Parental Responsibility for Children’s Education

03 April 2018

Being a parent to a child comes with many responsibilities. In particular, where they receive their education can often be one of the most important decisions you make. As someone with Parental Responsibility you have parental rights, duties, power, responsibility and authority in relation to your child and your child’s property. Therefore the decision surrounding where your child will go to school should be considered carefully.

Consulting the Other Parent

It’s important to note that if the child has another parent, who also has Parental Responsibility over them, then they also have a right to decide on the child’s education. So it’s important to consult with any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child before making an important change or decision about the child's education.

If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents, then it may be possible to obtain a Court Order.

Obtaining a Court Order

Any dispute which arises between parents or other individuals with Parental Responsibility regarding a child's education may be dealt with by making an application to the Court. In response, the Court may choose to grant a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.

A Specific Issue Order asks the Court to decide on a particular matter. For example a parent or a person with Parental Responsibility may apply to the Court to decide which school a child is to attend, if this cannot be agreed between the parents.

A Prohibited Steps Order asks the Court to stop an action or decision which has been made by a parent or someone with Parental Responsibility. For example, this may occur if one parent is about to change the school that their child attends, and the other parent does not wish for this change to take place.

What if You Don’t Have Parental Responsibility?

If you do not have Parental Responsibility, you may still be able to be part of the decision concerning the child’s education. In some circumstances it is possible for someone who doesn’t have Parental Responsibility (e.g. an unmarried father who is not named on the birth certificate) to have a say regarding a child’s education.

If you are in this situation, you may be able to make an application to the Court for Parental Responsibility. You can also choose to include an application for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order. The Court will then consider both applications that have been placed before them.

How Does the Court Make their Decision?

When the Court is presented with an application for Parental Responsibility or a Court Order, their paramount consideration will be for the welfare of the child. The Court will also consider the ‘welfare checklist’. This checklist ensures that a number of different elements are taken into consideration when the Court is making their decision, from the wishes and feelings of the child to their physical, emotional and educational needs.

The Court may also issue a number of directions to help them obtain the information they need, such as requesting witness statements from the school, or reports from the CAFCASS or social services.

The Court needs to ensure the decision that they make is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, the number of Court hearings that take place and the information that is required by the Court will depend entirely on the individual circumstances of each case.

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