IN BRIEF - Schools are strongly encouraged to review student enrolment documentation in light of recent legislative amendments affecting privacy and international student welfare and the increasing trend of parents to refuse to pay school fees or take other forms of legal action against schools
THE ENROLMENT CONTRACT
The enrolment contract between the school and parents is a legally binding document. In the event of disputes, such as unpaid fees, the enrolment contract will be the basis of any recovery action. It is therefore critically important that its terms clearly outline the relationship between the school and the student’s parents or guardian.
Unfortunately, many enrolment contracts we see schools using are outdated, inadequate, and in some cases contain unlawful terms.
KEY TERMS IN ENROLMENT DOCUMENTATION THAT REQUIRE ATTENTION
Enrolment documentation should be drafted to ensure the following issues are addressed with sufficient detail:
- parents must disclose information about the physical, learning or other disabilities of their child and the process the school will undertake to consider reasonable adjustments, in accordance with disability discrimination laws;
- family law court orders should be provided, thereby enabling the school to understand any obligations imposed in relation to the information that can be provided to separated parents, such as school reports or school photos;
- fee recovery must be carefully articulated including the circumstances where fees are payable even where there has been some disruption to the child’s education, such as illness or allegations of student-on-student bullying;
- conditions of enrolment, containing the school’s policies and procedures should be expressly incorporated into the enrolment documentation as binding contractual obligations on students and parents;
- recent legislative amendments should be factored into enrolment documentation, including the implementation of the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 which commenced on 1 January 2018 and the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017 (Cth) which commences from 22 February 2018;
- consideration to whether a dedicated Parent Code of Conduct is required, to set expectations relating to appropriate behaviours and responsibilities of parents/guardians including the consequences of non-compliance.
Considering the array of statutory and common law responsibilities facing schools today, a careful review of enrolment documentation this year is highly recommended to guard against corporate risks.
This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2023.