Home schooling: in lockdown and beyond….could this lead to parental conflicts on the subject of education
For many parents home schooling is something which has been forced upon them during the current Covid- 19 pandemic causing a few more grey hairs and a new-found respect for teachers. However, for some parents it may be that it has opened their eyes to the advantages offered by home schooling and it may be something which they wish to continue once schools re-open.
Home schooling can allow flexibility, more attention to the individual child, the chance to tailor education to a child’s strengths and weaknesses and it can help children avoid peer pressure.
Even before the pandemic home schooling was on the rise with an estimated 50-60,000 children being home schooled.
What if I want to home school and the other parent disagrees?
Changing a child’s educational arrangements is not something which legally requires the consent of everybody with parental responsibility in the same way, for example, changing a surname does.
However, as a general principle, it is usually something on which you should be consulting the other parent.
If you would like to continue home schooling your child beyond “lock down” then you will need to give some serious thought to your plan and how you are going to comply with government requirements. Some details of those are found here.
Ultimately, if you cannot agree with your co- parent whether or not home schooling is appropriate then it may be that you need to make an application to court to determine the issue or consider an alternative route to resolving the matter such as mediation or arbitration.
The determining fact will be what is in the child or children’s best interests and the court (and likely and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process) will determine this with reference to the welfare checklist as follows:
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) their physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on them of any change in his circumstances;
(d) their age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of their parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs; and
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question
As part of the process you will need to demonstrate why you believe home schooling is the best option (or not) and your case will need to be well prepared. It might be that you child or children are also spoken to in order to determine their view. This is not determinative but the older they are the more weight it is likely to carry.
If you are planning on making in important change in your child’s life, such as home schooling, or if you discover your co-parent is planning this you should seek specialist independent advice as soon as possible.