Mediation in Education

Prior to establishing Out of Conflict, David Hilton worked in the schools and F.E. sectors and he possesses a B.Ed (Hons) degree. This experience has been invaluable in informing his mediation in educational disputes.

Out of Conflict has considerable experience across a wide brief of cases in an educational context as well as having conducted workshops in schools to develop peer mediation schemes – this involved writing manuals for staff about implementing such schemes.

Current emphasis is on helping to resolve disputes in the following sectors:

Higher and Further Education

“Handling complaints and appeals is an increasingly specialised and technically demanding area of HE providers’ work”.

Out of Conflict mediation conforms to the letter and spirit of the QAA consultation document B9 for complaints and appeals, especially in respect of key indicator 3 and issues relating to provision of support for students with learning or other disabilities; standards of course work and course outcomes; student relationships with peers or staff that have an impact on well-being (and any of the 7 equalities strands) or academic outcomes. OOC mediates professional issues between staff and Governing Bodies, Professional Association/Union issues.

Mediated outcomes have ranged from extra and improved support for students or staff, awards of financial compensation, to alternative course provision or transfer to another establishment to deliver the course. Such outcomes have been for cases brought through the former Equalities Mediation Service, or directly to Out of Conflict by academic institutions.

It is equally important to safeguard staff from the impact of a complainant’s allegations and ensure peer support for them as well as for the student.

Case Histories

A HE student with severe mental health issues that had a significant impact on his independent learning alleged that his university had treated him less favourably than other students, had failed to implement agreed learning support and to make reasonable adjustments for him to complete the course. Additionally relationships with his course tutor had deteriorated to the point of being counterproductive to him meeting his educational targets.

He requested a full discussion of all relevant issues, a strategy to complete his course placements and assignments, disability awareness training for staff-teaching and policy makers, an apology and compensation for payments made for re-sits, lack of funding for learning support, and injury to feelings.

Staff attending the mediation were of senior rank and empowered to settle, and the tutor who was perceived as the catalyst for some of the complaints was absent. Several hours of detailed discussions and negotiation during which regular breaks were taken for the student to rest and consult his supporter led to a full settlement of the case.

Course assignments were to be independently re-assessed, a new placement agreed, training programmes agreed for staff, a revision of all students' needs assessment procedures; and a significant sum of several thousand pounds paid to the claimant as compensation.

The outcomes were achieved on an informed basis where the University’s negotiators came from an ‘uninvolved’ standpoint and increasingly were made aware of the impact that the situation had had on the student. They fully understood the importance of the mediation process and all parties took ownership of the situation and the outcomes.

Schools

Out of conflict has helped parents, schools, Academies and LAs to mediate improved provision for many young people, often by reconciling differences between parents and the professionals delivering education.