Lawyers see parental legal disputes increase over school places

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There was an interesting article in The Telegraph today, by Camilla Turner, education editor regarding an increase in legal disputes over children’s education.

Making the ‘right’ decision regarding ones child’s education is never easy, since there are often conflicting conditions and countervailing arguments for both sides.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that there has been an increase in the amount of parents who have felt compelled to seek a binding legal agreement over this matter.

Decision paralysis

Some of the issues that parents are dealing with include:

  • Concerns about results and consistency if considering state schooling.
  • Worries about not securing a place if targeting a grammar school.

Legal disputes between parents over where to send their child to school is on the rise, a leading family lawyer has said, amid increased competition for places.

Joanne Edwards, head of family law and partner at the solicitors firm Forsters, said:

“In the past four to five years I have really noticed an increase in the number of parents in disputes about which school their child should attend.

“The legal position is that both parents have parental responsibility. I always say try to go to mediation first, and that sometimes leads on to solicitor negotiation. In extreme cases, one issues a court application.”  

Joanne Edwards, head of family law and partner at the solicitors firm Forsters:

The Children Act

The Children Act makes provision for parents to be able to apply to the courts for a “child arrangement order”, which is when a judge is asked to rule on a specific issue.

Ms Edwards said that her cases have included parents with differing views over whether to send their children to religious school or not, private versus state and boarding versus day.  

“I was acting for someone who felt very strongly he wanted his child to go to local state but wife felt equally strongly about private. He felt morally he preferred state,” Ms Edwards said.

“Often a judge will say if you can afford private, send your child there. Judges tend to be quite angry about having to determine these dispute and tend to say ‘come on parents, sort this out’.”  


Joanne Edwards, head of family law and partner at the solicitors firm Forsters:

Jeremy Corbyn and his ex-wife Claudia Bracchita divorced after a disagreement over whether their son should be educated at one of the country’s best grammar schools or at the local inner city comprehensive.

No easy answer

There is never one ‘right’ answer as regards the correct education for a child.

All one can ever do is to aim to decide what’s in the child’s best interest.

Sometimes, we’ve had discussions with parents where one parent had entrenched views about sending their child to the same school they’d attended, even though there may well have been another school that might have worked just as satisfactorily.

Taking the alternative view, in other situations a parent felt strongly as to not sending their child to the school they’d attended, even though their views had been formed around twenty years previous, and schools evolve considerably over time.

Are you confused over which school pathway to go down?

Is this a decision that you’re putting off making, or one that’s creating friction in the household?

Comment below, or you can contact us if you would prefer to discuss your situation in confidence.

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