Avoiding and Resolving Disagreements

Sometimes you may disagree with others who support your child’s needs or are unhappy about something they do or say.  Despite your best efforts, it’s not always possible to avoid disagreement which is why SNAP Cymru provides independent disagreement resolution services. Our specialist services can be used by parents and carers of children with Additional Learning Needs and young people who have additional learning needs. These services are free and independent of the Local Authority

SNAP Cymru staff and volunteers are experts in improving the channels of communication and understanding between families and professionals and in helping everyone reach realistic, practical solutions that meet the needs of all concerned, especially the child or young person.

We can help you unpick the underlying nature of any disagreement and help prevent the disagreement from escalating.  Hopefully helping you and the other party take positive steps to avoid and resolve your disagreements.

Requesting a Disagreement Resolution Service

If you wish to request SNAP Cymru’s Disagreement Resolution Service, you can complete the form below:

(Eligibility may be determined by whether your local authority has an agreement with SNAP Cymru to provide this service in your county. We can advise of this when you contact us.)

Disagreement Resolution Service Request

Download our leaflet on SNAP Cymru’s Disagreement Resolution Service:

Disagreement Resolution Service Leaflet

There’s lots of information and advice in our frequently asked questions section below:

Avoiding and Resolving Resolution - FAQ's

Help To Avoid Disagreements

SNAP Cymru is funded by most local authorities in Wales to provide a Parent Partnership Service (PPS).  PPS provide impartial, accurate and reliable information and support on all aspects of additional learning needs.  We provide you with easily accessible information on all aspects of education, health and social care to help you make informed decisions.  Our information is based on up to date local and national policies and legislation so you can be informed about your rights and responsibilities.  We will discuss your concerns and help you explore options.

We have a range of leaflets, fact sheets, publications and other useful links that can be found on our advice page. If you can’t find what you are looking for then please contact us.

We can help to resolve many types of disagreement or prevent them from becoming more serious: i.e.

  • Disagreements between Parents or Young People and the Local Authority, School, the Governing bodies and Maintained nursery schools, Early Years providers, Further Education
  • Disagreements over Additional Learning Needs provision(ALN), assessments, the drawing up of plans, school placements tribunal appeals and complaints.

Yes, you can access specialist help from a trained advisor on our helpline, 0808 801 608 , Monday – Friday 9.30-4.30 or through our online ALN enquiry form on our contact page  www.snapcymru.org/contact  Our telephone service offers bilingual information and advice as well as referrals to our casework service where needed.

In most areas of Wales SNAP Cymru service can help you with the following,

  • Preparing for and attending meetings with schools, local authorities and other professionals
  • Helping to write official letters and complete forms
  • Explaining the meaning of official documents, processes or legislation
  • Assist in the statutory assessment or IDP process
  • Support the assessment and review process to help you understand how the decisions made were reached and explore whether any evidence is missing or hasn’t been taken account of
  • Making  referrals or signposting to the correct organisation or contact
  • Supporting appeals
  • Ongoing support if issues are difficult to solve

Sometimes problems can be resolved by discussion and informal forms of dispute resolution. However, sometimes problems do not go away and parents of children with SEN and young people may need to take further action.

The first step to resolving disagreement is to talk to the other party.  If you are concerned about the help that your child has at school, talk to their teacher, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo)/ Additional Learning needs Coordinator(ALNCo)or the Head teacher.

If you think the school is doing all it can, but your child needs even more help or you want the local authority to reconsider the matter you can ask the local authority for a further assessment of their needs.

SNAP Cymru can help you prepare for and attend a meeting, support you to write a letter or complete forms in relation to your concerns and talk to you about your next steps. You should call our helpline for advice 0808 801 0608

Most disagreements can be sorted out by talking with the other party.

However, if your concerns have not been resolved at this stage or communications have broken down, there are other ways forward you can consider.

Using a disagreement resolution service allow concerns and issues to be raised and you can be confident your views and wishes are heard – this usually reduces the need to take a dispute to the tribunal.

The Welsh Government requires all local authorities to provide access to independent disagreement resolution to help when parents or young people cannot agree with the local authority or other providers about the special educational provision for a child or young person. Other providers include early year’s settings, schools, colleges and other post 16 provision.

The aim is to explore each party’s views and reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the child or young person.


“As a result of the disagreement resolution session, we received an amended draft as promised. My child now has a better statement recognising his complex needs. The service was effective and impartial.” Parent

“Many thanks to our mediator; who facilitated fairly and independently!” LA Officer


Disagreement Resolution

Disagreement resolution is an approach used by an independent person or service for children, young people and parents of children with Special Educational Needs(SEN)/Additional Learning Needs (ALN). It’s purpose is to avoid and resolve disagreements between:

  • Parents/children/young people and schools
  • Parents/children/young people and their local authority

The service provides a positive opportunity for communication which is voluntary, confidential and free.

“After 18 months of frustration it finally feels like we are getting somewhere. The relationship between ourselves and the school has definitely improved as a direct result of the disagreement session.” Parent

No. Using the service is completely voluntary and all parties need to agree to participate; no one has to use it if they do not want to.

You can of course follow your school and local authorities complaints procedures and if you’ve exhausted this route you may be able to complain to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. In certain circumstances you can also make an appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal For Wales 

Disagreement resolution can be can be used to resolve a wide range of  disagreements, such as:

  • A local authority’s refusal to carry out a statutory assessment;
  • A local authority’s refusal to reconsider a school based decision regarding an IDP
  • Refusal to issue a Statement, or a Individual Education Plan (IDP)
  • Ceasing to maintain a Statement or IDP
  • The content of your child’s Statement or IDP
  • The type of school or educational setting proposed by the local authority
  • The school  named in the Statement or IDP;
  • Prior to/alongside making an appeal to the SEN/ALN Tribunal
  • School based issue that cannot be remedied within the school processes
  • Concerns regarding discrimination and failure to provide reasonable adjustments can also be mediated
  • Failure to provide assessments and services within the local authority
  • Mediation can not only resolve these issues, but also provide the opportunity to restore or improve the relationship between parents and the local authority or school

The aim is always to consider the needs of the child or young person first, and to keep the focus on solutions to the important issues using an inclusive group approach.


“As a result of the disagreement resolution session, we received an amended draft as promised. My child now has a better statement recognising his complex needs. The service was effective and impartial.” Parent


“Many thanks to our mediator; who facilitated fairly and independently!” LA Officer

Referrals can be made directly to the service by a parent/child/young person, schools or local authority.

Please use this form  or contact 0808 801 0608

or email: DRS@snapcymru.org 

Once we are contacted:

  • We will explain the mediation process to you in more detail. Then, with your agreement, we contact the other parties
  • We will gather and record background information – general information relating to the names of the parties, the child or young person involved and potential attendees
  • We will record a brief background of your case including a list of issues and/or a chronology of the key events – and any agreements already offered
  • We will explain the process to you , the possible outcomes and alternatives you may wish to follow if mediation isn’t suitable – and establish that both parties are willing to engage in the process
  • We will ask what you would like to achieve within the process and explain what happens at a mediation meeting
  • We will ask for agreement to arrange a joint meeting with those involved and talk to you about who should be at the meeting
  • We will keep you informed of progress and ensure that the date and time for the meeting is convenient. We will arrange a neutral venue that is as central as possible for all parties

A disagreement resolution is not simply an informal discussion. It uses a structured approach that begins with exploratory work.  The facilitator will talk to you to discuss the process before the meeting.  they will also talk to the other party.

It DRS session will begin with the mediator clarifying each party’s understanding of the issues to explore what they both want to achieve through mediation.  It will include looking at all of issues and at possible solutions.

The meeting will usually take 2-4 hours depending on complexity of the issues discussed.

At the meeting, the mediator will help everyone to:

  • Explain and understand the issues
  • Identify areas of agreement and disagreement
  • Listen to the concerns of the other party
  • Express their feelings and concerns about the situation and suggest their ideal solution
  • Suggest other workable solutions and explore how practical these are
  • Reach a solution that everyone can accept
  • Draw up and sign a mediation agreement

 “Wish I’d come to you sooner! All the stress and disagreement would have been resolved so much earlier. Everything was organised and facilitated expertly” Parent

SNAP Cymru provides a quality assured, tried and tested service . This means that you can trust that our service is delivered to nationally recognised standards and in accordance with Welsh Government legislation and guidance. SNAP Cymru holds the Legal Aid Agencies Specialist Quality Mark for Education Advice.

SNAP Cymru is committed to promoting disagreement resolution and mediation as a real alternative to the excessive personal cost in stress, time and money caused by unnecessary  legal action, lack of effective communication and unresolved conflict.

Established in 1986, our experienced mediators

  • Work directly within the SEN/ALN legal framework and understand the complexity of the issues from the perspective of parents, the local authority and the school
  • Have direct experience working with parents, schools, and professionals
  • Have direct experience of appearing before the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales and therefore have the required knowledge and expertise to effectively identify issues, needs and positions
  • Have completed Mediation Training, Education Law training, Key Working and Solution Focused Interview training,
  • Our mediators have received Equality and Diversity training and support the Welsh Government funded Front Line Discrimination Advice service
  • Our mediators are independent, highly skilled and experienced professionals with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in Special Educational Needs
  •  All post holders are subject to a satisfactory Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Disclosure and undertake regular Safeguarding and Advocacy training
  • SNAP Cymru approaches adheres to the European Code of Conduct for Mediators. We are committed to high quality internal standards and continuing personal development of our mediators.

Mediation can be quicker, less stressful and cheaper than going to tribunal, court or the Ombudsman.

Appealing to the Special Education Needs Tribunal for Wales or to a court can be a costly, drawn out process and may result in strained relation between both parts and not always in the child’s interests.

Mediation is less likely to be harmful to the long term relationship between you and your school or local authority

Appropriate support for your child can be put in place quicker following mediation and more creative or flexible packages of support can be agreed.

The outcome of meditation can often include an apology, an explanation or something that a Tribunal court does not have the power to order. Once a settlement has been reached, a mediation agreement can be drawn up.

People often want to mediate where:

  • they want to maintain a relationship with the other party once the dispute is over
  • they want to stay in control of the process and not hand it over to the  Chair of the Tribunal or a Judge
  • they are worried about the delay in going to tribunal or the costs of going to court
  • there may be outcomes that can be agreed which a tribunal or court could not award
  • they want to look for a settlement rather than take the risk of a tribunal/court finding against them
  • they can consider using disagreement resolution at any stage – even before entering a formal appeal process.
  • Deciding to mediate can happen alongside an appeal process and does not prevent your right to appeal. If the dispute is already in the process of mediation the tribunal should be informed and additional time can be granted.

Mediation can be used to resolve a wide range of different types of disagreements, such as:

  • Refusal to carry out a Statutory Assessment;
  • Refusal to issue a Statement or IDP;
  • Cessation of a Statement or IDP;
  • The content of your child’s Statement or IDP;
  • The type of school or educational setting proposed by the local authority;
  • The school or educational setting named in the Statement/IDP;
  • The delivery of the Statement’/IDP’s contents;
  • Prior to/alongside making an appeal to the SEN Tribunal
  • School based issue that cannot be remedied within the school processes
  • Concerns regarding discrimination and failure to provide reasonable adjustments

Disagreement resolution can help. Whether you are already involved in an appeal, or thinking about making a claim. It may help to settle your dispute quicker.

If you have agreed, a meeting with all parties will be arranged as soon as possible.

The role of the mediator is to help both parties reach a solution to their problem and to arrive at an outcome that both parties are happy to accept.

The mediator remains neutral  and completely impartial throughout the process. The focus of a mediation meeting is to reach a settlement agreeable to all parties in a case. this may mean agreeing  a compromise

SNAP Cymru has 30 years’ experience in understanding of the SEN legal framework and its complex issues. All our mediators are trained and have direct experience of working in partnership with parents, schools and professionals.

SNAP Cymru mediators are trained and receive nationally recognised and accredited level 4 mediation training.

They also received training in

  • appeals and claims
  • discrimination
  • motivational interviewing
  • solution focussed techniques
  • specialist advocacy
  • safeguarding
  • education law

SNAP Cymru are holders of the Legal Aid Agencies Specialist Quality Mark for Education Advice which requires our staff to receive a minimum of 10 hours legal training each year.

We strongly believe that it is important for there to be a high level of expertise and specialist knowledge of Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs to be effective as a mediator in this area.

No – the process is totally voluntary. You do not have to agree to participate.

No – there is no cost to the family or young person.

You and the local authority or school decide the outcome of the disagreement resolution session. The role of the mediator is to help you reach a solution to your problem and to arrive at an outcome that both parties are happy to accept.

No. Disagreement resolution is a voluntary process and therefore no party can be forced to attend.

However, the Tribunal can take a local authority’s unreasonable refusal to mediate into account.  You can either request dispute resolution from the local authority  or contact us requesting disagreement resolution and we will contact the other party.

Success is not guaranteed, but the process does have a good percentage of success. 

Even where agreement is not reached, many people find it a very useful process –  they learn more about the other party and sometimes they are able to settle the dispute subsequently before going to tribunal. 

Partial agreements can also be agreed.

Yes, at any time – although most mediators will ask you to wait a few minutes before you do so.

You can also take breaks and have separate sessions with the mediator prior to rejoining the face to face meeting.

Disagreement resolution is not suitable for every case, but it can still help to settle some of the issues in a dispute. At the very least, you are likely to have narrowed down the issues. Mediation can provide clarity so that less time is wasted if you ultimately have to go to tribunal or court.  A disagreement resolution session can also come to partial agreements.

All discussions during the process are ‘without prejudice’ – in other words, anything said during a disagreement resolution session cannot be used later in court or another legal action.

The Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales (SENTW) encourage the use of disagreement avoidance and resolution wherever appropriate.

Yes, it is possible to arrange a meeting without the parties actually meeting at all.

You should let the mediator know ahead of the disagreement resolution session that you do not wish to be in the same room as the other party. Sometimes, if this is the case, telephone mediation may be more appropriate.  You can also use a form of shuttle mediation, where both parties are in the same venue but in separate rooms with the mediator ‘shuttling’ between both parties.

If both parties reach an agreement then the signed agreement will be morally binding.

If one party does not adhere to it, normally the mediator will re-engage to try to sort out any problems. In certain circumstances, you may have recourse to the complaints process or the SEN/ALN Tribunal for Wales the Ombudsman or litigation

Parents and young People are free to appeal to the SEN/ALN Tribunal for Wales (if they meet the criteria) at the same time as trying to resolve their dispute or after trying mediation.

However, they are responsible for all correspondence with the Tribunal and meeting any deadlines and should be careful not to miss any deadlines (the Tribunal can advise you of the time-limits.)  Should the dispute be settled at mediation, the parties need to inform the Tribunal immediately so the case can be closed.

You can still follow any complaints process open to you such as Local Authority complaints, Ombudsman complaint or Judicial Review all of which have their own time limits).