t’s the time of year when seemingly just-out-of-nappies youngsters are due to start primary school, slightly older babies graduate to ‘big’ school, and the even older (but still barely adult) are preparing to fledge the nest in time for Freshers’ Week; so what better time than now to talk about education?
For parents of very young children, one of the first decisions they are likely to have to make will be at the end of maternity or paternity leave. Unless one or both parents don’t need or choose not to work or have family support they can call upon; childcare arrangements will need to be made. The first decision is often around the type of care – nanny, childminder or nursery for example. And after this decision; who to go with, and how to choose? Later on of course, 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare or early education (set to become 30 hours from 2016).
One of the biggest milestones in a child’s life is starting school. Some parents will want to take the private education route, whereas others will prefer a state education. And if private education is chosen – who will pay the bills? Will they be split? And what about extra-curricular activities, school trips and/or boarding? Arguments around private education versus state are common, especially where parents were brought up through different systems and consequently hold diverging views on what’s most appropriate.
The same issues can arise post-GCSE and at 18 – will children go to university? If so, will they stay at home, or live out. Will they take a loan, or is there an allocated university fund?
It’s clear then that there are lots of things for parents to think about when it comes to educating their children. Emotions can run high and positions become entrenched. Because the educational needs of children change so frequently, it’s something that separated parents will need to regularly discuss regularly for many years post-divorce.
Sometimes external support can help to ease difficult conversations and encourage co-operation and that’s where Collaborative Law can help. The role of Collaborative Law practitioners in these circumstances is to facilitate inclusive, calm discussions – involving all relevant parties, and children once they are old enough to provide reasoned views.
It’s important in discussions around education for each parent to ensure that they put the needs of each child first, taking into account his or her personality, preferences and educational ability.
Issues can arise in situations where one parent has more money than the other. This is not uncommon, and it’s important for both parents to understand that money does not buy greater decision-making power. All child-related decisions should be made jointly, ensuring the needs of the child are met, and preventing the less financially able parent from feeling bullied or pushed into a corner – something that can cause resentment to arise at a later date, making calm co-parenting difficult or sometimes impossible.
In essence then, if conversations relating to education can be approached from a neutral position, utilising the support of Collaborative Law practitioners if necessary, it is possible for separated co-parents to reach joint agreement on educational matters for their children, with all parties feeling they’ve been listened to and respected.