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Change of name and parental responsibility

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Change of name and parental responsibility

A parent has approached me about changing his son's name on the school register. What should I do?

 It can come as something of a surprise, but changing a child’s name can be relatively straight forward. All it requires is that all those with parental responsibility agree to it. If your school is  approached  with this request you first need to be sure that this is the case. If anyone with parental responsibility is not currently living with the child you should ask for proof that they are in agreement. This could be in the form of a letter or through a phone call, although you would still want to have something in writing as confirmation. 


If there is only one person with parental responsibility there is no need for anyone else’s consent. If a father, who has parental responsibility and who no longer lives with the mother and child refuses to give his consent then the only course of action is for the mother to apply to the courts for permission to change the child’s name. A court will give permission if they believe it is in the child’s best interests to allow the name change. In this case you should wait until confirmation is received. 


The decision to change a child’s name is one for the parents. Schools should feel satisfied that there is agreement about this but do not have to become involved. If there isn’t agreement it is down to the parents to sort it out between them and when this happens records at the school might be changed. 

Who has parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility refers to those having legal rights, duties, powers and responsibilities in relation to a child. A mother automatically has parental responsibility at birth. In England and Wales, a father automatically acquires parental responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or if he subsequently marries the mother. 


An unmarred father acquires parental responsibility if he is named, or becomes named, on the birth certificate. He can also apply to a court for parental responsibility or a ‘parental responsibility agreement’ might be drawn up between the father and the child’s mother. 


In cases where a child is taken into care the local authority takes on parental responsibility where it is named on the child’s care order. 

The rights of the parent 

All individuals who have parental responsibility have the same rights. Therefore, even if a parent is not living with the child they should have:


Information such as pupil reports 

Opportunity to participate in activities e.g. invitations to assemblies 

Information about meetings involving the child such as a parents’ evening 


It is assumed that where parental consent is needed for outings and activities that it is the resident parent who will provide this. 

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