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Separated Parents – Children’s Education Decisions

A child’s education is one of the most important aspects of their childhood. Deciding what type of school your child should attend or the location of the school can add another layer of difficulty for separated parents who often have their own ideas or preferences as to what is best for their child. Decisions can also crop up whilst children are at school, for example in relation to any additional educational needs that may come to light as they progress through the school system.

How to make decisions in relation to your child’s education

Parents with parental responsibility have a duty to their child and need to make decisions together as to what is in their child’s best interests looking after their welfare. This applies to decisions relating to their education including where they should go to school.

If you are making your child’s initial applications for primary school places in January, you should consult with your former partner and come to a decision together. Similarly, if you think your child needs to move schools then you need to seek consent from their other parent before taking any action.

How to come to a decision with your former partner

  1. Try and reach an agreement yourselves: The first step is to try and discuss the options with the other parent and see if you can come to a decision together. Start discussions early and perhaps plan school visits separately, or together, at each of your preferred schools if you are picking a school. If you can come to such an agreement you can go ahead with this option without the need of the further steps below. Make sure both parents are kept in the loop in relation to communication with the school.
  2. Mediation: If you are unable to agree, your next option could be to attend family mediation to discuss your concerns and the possible options with an experienced mediator. Depending on the age of your child, a specialist trained mediator may wish to speak with your child to understand their wishes and feelings on their education.
  3. Seek legal advice: you may wish to consult a family solicitor to understand your options and routes to solving the situation if an agreement is not looking likely. Your solicitor can advise you and try to assist in reaching a suitable outcome. Sometimes, action needs to be taken quickly, for example if one parent is seeking to remove your child from school and move them elsewhere without your consent. Early action is crucial in that scenario and so seeking advice as soon as you become aware of the situation is essential.
  4. Court application: If the issue is not able to be resolved, one parent can make an application to the court for one or both of the following:

a. Specific Issue Order: This is where the court is asked to determine a specific question or point regarding a child, which can include deciding on which school a child attends

b. Prohibited Steps Order: This is an application to the 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 them from doing this.

Top tips for these types of discussions

When approaching decisions relating to your child’s education, or any decisions relating to their welfare, it is important to give yourselves plenty of time to discuss and reflect before the decision needs to be made. Starting to think about having a discussion a few weeks before any deadline is going to cause unnecessary stress and pressure.

If you and your former partner have a different opinion, try to keep an open mind and explore all of the options. For example, consider visiting their preferred school as well as your preferred option, or review Ofsted material and school facilities to compare before discussing again. Factor in travel and how the child arrangements will work before and after school too.

Seek early advice from a lawyer to assist you well in advance of any deadline. You can then approach your discussions fully informed of your options.

For more information on this please speak to the Ashfords Family team, or contact Megan Prideaux on m.prideaux@ashfords.co.uk.

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