Schools need to treat parents who separate equally, report says

Teachers sometimes fail to communicate properly with parents who no longer live with the child, report warns

Schools and nurseries are neglecting the needs of parents who do not have custody of their children, making them feel like “an irritation” and “an afterthought” in their offspring’s education, fathers have claimed.

A new report calls on schools to ensure that they treat both parents equally, reminding them of the “significant benefits” for the child when they do.

Lawyers responding to fathers’ claims have also stressed that failing to treat parents equally for the duration of their child’s education could leave schools open to legal challenges.

Schools make some parents feel excluded from their child’s education, said Ian Maxwell, manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland, which produced the report in conjunction with Children in Scotland.

“Regrettably, we still hear regularly from some non-resident parents that they have felt excluded from communication around their child’s education, or are made to feel they are causing bother by asking for their own copies of newsletters and school reports,” he said.

“We hope this guide will help schools and education authorities work towards a more inclusive approach, for the benefit of all involved – our children above all.”

‘I feel like I’m an afterthought’

According to the report, a parent who lives apart from their child should receive copies of school reports and attendance records, and any information about welfare or disciplinary issues raised.

They should also receive a separate notification of parents’ evenings and both parents should feel able to make individual appointments with their child’s guidance teacher.

The report says: “The general assumption in policy and law is that schools should treat both parents equally and that they should be entitled to the same information about their child.”

However, the report also acknowledges there are circumstances under which schools should not share information with a parent – there might be a court order prohibiting it, or when the sharing of information could cause harm to the child or someone else.

Generally, however, the report stresses that “consent is not required from one parent for disclosure of information to any other parent”.

“The preferences of the parent with care should not be accepted as a veto,” it adds.

One father featured in the report talked about his frustration that the relationship he had with his child’s nursery was “contingent on the approval of my ex”.

“I still feel I am an afterthought and a bit of an irritation to them,” he said.

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