As well as their education, school (or nursery) has a huge effect on children's emotional and social life.
Staying involved and up to date
It's natural you'll both want to be involved in your child's education, but this can prove difficult for parents who don't live with their child.
They can miss out on school communications and decisions about which subjects children will take, after-school activities, trips and exchanges.
Sometimes this is because one parent discourages the other from being involved or actively excludes them. This isn't fair on them, but more importantly it can have negative effects on children too.
Not seeing your children after school and not being around to help with homework also make it more difficult to know how they're doing and how they feel about school.
Agreeing how you'll handle these things will help increase the support your children feel they have around issues to do with school. It should also help you avoid future disagreements.
Where both parents have Parental Responsibilities and Rights, both parents should be able to share key decisions such as which school their child attends.
Keep the school informed
The more information the school has, the more they'll be able to help your children cope with all the changes going on.
Let the school know you're about to separate (or as soon as possible afterward). If you can agree to do this jointly, it will help make it clear to school staff that you both want to stay involved, and set a positive tone for the future.
Knowing you're separating will also help them keep an eye out for any problems, such as if your children are falling behind, or being teased or bullied about your separation.
Remember to let the school know if there are any changes to name or address details, for both parents and children. Ensure the school has contact details for both parents.
School's responsibility to keep parents informed
Schools are required to keep parents informed about how their children are doing and to do what they can to help parents who don't live with their children to be involved with their child's education. As part of this, schools should provide relevant information and reports to parents who don't live with their children unless there is a specific legal order preventing them from doing so.
The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 sets out the duties on education authorities to promote the involvement of all parents in their children's education.
In doing so, authorities and schools must be sensitive to the needs and wishes of both parents, who may not always agree. Education authorities and schools are encouraged to pay particular regard to the views of the child or young person in such circumstances.
For further guidance on schools' and local authorities' responsibilities on parental involvement in education, please see the statutory guidance for the 2006 Act, which is available to download from the following link:
Keeping each other informed
Not all information about what's going on regarding your children's education will come via the school. Your children may tell you things, for example about difficulties they're having. At times, the school may not send details to both of you.
If you can agree to regularly share what you know with each other, it will help make sure your children are fully supported.
What school should know about day-to-day arrangements
Tell the school if the children's address is going to change. Let them know about the children's living arrangements and make sure they have full contact details for both of you so everyone can be kept up-to-date on your children's progress.
Similarly, the school should always have up-to-date emergency contact details, such as your place of work or study, or the details for another relative or carer if you can't be contacted.
If there are going to be changes about who will pick up your children from school, staff should be informed about this and may need a photograph of anyone they're not used to seeing.
Parent evenings and parent-teacher consultations are key times for you to find out how your child is getting on at school and for teachers to suggest ways you can help them.
If you're not comfortable doing this together, contact the school to make arrangements to see your children's teachers separately.
You can sit apart if you prefer, but it can mean a lot to children to know someone is cheering them on at sports days or watching them in school shows or at prize-giving ceremonies. If you've lived together as a family, this can become even more important to them after you separate.
In practice, both of you probably won't be able to attend everything. Try to work together to ensure one of you – or a valued relative such as a grandparent – can be there to support them.
To avoid your children feeling let down or disappointed, make sure your children know ahead of time if you're not going to be there and explain why.
"The school's been great at keeping me posted. I didn't think they'd bother with me now the kids don't live with me during the week."
"She was in trouble more than once for fighting but she was getting bullied every day. Knowing we were both on her side was really important for her. We all went together to speak to the head teacher and I'm sure it helped get things sorted out quicker."
Things to consider
"Both my parents want to go to parents' evening but they refuse to go together. My mate's parents are divorced but they go to these things together. Why can't mine?"
- How will the school be informed about the changes in your family – will you meet with school guidance staff for example?
- How will you ensure that each of you gets school reports and other details of your children's progress?
- How will you ensure you both receive information about school events?
- How will you share information if you know the other parent isn't aware of something to do with your children's education?
- How will you handle parent evenings or consultations? How will you explain it to your children if one or both of you is absent?
- How will you agree who will attend special school events (for example if there are limited tickets)? Who will explain if one of you can't make it?
- How will you make decisions about which school children will go to?
- How will you help them make decisions about choices of subject and career options?
- If a child is ill or there's an emergency, who will the school contact?
- If a child is having problems at school, who will the school contact?
- How will you keep the school informed about who will be picking up your children?
- Who will school contact for consent for school trips and other activities?
- Trips abroad need the permission of both parents – how will you arrange for paperwork to be signed?
- How will trips and other activities be paid for?
- How will school uniforms and other school expenses be paid for?
What we've agreed
The Parenting Plan form is attached in pdf format (688KB)
To request a hard copy of this publication, email YourParentingPlan@gov.scot