SEND Reforms

SEND Reforms

Posted by: admin
Category: Latest News

The College has been involved in ongoing consultation with the DfE over the role of mediation in their planned SEND Reforms. Strengthening the mediation process has been the central focus of our discussions. In light of this, we have been working hard behind the scenes, reviewing and updating our Professional Standards for SEND Mediators. For example, we are proposing measures to tighten up the training requirements for the pathway to formal enrolment on the Joint Register of SEND Mediators.

In addition, a working group was set up to set out the “minimum expectations of the SEND mediation process.”  This group has highlighted to the DfE common concerns, such as the differing levels of local authorities’ engagement in the mediation process, and varying interpretations of the Code of Practice, for example in relation to placement only cases, or the sending of an officer with decision-making authority.  We have stressed the desire for consistency in terms of engagement and quality of service provision, and have made suggestions to help ensure that providers are placing an appropriate emphasis on thorough preparation, as this can impact upon the success or otherwise of the mediation meeting.  We are also looking at ways to promote the potential benefits of mediation more widely.

We are pleased to report that the representatives of the DfE with whom we meet regularly have appeared to welcome our suggestions and we continue to work together to make engagement in the process a positive and constructive experience for families and local authorities alike.

We hope that a draft of the new standards will be circulated for consultation by the end of this year or early in the new year. The DfE will then test the impact of some of our suggestions through their Change Programme. This is a pilot scheme involving a number of local authorities across the country, which will run throughout next year and into 2025. Although our understanding is that it is not proposed that new legislation is to be introduced, we have been assured that adherence to the existing legislation is to be closely monitored and clear guidance given as to how the Children and families Act 2014 and SEND Code of Practice are to be interpreted and implemented.  Once the Change Programme is complete, we hope that the DfE will endorse our standards by ensuring that local authorities only use mediators and mediation providers that meet the rigorous criteria that we have set. We believe that this will lead to better outcomes for children and young people with SEND, improve the reputation of mediation in this important sector, and save the taxpayer significant amounts of money by relieving the overloaded tribunal system.