Saturday, December 12, 2015

Comparative Special Education Law: Scotland - Part II

At the CADRE Symposium in October, I met a special education mediator from Scotland, Morag Steven. She presented an interesting concurrent session. I always find comparative special education law to be fascinating. This is a powerpoint that she used during her presentation. This is her website.

She also agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Her answers to the first questions can be found in this earlier post.  Her answers to the remaining questions follow:

3. What is mediation like for special education disputes in Scotland?
My company Common Ground Mediation and another collaborative competitor Resolve:ASL have contracts to deliver additional support needs (ASN) mediation across about 70% of Scotland, and broadly speaking we use the same model. Because of the broad scope of the terms of ASL and ASN, we mediate all sorts of disputes, not just the ones where there are statutory duties and legal issues. For example, we mediate disputes about school placement, types of support and adaptations available in schools, parental complaints etc, but we also mediate when the issues are less tangible, such as loss of trust and respect, poor communication, differing views about the child's/student's abilities, etc.  In fact, what I call 'interpersonal issues' is one of the main factors in ASN mediation, despite effective home school partnership being championed by the Scottish Government.

4. Having attended the CADRE symposium, what similarities and differences do you see for special ed mediation in the US as compared to Scotland? What can we learn from each other?
Attending the CADRE symposium for the first time was just as fantastic an experience as I had hoped for. It was great to meet so many special education mediators from across US and gain affirmation that we are all working with the same values and principles. There are many similarities despite our different legal systems in education, but I was also interested in variations across US states, where some (including California, I think) seem to have 2 types of special education mediation, one less formal at an early stage (perhaps more similar to what we offer in Scotland) and the other more formal when a due process hearing has been requested. I hope I have picked up this information correctly!
In Scotland mediation services are legally obliged to ensure that the child/student's views are included in whatever way seems appropriate, and I was surprised that there was not so much discussion about this issue at the symposium - so that seems to be a difference between us. On the other hand, I attended the session about Student-Led IEPs and student engagement as a driver of change, and was very impressed by the work of School Talk in Washington DC.

5. What else would you say to our readers about special education mediation? 
It took some years for educators in Scotland to understand the potential benefits of mediation and other types of dispute resolution in education. However, everyone agrees that the best way to support children's learning is to encourage effective communication and partnership working between parents and educators. It's not surprising that there can be disagreements and differences of opinion - but that doesn't necessarily have to lead to destructive conflict. It can be very challenging to bring up a child with a disability and/or additional support need (I have personal experience of this) but schools and teachers have their own challenges and frustrations too. Scottish parents have been encouraged by successive governments to think of themselves as consumers of a service, and their expectations are high, at a time when public service budgets continue to be cut. I think there will continue to be a growing need for mediation!

You can learn more about special education mediation in Scotland in this article from the Times Educational Supplement Scotland.

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