Siobhan Murphy
Posted on 18 Dec 2018

When can a school agree to change a child's name?

Schools may be requested by a parent to change a child's surname for numerous reasons, the most likely being that there has been a breakdown of relations within the family. It is often difficult for a school to make a decision on this, especially where a parent is putting a lot of pressure on the school. This article aims to give an overview as to what circumstances a school can agree to change a child's surname.

Formal name change

This refers to where the parent's requests for the child's surname to be changed on all databases within the school, for example the attendance register.

By law, a child's name on the schools systems must reflect the child's birth certificate. This will be the case when the child becomes enrolled at the school. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that this is always the case. Alternatively, a formal name change can be complied with if the parent can show that they have been given a court order to this effect. If the school is satisfied that this has been done, then they are permitted to amend the child's surname on all databases.

Informal name change

An informal name change is one which does not require the school's databases to be amended, but instead means that other every-day changes are made. This may include changing the surname on a child's peg or on a schoolbook and verbally using a different surname. It would not include any amendments on any of the schools systems or databases.

Nonetheless, there remain requirements to fulfil before this can be done at the request of a parent. The school must be satisfied that, taken into account all of the circumstances, the name change is in the best interests of the child.

It is important to remember that the school is under no legal obligation to make any informal name change and is fully entitled to refuse to do so.

Where the informal name change is accepted by the school, any other person with parental responsibility who disagrees with this action may choose to apply to Court for a Prohibited Steps Order. Again, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child and therefore the Order will be made only where the court makes a finding that it is better for the child to only be called by their legal name.