Who is a parent?
The definition of a “parent” for school purposes is much wider than for any other situation. The Education Act 1996 defines a parent as:
• All natural parents, including those that are not married;
• Any person who has parental responsibility but is not a natural parent (eg a legally appointed guardian or the Local Authority named in a Care Order);
• Any person who has care of a child, i.e., a person with whom the child lives, and who looks after the child, irrespective of the relationship.
Obligations to parents
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, they are entitled to:
• Appeal against admission decisions;
• Vote in elections for parent governors;
• Vote in ballots concerning school status;
• OfSTED and school-based questionnaires;
• Participate in any exclusion procedure;
• Participate in assessment for special education needs purposes;
• Attend parent meetings / school events;
• Have access to school records, and receive copies of school reports, newsletters, invitations to school events, school photographs relating to their child, and information about school trips.
Divorced or separated parents are each entitled to the above and this entitlement cannot be restricted without a specific Court Order. In particular, a school does not have the power to act on the request of one parent to restrict another.
If the school is presented with a Court Order, a senior member of staff should check it to ensure that it is authentic and up to date and take a copy for school records. However, they should not feel obliged to respond
immediately to the parent, without taking advice from the Local Authority. This can be complex with extreme cases of estrangement, in which case you should contact your legal services.
Students over 18
A young person over the age of 18 has the right to decide whether their parents should be kept informed of their progress at school or have access to their Educational Record.
Other personal information
There are a number of documents that may be contained in an educational record that may be exempt from the general requirement to disclose, e.g.:
• Information processed by a teacher solely for the teacher’s own use;
• Information, the disclosure of which would be likely to cause serious harm to the physical or mental health or condition of the child or someone else;
• Information as to whether the child is or has been subject to or may be at risk of child abuse, where the disclosure of that information would not be in the best interests of the child;
• References supplied to potential employers of the child, etc.
• Information concerning the child which also relates to another person, who can be identified from that information, or which identifies another person as the source of that information. It may be possible to “redact” the relevant documentation, obtain permission from the “other person” or, in some circumstances, disclose the information without such permission.
Parents may make a Subject Access Request [SAR], under the Data Protection
Act, for other personal information relating to their child that is not included within the definition of “educational record”. Again, various exemptions may apply.
Once a child reaches the age of 12, in general, they are deemed to be capable of a sufficient level of understanding to approve such a request, or to make one in their own right. Thus a SAR should only be responded
to, in relation to a child aged 12 or over, if the child has given their explicit agreement to that request.
• Statutory Instrument 2005 No.1437 “The Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005
• Statutory Instrument 2008 No.1747 “The Education (Pupil Information) (England) (Amendment)Regulations 2008
• Data Protection Act 1998
This advice is taken from NAHT's "Pupil and Parent Matters" publication.