Where two parents have parental responsibility for a child, it is part of the rights and responsibilities that come with that to make any major decisions about the child’s life jointly. One of the most obvious decisions is the choice of school that the child shall attend.
When parents are separated this decision can become a source of tension. It may be that one parent favours one location over another; or one parent wishes to educate the child privately rather than in state education. It could simply be that one parent encourages the other towards a particular school because they themselves attended that school or it has a better Ofsted report. Where secondary schools are concerned the child themself may have a view.
When the decision is a choice of secondary school that decision becomes all the more important. In October each year parents are required to nominate three state schools for their child and decisions are communicated by the education authority in February the following year. If the child is to opt out of the state sector then clearly that decision has to be made at that time or the selection is going to be necessary.
I often see parents who cannot agree on choice of school. My first response is to attend mediation to try to resolve the issue with discussion. However if that fails, an application has to be made to court for a Specific Issue Order. There is no law or caselaw involved in such an application other than applying the general principle of doing what is in the child’s best interest.
The court will ask each parent to file a statement setting out their respective case. There will then be a hearing for about 3 hours and the court will make the decision which is binding on both parents. The process will take at least 3-4 months and sometimes longer.
The sooner a problem is identified the sooner it can be resolved. Leaving it too late to revolve properly, results in the child being left with uncertainty, heightened dispute between the parents and worst still the outcome being the wrong choice of school for everyone concerned.
Back to In The Press