We have recently been inundated with last minute mediations for parents who can’t agree upon which school their child will attend in 2019.
I write this as a cautionary tale to parents of children who will be attending Kindergarten in 2020 – make your decisions about schooling a priority early next year.
We have been assisting families whose children have been uncertain which school they will be going to, at a time when they should only be excited/nervous about starting Big School. From a practical perspective, many children have sadly missed the window on attending transition to Big School programs and orientations. You don’t want your child to miss out on any opportunity that will assist them at the start of their schooling journey.
Choosing the right primary school is a difficult task for any parent. Will your child attend their local public school? A school with a religious affiliation? A private or independent school? A school with an alternative style of education?
But if you are separated, and there is disagreement regarding which school is right for your child, everything has just become a lot more complicated.
The disputes we regularly see involving schooling usually fall into 3 categories:
The location of the school
Often the dispute about which school a child will attend is directly linked to the dispute about which parent the child will live with. If a parent is wanting their child to live with them, then it naturally follows that they will want the child to go to a school close to where they live. But this becomes complicated if there is currently a shared care arrangement (ie the child spends many nights with each parent) or a shared care arrangement is being considered and the parents don’t live in close proximity.
The type of school
We all come with our own understandings of the world (often as product of our own experiences), and this results in many of us having very strong feelings about the type of education we want for our children. Private vs public; religious vs secular; single sex vs co-ed; traditional vs alternative education techniques. Often couples have separated after discovering they can’t overcome their differences on major issues. Of course, these issues continue to be present when separated parents have to continue making decisions for their kids.
Who is going to pay?
If a private school is being considered, there needs to be agreement regarding which parent will be paying the fees, or how the fees will be shared between the parents. Once an agreement at mediation is reached, a legal agreement should be considered – the last thing we want to is for a child to be settled in a school, only to be moved from the school due to a dispute regarding payment.
Things to keep in mind:
- Starting school is a massive moment for your child. They will be putting on their bravest of boots as they navigate being away from his/her parents, creating and managing peer friendships, doing school work and having a very different daily routine. Keep any conflict you may have with your ex-partner away from your child – they have enough to deal with already!
- Kindy is tiring! We really want to avoid kids spending long hours in a car at the beginning and end of an already very tiring school day.
- When considering different schools, ensure you both take on the responsibility of ‘researching’ the details of the schools. Spending time collecting and sharing this information will create an environment that is more likely to result in agreement.
- Reflect on the REAL reason(s) you may want your child to attend a particular school. Is it because you had a positive/negative experience during your schooling life? How likely is it that your child will have a similar experience?
- Start having the conversations about schooling as early as possible – if there is a dispute, commence mediation now to resolve the issue. If the issue can’t be resolved, you will need to leave enough time for a court to make a decision.
- If you are considering making a decision to enrol your child in a particular school against your ex-partner’s wishes (or without consulting them at all), you should get advice from a family lawyer. If there is already a parenting order that includes an order for equal shared parental responsibility, you must involve the other parent in the decision-making process.