My ex-partner and I cannot agree on which school our child should attend. What can I do?

Deciding which school to send your children to is an important decision for any parent.  Each parent’s focus will be on finding the best school for their child, but for separated parents this can be a source of additional tension and lead to disagreement if their views on education differ.

There may be several different factors affecting a parent’s choice of school such as religious or cultural beliefs, or even their own educational background.  There may also be a financial aspect to the disagreement, for example if one parent believes a private fee-paying school is the best choice but the other parent does not consider this affordable.

It is important to note that any parent with Parental Responsibility has a duty to consult with the other parent and agree on which school their child will attend.  Parental Responsibility is the bundle of rights and responsibilities which are associated with being a parent.  A child’s mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for their child.  A father will have Parental Responsibility if he was married to the child’s mother when the child was born, or if he is registered on the Birth Certificate and the child was born after 1 December 2003.

If both parents cannot reach agreement about the choice of school for their child it is sensible to consider attending family mediation as it may be possible to resolve matters with the help of an experienced mediator.  Other alternative dispute options include arbitration, where an independent arbitrator can be jointly appointed by the parents (through their solicitors) to determine the dispute in a legally binding manner.

If issues cannot be resolved, the last resort option is for one of the parents to make an application to court for a Specific Issue Order, whereby the court determines the choice of school.  The court can also, if circumstances warrant it, make a Prohibited Steps Order which is an injunction under the Children Act 1989, to prevent one parent from unilaterally moving their child to another school without the other parent’s consent.

Before any court application can be made the parent applying must have attempted mediation or attended a MIAM (a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting with a mediator), or come within one the exemptions under the court rules. The court will be guided by the welfare checklist as set out in the Children Act and the primary consideration will be the child’s best interests.

If you need advice regarding your child’s educational arrangements, we offer an initial no obligation consultation of up to one hour for £50 (incl.VAT), where you can receive advice specific to your circumstances.  To book, please contact us on 01444 472700, complete the form below or email


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