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School choice dispute

01 May, 2016

Family Law

The recent High Court case of BB v AA which was an appeal from the Circuit Court deals with a situation where parents cannot agree on the choice of school for a child.

The applicant (“Mr. B.”) and respondent (“Ms.A.”) are husband and wife who have now separated and are living apart. They have two children, one of which is aged twelve years of age and is just about to enter secondary school.

The dispute was appealed to the High Court from the circuit court over the choice of school for the young boy, in the course of judicial separation proceedings, pending in the Circuit Court.

The boy is talented and aptitude tests show that he is ranked in the very highestpercentile of scholastic achievements for a child of his. He was offered a place in what the court called School A (for ease of reference) which the court held was a good school with a high level of academic and other achievements. However the child was also offered a place in School B has an outstanding reputation and is, the court held , by common consent, one of the leading schools in the country. Unlike School A, School B is, however, a private school and the school fees are considerable.

Mr. B. wished for his son to attend School A. His argument was that it is a perfectly good school and that such are the precarious state of the family finances that the family cannot afford private education. He also made the point that on attending School B, his son would automatically be associating with children from wealthier backgrounds which may make him feel isolated.

Ms. A wants her son to have the best opportunity and does not want to pass up this opportunity. School B offered a discount of 50% after the Circuit Court ruled that the boy should attend School A. Ms. A.’s parents have also offered to pay the balance of the school fees.

The court held that it could resolve matters of this kind under the of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 (as amended) which provides that any guardian “may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of the child and the court may make such order as it thinks proper.”

The court pointed out that its decision did not endorse School B at the expense of School A, still less to suggest that private education is in some way more desirable than education in the public system but in considering what is best for the child , given especially his scholastic aptitude it seemed appropriate that he should go to a school that would seem best suited for his talents .

The court therefore held that the appeal be allowed and Ms A was allowed to enrol the child in School B however did mention that should the financial assistance regarding fees not materialise the position would have to be revisited.