This policy has been approved and adopted by the Governing Body in February 2022 and will be reviewed in February 2025
Research and experience have shown that separated parents can work well together in the best interests of their children and together can play a role in their children’s education. However, some parents become estranged, and do not work together or in the best interests of their children, especially during the initial stages of their separation. This is very often traumatic for any child concerned where personal family problems can have an impact on both the children and the schools the children attend.
This policy is an attempt to minimise any impact, clarify to all parties what is expected from separated parents and what can be expected from the school / staff.
Who has “Parental Responsibility”?
(The Children Act 1989)
The definition of a parent for school purposes is much wider than for any other situation. The Education Act 1996 defines a parent as:
Having parental responsibility means assuming all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has by law. People other than a child’s natural parents can acquire parental responsibility through:
If the parents of a child were not married to each other when the child was born, the mother automatically has parental responsibility.
The father only has parental responsibility from 1st December 2003 and by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother. He can, however, subsequently acquire parental responsibility by various legal means.
What does having “care of a child” mean?
Having care of a child or young person means that a person who the child lives with and who looks after the child, irrespective of their relationship with the child, is considered to be a parent in education law.
This could be shown by:
It would not be appropriate to assume that someone having a “casual” relationship with the parent of a child necessarily has ‘care of the child’ unless we have cause to believe the person has some involvement with the child’s life – living with the child could be a determining factor as could the other examples outlined above.
It is therefore those adults who are having significant input in a child’s life who can be classified as “parent”, having “parental responsibility” or who have “care of a child”.
Parents as defined above are entitled to share in the decisions that are made about their child and to be treated equally by schools. In particular, these entitlements include:
The Governing Body recognises that while the parents of some pupils may be separated, they are entitled to the above and this entitlement cannot be restricted without a specific court order. In particular, the school does not have the power to act on the request of one parent to restrict another.
The information provided to the school when the child was enrolled detailing whether parents have parental responsibility for the child will be presumed to be correct unless a court order or original birth certificate proving otherwise is provided to the school.
Similarly, the information provided on the address or addresses where the child resides will be presumed to be correct unless a court order proving otherwise is provided to the school.
Upon receipt of any court order restricting access to a parent, the school retains the right to consult the Local Authority before taking immediate action. The school is only obliged to comply with an order if it is properly notified and has received a copy for its files, and only to the extent that it relates to the school. In the event that the school is not informed of the existence of such an order, neither parent will have rights superior to the other. Only a Court Order stating the arrangements is deemed to be valid; a letter from a solicitor is not sufficient.
It is the responsibility of the parents to inform St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School when there is a change in family circumstances. The school needs to be kept up to date with contact details, arrangements for collecting children and emergencies.
Where the school already has the name and contact details of separated parents, each parent will be requested to complete the data sheet during the annual data collection.
Should the un-named parent seek information or access to his/her child, the school will always inform the main carer of this and ensure no court order is in place preventing this. For the avoidance of doubt, we will seek written confirmation from the main carer. Proof of identity of the non-resident parent will always be required in these cases.
We encourage parents to tell us at an early stage if there is a change in family circumstances. Whenever possible, staff will be informed of such changes so that suitable support can be offered. We will, however, recognise the sensitivity of some situations and maintain the level of confidentiality requested by parents as far as possible.
St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School fully recognises its responsibilities, and it is our sole wish is to promote the best interests of the child, working in partnership with all parents.
We recognise that, while the parents of some pupils may be divorced or separated, both have a right to be informed of, and involved in, their child’s education. However, we expect that parents, whatever the nature of their separation, will do all they can to communicate with each other and share information from and for the school, for the benefit of their child. It is assumed that the parent with whom the child principally resides will keep the other parent informed.
Issues of estrangement are civil/private law matters and St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School cannot be involved in providing mediation, helping an estranged parent to communicate with their child or children, or using the school premises for purposes of contact.
St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School will consider separate appointments but by prior agreements only or when a court order is in place restricting contacts with both parents.
The interests of the child will always be paramount when deciding whether to accommodate a request from an estranged parent. We recognise that a Court Order can restrict a parent in having contact/access to information and we may be bound by this. In this situation we may consult with the Local Authority to obtain advice if there is a safeguarding concern.
In any event whereby the parents being estranged is appearing to impact upon the health, wellbeing and safety of a child the matter will be referred to the Local Authority for advice.
Collecting a child from school
St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School will follow the standard agreed procedure in the release of a child or children:
If one parent seeks to remove the child from school in contravention of the notified arrangements, and the parent to whom the child would normally be released has not consented the following steps will be followed:
Management of the Policy
The Head Teacher and Designated Safeguarding Leads will familiarise themselves with this policy and ensure all Staff, Governors and Volunteers are aware of the procedures to follow should the need occur.
The policy will be made available to parents and published on our school website.
This policy must be read alongside: