Separated parents sometimes disagree about which school to send their child to. It is difficult enough accepting if you cannot spend as much time as you want with your child, so having to agree schooling can make life even more difficult.
Do I have a say in choosing schools?
If you have parental responsibility for a child, you are entitled to have a say in which school they attend and generally about their education.
Both parents usually have parental responsibility for their child. The birth mother automatically has parental responsibility and father's acquire parental responsibility if they are married to the mother on or after the child's birth, or if they were registered on the child's birth certificate as their father after 2003. If not, parental responsibility can also be obtained by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or by obtaining a parental responsibility order by the court.
How to choose a school
With the new school term being just around the corner, agreeing schooling may be a problem which many parents are currently facing. Below are some suggestions which may help with choosing which school your child should go to:
- Try and reach an agreement: The first step is to try and discuss your concerns and the options with the other parent regarding your choice of school or school move and see if you can reach a mutually acceptable decision. If you can agree then you can simply go ahead with the change.
- Mediation: If you cannot agree, you could attend family mediation to discuss the school options with the help of an experienced mediator and depending on the age of the child, they may also involve your child in the discussions to obtain their wishes and feelings.
- Seek legal advice: You could instruct an experienced family solicitor to write to the other parent.
- Court application: The last resort is for one parent to make an application to court for one or both of the following:
a) Specific Issue Order: This is an application to court which deals with something specific regarding a child, which can include deciding on which school the child attends.
b) Prohibited Steps Order: This is an application to court for an order to stop someone from exercising their parental responsibility in a particular way. It can therefore be useful for a parent who thinks that the other parent is going to move their child to another school without their consent. You can ask the court to make an order to stop this.
The court will not consider an application for either of these orders unless the parent applying has attempted mediation first (or falls into one of the exemption categories). The family courts will be guided by the welfare checklist as set out in s1(3) Children Act 1989 when deciding on a child's school or a school move and the best interests of a child will always be the primary consideration.
Some of the factors the court will consider are the wishes and feelings of the child, dependent upon their age and understanding, their physical, emotional and educational needs, the likely effect of the change of school upon them, their age, sex and background - and any harm that the child may be exposed to.
When considering making an application for a change of school, you should consider the practicalities of the change, such as how the child gets to and from school, academic credentials and pastoral factors, such as access to learning support and funding (if applicable).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.