Collaborative Negotiation to get to a positive outcome

collaborative negotiation with school and EHC needs assessments

3 week since our EHC needs assessment request, 3 weeks to a decision on whether an assessment will be carried out and, if agreed, 17 weeks to getting an EHC Plan.

My head is swimming with everything that we need to consider and everything we need to do to get support from the school and get an EHC plan from our Local Authority.

I don't know how I will be able to face many of the difficulties we have heard from other parents said that they went through trying to do this.

27% of parents have waited over two years to get appropriate support  
--- NAS Parent Survey 2015 

The thought of battling with the school, the Local Authority and possibly even lawyers & the high court, if we have to go to appeal, is really daunting. I am trying to focus on what is needed now and not worry about challenges we may never face - not an easy thing to do. So, I am trying to take things one week at a time and doing what I can to make the most of our chances at each stage of the process.

So time for a little strategising!

Think like a legal eagle

Finally those hours of watching Law & Order is about to pay off. I need to get into character, think about gathering evidence, be able to reference the relevant legislation, challenge any reports/ feedback we don't agree with, be very specific, ensure any requirement for support is quantified, and lastly document EVERYTHING that happens/ is discussed.

My box file is now always close by, and I am starting to become massive SWOT who is able to quote from the Equalities Act, the Children and Families act and more recently the SEND Code of Practice (all 287 pages!!!).

Learn to Negotiate

For this, I headed to the bookshelf and re-read my copy of Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  

The book talks about Principled Negotiation, a technique which aims to decide issues on their merits rather than through a haggling process focused on what each side says it will/ won’t do rather than hard or soft negotiating.

I have used this to plan for my next meeting with the school, and I hope to remember these pointers during the meeting when we try to reach an agreement of adopting reasonable adjustments to support my Son. I may not get it right the first time, but in the meantime, I will be practising on my Son as I try to negotiate his daily getting ready for school in the morning. Good practice indeed!

The core principles at the heart of the book are:

  • Be hard on the problem, soft on the people 
  • Don’t bargain over positions. Focus on the interests 
  • Look for mutual gains where possible, inventing multiple options before deciding what to do 
  • Where interests conflict, insist that the result be based on some fair standards independent of the will of either side

Below is a summary of the steps discussed in the book.

Three stages of negotiation

1. Analysis - Diagnose the situation
  • Consider the people problems of biased perceptions, hostile emotions & unclear communication 
  • Identify your interests and those of others involved 
  • Identify all options which on the table 
  • Identify any criteria suggested as a basis of agreement 

2. Plan – Generate ideas and decide what to do
  • Plan how to handle the people problems 
  • Identify which of your interests are the most important 
  • Define what are some realistic objectives 
  • Generate additional ideas be considered as options 
  • Generate additional criteria for evaluating options identified 

3. Discuss – Communicating with the other party/ parties
  • Acknowledge differences in perception, feelings of frustration & anger & difficulties in communications 
  • Try to understand the interests of the other side 
  • Jointly generate options that are mutually advantageous and agree on objectives 
  • Seek agreement on objective standards for resolving opposed interests 
  • Agree first on principles 

Best alternative to a Negotiated Agreement

Identifying your Plan B, or BATNA, before heading into the negotiation indicates what you can do if you are not able to reach an agreement, and provided a measure by which you can judge any offers made. 

Negotiation Jujitsu

My favourite part of the book with tips on how to respond whether the other side won't move from their position.
  • If they push you, don’t push back. Deflect against the problem 
  • If they stand by their position, treat it as one option & objectively examine it 
  • Discuss what would hypothetically happen if their position was adopted 
  • Don’t defend your ideas, invite criticism & advice 
  • Use questions instead of statements, and then pause for a response 

What worked for you when trying to negotiate getting the right support for your child?

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