Coram Children's Legal Centre has produced a glossary of legal terms relating to family, child and education law, which you can scroll through below.
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Child abduction is when a person takes or sends a child out of the UK (England and Wales) without the permission of those with parental responsibility or the permission from the court. If a person has a residence order for a child they will not be acting unlawfully if the child is taken or sent out of the UK for less than four weeks without the appropriate consent. Abduction: More information
A period commencing with 1 August and ending with the following 31 July, as defined by the School Admissions (Admission Arrangements and Co-ordination of Admission Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2012.
Parents may agree to having their child removed or ‘accommodated' by Children's Services under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, while an investigation and assessment is carried out. Accommodated children: More information
The body responsible for setting and applying a school’s admission arrangements. For community or voluntary controlled schools, this body is the local authority unless it has agreed to delegate responsibility to the governing body. For foundation or voluntary aided schools, this body is the governing body of the school. For academies, this body is the academy trust.
The overall procedure, practices and oversubscription criteria used in deciding the allocation of school places including any device or means used to determine whether a school place is to be offered.
The number of school places that the admission authority must offer in each relevant age group of a school for which it is the admission authority. Admission numbers are part of a school’s admission arrangements.
A legal process by which a child becomes a permanent and full member of a new family. The biological parents lose parental responsibility and the new parents obtain parental responsibility. Adoption: More information
The role of an advocate is to: Make sure a young person can make their wishes and feelings known, attend decision making meetings on behalf of or with the young person, provide unbiased information to the young person, support the young person, make sure that the young person's legal rights are upheld and that they are fairly treated, help the young person to make a complaint if they wish to do so. Advocate: More information
A lawyer providing a client with representation in court.
Cafcass is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. A Cafcass officer or children and family reporter may be appointed by a court to provide assistance in the course of action most appropriate to your circumstances and to provide a welfare report to the court. Cafcass: More information
A geographical area, from which children may be afforded priority for admission to a particular school. A catchment area is part of a school’s admission arrangements and must therefore be consulted upon, determined and published in the same way as other admission arrangements.
A person under the age of 18
Defined under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This is where a child’s health is likely to be significantly impaired without provision of services of where the child is disabled.
The actions and measures taken to protect a child from abuse or ill-treatment. Child protection: More information
A conference used to establish whether the child should be referred to as a ‘child subject to a child protection plan’.
For all those children who have been identified at a child protection conference as being at a continuing risk of significant harm, a Child Protection Plan will be created. This is a plan setting out what steps and provisions are needed to safeguard a child’s welfare and minimize all risks of harm to a child.
In April 2008, the Child Protection Register ceased to exist. The term now used is ‘children subject to a Child Protection Plan’.
A child who has received a witness summons to appear in court as a witness. Child Witnesses: More information
The body responsible for carrying out the child protection functions of the local authority, used to be known as social services.
City academies are intended to provide free secondary education to children of all abilities. These are funded by the Department for Education, but are established in partnership with sponsors who may be private companies or voluntary organisations. City academy: More information
The form parents complete, listing their preferred choices of schools, and then submit to local authorities when applying for a school place for their child as part of the local co-ordination scheme, during the normal admissions round. Parents must be allowed to express a preference for a minimum of three schools on the relevant common application form as determined by their local authority. Local authorities may allow parents to express a higher number of preferences if they wish.
Community schools are wholly owned and maintained by local authorities. They are likely to have a strong link with the local community providing services such as childcare. The local authority will be the admission authority for these schools. Community School: More information
The prospectus which a local authority is required to publish by 12 September in the offer year. This prospectus must include detailed admission arrangements of all maintained schools in the area (including admission numbers and catchment areas).
The time a non-resident parent/party spends with a child. Contact: More information
A child contact centre is a safe environment where children of separated families can spend time with one or both parents and sometimes other family members. Contact centres can be used for supervised contact if there were concerns about the non-resident parent having unsupervised contact with a child. Referrals can only be made by a solicitor or a judge.
A legally binding order requiring the resident party/parent to make the child available for contact with the person named in the Order. Contact order: More information
The offence of (1) disobeying a court order, (2) abusing a judge during a hearing, or (3) interfering in the administration of justice. Contempt of court: More information
The process by which local authorities co-ordinate the distribution of offers of places for schools in their area. All local authorities are required to co-ordinate the normal admissions round for primary and secondary schools in their area. Schools can take in-year applications directly from parents, provided they notify their local authority of each application and its outcome.
UK’s main issuer of Deed Poll documentation. Deed poll: More information
Deed of change of name; a legal document that formally changes a name.
Direct payments are monetary payments made by the local authority to anyone who is caring for a child or a young person who has been identified as a ‘child in need’. Direct Payments: More information
The academic year immediately preceding the offer year. This is the academic year in which admission authorities determine their admission arrangements.
The 11+ is an examination taken before leaving primary school in order to get into a grammar secondary school. The examination is administered by the local grammar school consortium Eleven Plus examination (11+): More information
A form of lawful punishment a school can execute for a child. Students can be excluded from school on either a fixed-term or permanent basis. A fixed-term exclusion is for a specific, limited period of time. A pupil can be excluded on a fixed-term basis for a maximum of 45 days in any school year. Lunch time exclusions count for a half day in England. A fixed-term exclusion should be for the shortest possible time, and children should not be excluded for an unspecified period of time. A permanent exclusion involves the child being removed from the school roll (but this should only happen once there has been an unsuccessful appeal against the exclusion or once the time period in which an appeal must be lodged has passed). Exclusion (school): More information
An order children's services can apply to the courts for, to have a person removed from the family home for a child's safety if there is an interim Care Order or Emergency Protection Order. Exclusion order (child protection): More information
An order to provide assistance to parents following separation or divorce. A family assistance order will make a Cafcass officer of the service available or will request a local authority to make one of its officers available in order to assist, advise and (where appropriate) befriend any person named in the order (Children Act 1989, s. 16(1).) Family assistance order: Family assistance order: More information
An alternative way to try to resolve a dispute. Parties would meet and talk through their issues in the presence of an independent third party. Family mediation: More information
When a person is made to marry against their will. The victim does not consent freely, but instead enters the marriage under duress. This term is not to be confused with arranged marriages, in which both parties consent to the union. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 allows courts to order civil measures to be taken to prevent forced marriages. Forced Marriage: More information
This order allows police and councils to intervene to prevent a forced marriage from occurring or to help the victim of a forced marriage. They can request that the victims passport is handed over to stop someone from being taken abroad to be married and can force relatives to disclose the whereabouts of a person at risk of forced marriage. Forced Marriage Protection Orders: More information
In 2005, the Government launched the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) to help those at risk of forced marriage. The unit provides confidential advice, information and assistance to those who are concerned that they are going to be or have been victims of forced marriage and also gives advice to third parties to the forced marriage. Forced Marriage Unit: More information
A form of care provided to a child who is not related legally or by blood. Fostering: More information
Foundation schools are funded by the local authority, but are run by the school governing body. Foundation school: More information
In England, all maintained schools and nursery schools have a governing body which has responsibility for setting the overall direction of the school. Governing body (school): More information
Grammar schools are similar to foundation schools but are still permitted to select pupils by ability. They are funded by the local authority, but run by the governing body, which acts as the admission authority. Grammar school: More information
Person appointed to formally look after the interests of the child. This person is appointed to ascertain the child’s views, support and give advice to the child whilst in court proceedings.
The aims of the Hague Convention are:
- To secure the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed to or retained in a contracting state - i.e. to return the abducted child back to his or her place of residence.
- To ensure that rights of residence or contact under the law of one contracting state are effectively respected in other contracting states - i.e. to ensure contact and residence rights issued in one country are implemented and respected in another.
- To rely on the Hague Convention, the child must be under-16 and have been habitually resident in one contracting state and taken to another. Hague Convention: More information
A child’s home local authority is the local authority in which the child resides.
The School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) (England) Regulations 2012 permit children to be admitted as exceptions to the infant class size limit. These are set out in paragraph 2.15.
Section 1 of the SSFA 1998 limits the size of an infant class (i.e. a class in which the majority of children will reach the age of five, six or seven during the school year) to 30 pupils per school teacher.
The temporary arrangements for contact. Interim contact: More information
Kinship care is an arrangement where a child who cannot be cared for by their parents goes to live with a relative or a family friend. Kinship care: More information
Permission provided by the court for a person to make an application when they do not have an automatic right to do so.
A form of funding from the government for legal representation. This is means tested. Legal Aid: More information
Overall administrative body for your geographic area. Local authority: More information
The Local Government Ombudsman looks at complaints about councils and some other authorities and organisations, including education admissions appeal panels and adult social care providers (such as care homes and home care providers). It is a free service. Local Government Ombudsman (LGO): More information
Children in public care who are provided with somewhere to live by social services. Parents can either agree to this, or a court can order children to be 'looked after'. Looked after children: More information
The area in which a school is located is referred to as the maintaining local authority.
Financial support provided by the non-resident parent to the parent for a child/children.
The National Curriculum is the agenda for teaching and learning in schools. It establishes the subjects taught and the knowledge, skills and understanding required for each subject. It also sets standards for each subject, outlining targets that children should be encouraged to achieve. Additionally, the National Curriculum determines the assessment methods that are used to measure children's progress. National Curriculum: More information
The day each year on which local authorities are required to send the offer of a school place to all parents of secondary age pupils in their area. For secondary pupils, offers are sent out by the home local authority on 1 March. For primary pupils, this will be on a locally determined date in 2013, then on 16 April from 2014 onwards.
An adult who has an interest or connection to a child and will make an application to court on his or her behalf.
An order preventing a person from violent, pestering, harassing or threatening behavior towards another person. Non-molestation order: More information
A parent with whom the child does not live most of the time. Non-resident parent: More information
The period during which parents are invited to express a minimum of three preferences for a place at any state-funded school, in rank order on the common application form provided by their home local authority. This period usually follows publication of the local authority composite prospectus on 12 September, with the deadlines for parental applications of 31 October (for secondary places) and 15 January (for primary places), and subsequent offers made to parents on National Offer Day as defined above.
The academic year immediately preceding the academic year in which pupils are to be admitted to schools under the admission arrangements in question. This is the academic year in which the offers of school places are communicated.
Where a school has a higher number of applicants than the school’s published admission number.
This refers to the published criteria that an admission authority applies when a school has more applications than places available in order to decide which children will be allocated a place.
All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his/her property. In general terms, this means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child. Parental responsibility agreement: More information
A parental responsibility agreement is an agreement made between the mother and the unmarried father to allow him to have parental responsibility. Parental responsibility agreement: More information
An Order granted by the Court which in effect gives a parent parental responsibility.
Private fostering is an arrangement that is made privately, without the involvement of the local authority, when a child under the age of 16, (or 18 if the child has a disability) is placed for 28 days or more in the care of someone who is not the child's guardian, a close relative, or by private arrangement between parent and carer. The local authority will need to be made aware of the situation to check everything is satisfactory. It is a criminal offence if the local authority is not notified. Private Fostering: More information
An Order that no step that could be taken by a parent in meeting their parental responsibility for a child can be taken without the consent of the Court. Prohibited steps order: More information
Relevant children are young people aged 16 and 17 who have been looked after for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and who have been looked after at some time after their 16th birthday, and who have now left care. Relevant child: More information
A place where the child lives permanently. Residence: More information
An order stating where and with whom a child shall live. Residence order: More information
A parent with whom the child lives.
A statutory office-holder who is appointed by the Secretary of State for Education, but is independent. The adjudicator decides on objections to published admission arrangements of all state-funded schools and variations of determined admission arrangements for maintained schools.
A comprehensive child protection investigation carried out by children’s services. Section 47 Enquiry: More information
Orders under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. These are: A residence order, A contact order, A specific issue order, A prohibited steps order.
It is unlawful for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment'. This defence is laid down in section 58 of the Children Act 1989, but it is not defined in this legislation. Whether a ‘smack' amounts to reasonable punishment will depend on the circumstances of each case taking into consideration factors like the age of the child and the nature of the smack. Smacking: More information
A lawyer who advises people on the law and can represent them in legal proceedings.
A term used to describe a child who has a learning difficulty which calls for a special educational provision to be made for him/her. Special Educational Needs (SEN): More information
Special guardianship is a Court order that places a child or a young person to live with someone other than their parents. Special guardianship: More information
A type of school with the facility to meet the needs of children who have special educational needs. Special School: More information
An order giving directions for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen, or which may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child.
State school education is free and funded by the government. Contributions may be needed for some school activities. However, contributions are often voluntary, and children cannot be excluded from the activities if the voluntary contribution is not made. State school: More information
A statement of special educational needs is a legally binding document that details a child's special educational needs and the help that they should be provided with. Statement of Special Educational Needs: More information
A statutory assessment is a detailed study undertaken by the local authority to determine what a child's special educational needs are and the extra help that they need in order to make progress at school. Statutory special educational needs assessment (Statutory SEN Assessment): More information
When the child stays overnight with the non-resident parent.
The person married to the child's parent.
Contact that takes place between a parent and a child where another person is present.
These are usually religious or faith schools, although anyone can apply for a place for their child. Both the local authority and the supporting body (e.g. the Roman Catholic church) will contribute to the funding of the school. Voluntary aided school: More information
Voluntary controlled schools are similar to voluntary aided schools, although these schools are funded solely by the local authority. The admissions authority is the Local Authority. Voluntary controlled school: More information
A list of children held and maintained by the admission authority when the school has allocated all of its places, on which children are ranked in priority order against the school’s published oversubscription criteria
A checklist all Judges must have regard to when deciding to make a Section 8 Order under the Children Act 1989:
- the wishes and feelings of the child
- the child's physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
- the child's age, sex, background and any other of his or her characteristics which the court considers relevant
- any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- how capable each parent (and any other relevant person) is of meeting the child's needs. For further information see Children Act 1989 Welfare checklist : More information