If you have children approaching school age or those in the final year of primary school, you will be asked to make your application to the local education authority (LEA), which is your local council, for a place at school in the next stage of your child’s education. If you and your child’s other parent share parental responsibility, the decision about your child’s education should be made jointly, but what happens if you are unable to agree?
What happens if you can’t agree?
If all people who share parental responsibility are unable to agree on specific aspects of their child’s upbringing, such as which school their child should attend, it is open to either parent to make an application to the court to determine the issue. Unless the situation is urgent, before embarking upon this process you will normally need to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). This enables anyone thinking of making a court application to think about whether mediation may be a suitable alternative to attending court. In most cases, it is better for those who share parental responsibility to make agreements themselves and mediation can help to achieve this. If mediation is not suitable, or you are unable to reach agreement via mediation, you can then make an application to the court to ask that it decides what is in your child’s best interests.
Every local authority has its own admissions criteria that generally involves an application being submitted with up to three choices of school. Places will then be allocated based on the local authority admission criteria. You may not be offered a place at your preferred option and in some circumstances, you may not be offered a place at any of your choices.
Early dialogue between parents is vital
In cases of separation between parents, it is vitally important that there is an early dialogue between all people who share parental responsibility with a view to reaching agreement, enabling the application to be submitted by the local authority deadline (usually around November for secondary schools and January for primary schools – however it is important to check the arrangements in your area.) If you are unable to agree, you can consider attending mediation and seeking legal advice to obtain assistance in dealing with the dispute. If you still aren’t able to agree, you can make an application to the court and ask that a judge decides the issue for you. It is important that any application is lodged in good time to ensure that an application can be adjudicated upon in time, making sure that any application for a school place will be received by the education authority in advance of the deadline.
- The child’s wishes and feelings.
- The child’s emotional, physical and educational needs.
- The likely effect of any change of circumstances.
- The capability of the parents in meeting those needs.
If you anticipate difficulty in agreeing the arrangements, it is best to start the discussions early, giving you plenty of time to work through mediation or the court process if necessary.
Our experienced family team can provide advice and assistance when agreeing the arrangements for your child’s education. Please contact us now to make an appointment.
Author: Rachel Read-Hill, family law solicitor.