed all the pros and cons of mediation with our lovely Theresa (our Mediation Coordinator – she’s the one who usually answers the phone when you have a query), and you’ve decided to go ahead with Mediation.
What do you need to do to prepare for the big event? As a mediator, I get asked this a lot. Firstly, it’s probably better if you don’t think of mediation as a big event – a friendly chat with someone who can help is a better way to think about it!
You probably have a massive pile of paperwork, letters, notes, reports etc. all corresponding to your child’s condition and needs, so it can be difficult to know where to start.
A lot of parents do bring everything with them, “just in case”. But generally speaking, the SEN Officer really needs up to date information, from within the last year. Also, it is helpful if the information that you have is organised so you can lay your hands on a document in the meeting without panicking about where it is, and struggling to find it.
However, if there is a document that you don’t have with you, that you feel would be helpful for the SEN Officer to see, then it is not the end of the world if you don’t have it at the meeting. The Mediator can make a note on the Memorandum of Agreement that you will provide a copy of the document to the SEN Officer within a set time frame.
How do you know what to talk about and what to leave out?
Well, there is no need for a full blow-by-blow account of the entire life of your child dating back to your pregnancy like when you complete the ‘our story’ section of an application for an EHCP. Every case is individual and therefore there is no exact science with these things. The SEN Officer needs to understand: the situation with your child, any evidence or developments that they have not seen, what information might be missing from the EHCP, and why the School is unable to meet the child’s needs as it stands; but please understand that these suggestions are general and so it may depend on the case.
Parents sometimes invite a professional or school representative to attend the meeting to give their opinion; this allows the SEN Officer to ask questions to get the information that they need.
As a parent, you need to know what you want and to be clear about why the current situation is not working, with evidence and examples to back it up. However, please don’t worry if you don’t have a massive folder of evidence as parents’ experiences and opinion do count and the SEN Officer will be able to discuss your options. However, knowing what you want should not preclude you considering other ideas/options that may arise within the meeting.
Having some notes or bullet points can help. In this way, if your mind goes blank, you have something to refer to. It is normal for people to become emotional within these meetings, and that’s okay, the Mediator can read out the bullet points if it gets too much or you feel overwhelmed at any point. You will have already spoken with your mediator about the case, and so they will have a good idea about what you are hoping to get across to your SEN officer.
We have a Preparation Document on our website https://www.releasingpotential.com/mediation/send-resources which you might find useful to look at before you attend your mediation and don’t forget that you Local Offer will be able to offer support and advice. In Hampshire this can be found via Support4SEND via: