About the project

A place at the table: Children’s and young people’s participation in resolving disputes about special educational needs focuses on knowledge exchange and engagement between researchers, practitioners and users in the area of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) disputes in England. These are disputes about a young person’s entitlement to support in school or college, and there is generally widespread recognition that young people, as rights holders, should have their voices heard in the determination of such disputes. In practice young people rarely attend mediation or tribunal hearings, and the mechanisms by which they can be involved as part of the decision-making process are limited. The aim is to work collaboratively with practitioners (including mediators, tribunal members, local government, and advice and advocacy organisations), young people and their representatives and expert academics to share best practice with a view to developing a practitioners’ toolkit for facilitating participation by children and young people in SEND decision-making.

The knowledge exchanges will be by way of interviews, questionnaires, blog posts, a focus group workshop with young people and a roundtable discussion with stakeholders. There will be a conclusions report that includes a proposed toolkit, and professional journal articles. Users and beneficiaries include children and young people, mediation providers, tribunal members, local authorities, and others working in SEN decision-making. The project’s outcomes will be of practical value beyond England for the development of similar resources appropriate to other UK jurisdictions.

As a model of co-produced research, involving academic researchers and non-academic stakeholders, the project will contribute to research knowledge will generate work of relevance to policy and practice debates on children’s rights, access to justice, dispute resolution and alternatives to tribunal adjudication.

The project is being carried out by Margaret Doyle, Senior Research Fellow at the UK Administrative Justice Institute (UKAJI), University of Essex, with oversight from Professor Maurice Sunkin, University of Essex and Principal Investigator of the UKAJI project, and with assistance from Jane Parsons, University of Essex.[i]

[i] The UK Administrative Justice Institute (www.ukaji.org) is a research network based at the University of Essex School of Law. A Place at the Table is funded jointly by the ESRC IAA Impact Fund and Garden Court Chambers Special Fund, with in-kind support from KIDS.