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Separated Parents: Deciding where your child goes to school

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About Francesca

By Francesca McCay

If your child is due to start school next September, or is in their last year of primary school, the choice about which primary or secondary school your child should attend needs to be considered soon. Many local authorities require parents to submit their applications for secondary school places by 31 October 2022, and primary school places by 15 January 2023. Independent schools will have their own application process to be worked through.

Choosing what school your child will attend can be a challenging decision, especially if you are separated or divorced from your ex-partner.

Just like other important decisions about a child’s upbringing, the selection of their school needs to be agreed by both parents. Parents have a legal responsibility to make decisions about their child’s education, as a result of them having parental responsibility for the child, regardless of who the child lives with and spends time with.

If parents are unable to agree on the choice of school directly or through mediation, they should consider making an application to the family court under legislation known as the Children Act 1989 for a ‘Specific Issue Order’. The family court can determine and make an order as to which school the child should attend. However, making an application to the family court is always a last resort.

So what should you do if you are trying to agree your child’s choice of school with the other parent?

Do your homework

Gather as much information as possible about your preferred choice of schools, including attending open evenings with your ex, consider Ofsted reports, extra curricular activities etc. You should consider the pros and cons of each school. Start the discussion as early as possible Begin your conversation with the other parent by focusing on the needs of your child and what qualities you would both like the school to have. You will also need to consider any practicalities of your child attending a certain school, such as distance and travel.

Consider mediation

If you cannot reach agreement you should attempt to resolve the matter by family mediation. Mediation can be an effective method of resolving disputes. Whilst the mediator will not make a decision for you, their impartial role is to ensure that each of you are able to explain your concerns and views to each other, and help you reach an agreement.

Do not delay

If yours and your ex-partner’s views are so opposed that it will not be possible for you both to agree on the choice of school, you should seek legal advice early so that any necessary application to the family court can be made in good time before any school application deadlines. The court process is not a quick one so acting promptly is important.

Contact us

If you would like further information or advice, then please contact the specialist Family Law team at TWM for a confidential meeting, and we will guide you through the process.

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