The 2020 return to school

September is well and truly underway…The weather has turned cooler and following the school shutdown period due to COVID-19, pupils across England and Wales are now returning to start the school year.

Many parents consider this to be an exciting time as children are returning to school after nearly six months out. First day pictures of children dressed in school uniform are starting to fill Facebook news feeds and a new ‘normal’ has begun.

For some parents however, this is a time of apprehension and concern regarding their child’s safety, about what ‘school life’ will be like for their child and whether any restrictions, such as ‘bubble lockdowns’ will be imposed in the coming days, weeks and months.

As a result of such concerns, some parents have made the decision that they will not be sending their child(ren) back to school this September. However, with the government advising that headteachers can impose fines for a pupil’s non-attendance at school, what does this mean for separated parents, where one party is refusing to send the child in?


In some cases, parents have taken the decision to continue to home-school their child, sourcing and utilising resources aligned to their child’s age. In order to officially home-school a child, therefore removing the child from school permanently, the pupil would be de-registered. De-registration can be carried out by either parent (with parental responsibility), without a requirement for consent from the other parent.

In the event that parents do not agree about home-schooling the child, it is possible for the second parent to seek to challenge the de-registration. In instances such as this, a Specific Issue Order would be applied for and presented to the courts.

Medical Issues

There are certain circumstances whereby children are being kept at home as a safeguarding measure, including instances where a parent or indeed the child themselves are deemed to be particularly medically vulnerable.

In instances such as this, again, if there is a dispute between the parents about whether children should attend school then one parent would need to apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order. Each case would be very fact specific and the court would look at all the evidence, including reasons why a child is not attending, family circumstances and medical evidence before determining whether it is in a child’s best interests to return to school or not.

If you have concerns that a child you have parental responsibility for has not returned to school and this is not in line with you wishes, a member of our Family Law team would be happy to discuss this with you. Please contact Carole Nettleton on 07958 028069 or Nicholas Clough on 07538 385956. Alternatively, please email