Wednesday 8 January 2020

Fighting for a EHCP and Mediation

EHCP Mediation experience

Shortly before schools finished for the summer holiday, our then SEN teacher was working hard towards gathering and submitting evidence for Leo's EHCP (Education Care Health Plan), you may recall that I actually attempted to do this for Leo myself back in 2017.

Back then I hit a stumbling block, I can only assume within the school as they said that at this point they could accommodate for Leo's SEN nee
ds within the current academic setting. I wasn't convinced but agreed for the time that I would let the decision ride. Flash forward 2 years and we are talking potential EHCP's again, only this time the school are suggesting that it may be beneficial.

Of course I backed the decision entirely, the evidence gathering began and was submitted just before the end of the Summer term. I didn't hold much hope of actually achieving the EHCP as I had heard that they were like gold dust, but I did hope that with Leo's Tourette Syndrome diagnosis we may have more of a chance of obtaining it. 

Summer flew by and we were soon back at school and ready to kick start Year 4, Leo's tics had really faded to nothing over the summer holiday, but with the academic year starting again we fell back to earth with a crash. 

A month later we had the letter that I had been anxiously awaiting, a letter sealing our EHCP fate. 

It had of course been denied. 

Another stumbling block, another no, another door shut in our faces. 

Another case of Leo being on the cusp, a seemingly typical child, beautifully behaved, but had SEN needs that were beyond your typical school child, not severe enough for a 'special' school, but a delay none the less.

As I sat there reading the letter that had been issued, I decided then and there that this wasn't the end of the fight. We would appeal, we would go to mediation and if needed tribunal. 

I had a meeting with Leo's new SEN teacher who is quite frankly amazing, luckily for us she really knows her stuff having been on both sides of the coin. She once worked for the local authority and met with families to decide why and how they should issue an EHCP, and she now works as a SEN teacher within our school academy. 

We formulated a plan, we met with the Local Authority who went through their decision, it became apparent that it was a lack of evidence that had resulted in our 'No'. We had 3 months from the date of the letter to go to mediation, they told us that we should leave it as long as we could in order to gather further evidence that could potentially provide a different outcome. 

We did just that, and a few days before the appeal process closed forever I sat and composed an email making sure that I included everyone I needed to within the email chain. To go through the mediation process we had to contact a mediator, I emailed the Two that were recommended on the letter, and quickly heard back from one of them.

Before I made a decision on who I would prefer to work with, I spoke with both of the mediators on a separate basis. I opted for a man named Charles, he was full of knowledge and came with a great reputation, he role would be to listen and essentially lead the mediation meeting, he would pose his own questions and give structure to the agenda. 

Charles said something on that very first phone call that really stayed with me 'Remember when you were at school and posed with a maths question? After all is said and done, the working out was always the most important part. If you got the working out wrong, the answer would be wrong'. Charles emphasised the importance of evidence, things like costed lesson plans, he stressed that schools were so busy teaching the kids, that their working out was often lacking, and the lack of evidence was often the reason for the negative outcome.

Wise words!

It was hard getting a date in the diary being so closed to Christmas, but we eventually nailed down as many of the required attendees as we could, and confirmed the date for Friday 13th December 2019.

We met at a local hotel in the library, I brought my Dad along for moral support as Luke was away with work. Charles the mediator was present along with our school SEN and a lady from the local authority.

I had prepared an A4 page of my own thoughts and feelings which was essentially a short over view of Leo's entire educational background. I spoke about how the initial concerns were raised at Leo's 2 and a half year check and how those concerns were then highlighted at Nursery level and followed him into his school life. 

Our SEN teacher then gave her evidence, Charles did his bit and within an hour the Local Authority had decided in our favour and granted Leo the EHCP that we had been fighting for. 

It was such a productive afternoon, and I am still in disbelief that we managed to change their minds and get something that will be so beneficial to Leo throughout the rest of his education.

I do wish that this had been granted years ago, I kick myself for backing down and not going with my gut, but we got to the finish line in the end. 

For Leo this now means that he will have his own funding within school to help him achieve his individual goals, it will stay with him until he is 18 and leaves school. It means that Leo can attend any school I feel is best for him, even if it is out of catchment. We apply and it's almost a give in that he will get in.

We should have our draft plan with us by the end of January, at this point I will have another meeting with Leo's SEN teacher and we will make sure the plan is what we need. I have been advised that even if amendments are needed to the over all plan, to accept it and make the changes at a later date so that at least the ball is rolling.

I finally feel like we have got somewhere, I have spent years banging my head against a brick wall with no real outcome, but finally I have made enough waves to ride all the way to the shore. 

It's so important to always keep fighting, to always stand your ground and not stop talking until you are listened to. 

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