Next month on 1st November 2019, applications for infant, junior, and primary school placements open. Senior school applications opened as early as 9th September 2019.
Choosing your child’s school is no easy task, particularly as more and more schools accept children outside of their catchment area. This task can be even more difficult for separated parents.
When a father has been married to their child’s natural mother, or an unmarried father signs his child’s birth certificate (after December 2003) he automatically gains ‘parental responsibility’. Parental Responsibility is defined in section 3(1) of the Children’s Act 1989 as all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority that, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.
Part of this parental responsibility is to ensure that their child receives appropriate education.
With this in mind, parents should be working together to consider and choose the best school for their child. The application includes a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice option all of which should be considered.
Sadly, there will be occasions when parents simply cannot agree which school institution is best. Both parents clearly want the best for their child and education is a large part of their life. When this situation arises, it is open to either parent to ask the court to make the final decision for them.
Under section 8 of the Children’s Act 1989 the court has the power to give directions for determining a specific question in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child: this includes education. Such directions are by way of a Specific Issue Order.
The court will hear evidence from both parents and possibly appoint a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) Officer to investigate the subject matter further before making a final decision.
In the case of younger children (aged 4), the court can defer their school attendance until a decision has been made. Children are not required to attend school until they have attained the age of 5 years.
Before deciding which school is best for your child, do your research - visit the schools; invite the other parent to do the same; think about the practicalities – who will be taking the child to school each morning, do they have siblings who also have to get to school, as they get older will they be close to friends/be able to walk/make their own way to school, does the school feed to a higher education school in the area; and importantly, does the school fit your child’s personality and approach to learning?
Starting school is a daunting time for the child but perhaps more so for the parents. If you are separated from your child’s other parent, seek some advice about your parental responsibility duties to ensure the best outcome for your child.