Home > Children & The Law > What 'In Loco Parentis' Means to You

What 'In Loco Parentis' Means to You

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 11 Oct 2018 |
 
Duty Of Care School Parent Teacher In

You may have heard the phrase ‘in loco parentis’ many times before, but did you know that it actually has legal significance when it comes to looking after other people’s children – either on a casual or educational basis. ‘In loco parentis’ is Latin for ‘instead of a parent’ and in English law it applies in several circumstances.

Examples Of The Duty Of Care

When you leave your child at the school gates you are in effect agreeing to allow the teachers and other staff at the school to act ‘in loco parentis’. You also act in loco parentis when your child’s friends come to stay, or if you take your children and other people’s children on a trip to a local park. Babysitters, childminders, nursery assistants, crèche supervisors and holiday camp supervisors also assume a duty of care during the course of their employment.

Relevant Legislation

So what does this legal definition actually mean in practical terms? There are two statutory provisions that relate to the role of teachers acting in loco parentis: first, the Children Act 1989 provides that teachers have a duty of care towards the children under their supervision, as well as promoting the safety and welfare of the children in their care. The level of this duty of care is measured as being that of a ‘reasonable parent.’

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 puts a further obligation on the school as a whole to safeguard the wellbeing and safety of pupils in its care.

School Trips

Increasingly, and with the rise of compensation culture, teachers have grown to dread organising and supervising school trips. The law provides that teachers have the legal responsibility for pupils under their supervision while on the trip, but in practical terms it is impossible to anticipate each and every potential danger. Therefore, the courts have tended to emphasise the ‘reasonableness’ aspect of the duty of care in deciding cases.

What Teachers Can and Can’t Do

  • Teachers are not responsible for children after school hours. If a child is not collected after school, the child can be referred to social services.
  • Teachers are not required to administer medicine to pupils, but should keep a note of pupils who have medical conditions.
  • If a child is endangering themselves or others, the teacher is entitled to use ‘reasonable force’ to stop them. However, there are risks involved with this due to the threat of legal challenges and/or being assaulted.
  • Teachers do not have to supervise pupils during the lunch break.

What It Means To Parents

If you are looking after someone else’s children in a casual capacity, for example, if your child’s friend is staying with you, or you are taking a group of children to a theme park, swimming pool, or other type of outing, then you should exercise the same care and skill in terms of caring for that child as you do your own children (assuming, that is, that you are already a ‘reasonable’ parent, although if you weren’t you’d be unlikely to be given charge of others’ children).

If you put a child in danger or are negligent in the way that you care for someone else’s child, you may be sued by the child’s parents for damages. In these circumstances, you should seek professional advice without delay.

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My daughter boards at school. Very recently she’s been ‘diagnosed’ (hard to do definitively) as depressed.Due to other physical conditions I chose not to register her with school go but retain her records with family doctor.School are applying pressure for complete disclosure from our GP to her house mistress in loco parentis.She has been at home since Sunday evening (Thursday now), seen the GP on Tuesday and has counselling lined up next Tuesday.She (15) wants to manage the message to school and retain a degree of confidentiality.I tend to concur with my daughter.What do I have to share beyond she’s not anorexic, not self harming and not suicidal?She’ll have been off school a week + 2 weeks half term before her return with a support strategy in hand?
Mamabear - 11-Oct-18 @ 8:20 PM
Head of year awarded my son muppet of the week award at a ceremony at the end of a residential camp in year7 because he got upset when his luggage got left behind on the first day .The head of year new he was an anxious child
Ricky - 1-Oct-18 @ 9:30 PM
Joe - Your Question:
I have a year 5 child and would like them to walk home alone after school. I have been told the head wont allow this. Looking on the web it seems some schools do allow this - which makes me think it is something responsible parents do. I would be happy to put in place a plan - showing the walking route and set up a register so it is clear when the Loco Parentis responsibility of the school ends. If the school still refuses - what recourse do I have. Can I still pursue this?

Our Response:
Talk to the board of governors, ask to see if there is an actual school policy in place and whether there are plans to adapt it following a consultation with parents etc.
LawAndParents - 18-Sep-18 @ 3:24 PM
I have a year 5 child and would like them to walk home alone after school. I have been told the head wont allow this. Looking on the web it seems some schools do allow this - which makes me think it is something responsible parents do. I would be happy to put in place a plan - showing the walking route and set up a register so it is clear when the Loco Parentis responsibility of the school ends. If the school still refuses - what recourse do I have. Can i still pursue this?
Joe - 18-Sep-18 @ 10:22 AM
I had an issue with a teaching assistant last week. My son was climbing (all of the children do it in the same area). It wasn’t icy or wet so I deemed it safe. I was literally standing 2 feet away from him when a TA came stomping up to the only three children that were there (my son included) and very abruptly told them all to go and stand with their parents. She was unprofessional in the handling of the situation. The bell had already gone for the end of day and we were waiting for another Mum. Do the staff have an extended duty of care or were they picking at us? They never tell any of the other children. How I see it is because I am the parent and I was there, they shouldn’t have done that? This is the same TA that I refused to sign an iep for end of last year (she asked me to do it on the playground where there is no chance of reading it properly).
Jeanie - 16-Sep-18 @ 2:37 PM
My teenage daughter has attended a camp night away with what I thought was a single sex organisation for teens. However I have learned on her return that in fact this trip also took transgender children who are biologically male. Were the organisers breaking the law by not directly telling parents about this in fact being a mixed sex environment before hand.
Tillymint3 - 12-Sep-18 @ 9:21 PM
Chris - Your Question:
My daughter has anorexia nervosa. The school have said that they will not supervise her eating. Are they correct or are they failing in their duty of care to ensure my daughter stays safe and healthy? Their action means that my daughter cannot attend school which means they are not making sure she is included and able to access an education.

Our Response:
Anorexia Nervosa can be classed as a disability and schools have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help disabled students maintain an equal place alongside pupils without disabilities. Supervising a pupil's eating may or may not be considered a reasonable adjustment depending on what the usual provisions are for lunchtimes etc. We suggest you contact the governors and ask for a copy of the school's policy on this. Your local education authority may also be able to advise.
LawAndParents - 23-Jul-18 @ 2:13 PM
My daughter has anorexia nervosa. The school have said that they will not supervise her eating. Are they correct or are they failing in their duty of care to ensure my daughter stays safe and healthy? Their action means that my daughter cannot attend school which means they are not making sure she is included and able to access an education.
Chris - 20-Jul-18 @ 7:02 AM
Maddie - Your Question:
I am a freshman in high school (15). I have been asked to go to a meeting with another student for disciplinary reasons, (a recent minor fight), I asked to have a parent there to represent me, but the administrator says that in loco parentis applies and he will act as my representative. I’m not comfortable with this, I told the admin that and he said that I’m only allowed to have my parent there if the other student has her parents there, and he did not offer to call them so they could come in as well. Is he right? It doesn’t sound logical to me that in loco parentis would apply here because my parents are there at the school, so how can the school act in the place of a parent. His argument could make sense sure, but it seems a bit of a stretch.

Our Response:
This depends really on the school's policy really. There is nothing in law/government policy that specifically mentions parental presence at meetings, see the Guide here
LawAndParents - 11-Jun-18 @ 10:35 AM
I am a freshman in high school (15). I have been asked to go to a meeting with another student for disciplinary reasons, (a recent minor fight), I asked to have a parent there to represent me, but the administrator says that in loco parentis applies and he will act as my representative. I’m not comfortable with this, I told the admin that and he said that I’m only allowed to have my parent there if the other student has her parents there, and he did not offer to call them so they could come in as well. Is he right? It doesn’t sound logical to me that in loco parentis would apply here because my parents are there at the school, so how can the school act in the place of a parent. His argument could make sense sure, but it seems a bit of a stretch.
Maddie - 8-Jun-18 @ 5:18 AM
I’m a mom of four to a 10yr old, 9 year old twins and 7yr old. My children are very mature and I have always walked to school with them. My 10yr old wanted me to sign school forms to say she’s can walk to and from school by herself which I did as she is more than capable of. In the past few weeks all three older kids asked if they can start having more responsibility and taking the 10 minute walk to school which includes all main roads. I would let the three leave the house 5 minutes ahead of me and leave after with the 7 year old. Same thing after school. They have their own key so they walk ahead and go home. Recently I’ve been letting the seven year old hold hands with the ten year old and ahead go ahead on me both before and after school. They are loving the independence. On a few occasions over the past two weeks I let them go it alone for 2/3 days of the week. They love it, we’ve discussed safety procedures and I’ve given my eldest daughter a mobile phone for emergencies. I have another parent get them out of class. Walk them across the road and they are on their way. The level on maturity has changed so much that the teacher of my ten yr old approached me and said my daughter has changed and become even more mature and well grounded. I do believe it’s down to this. They are amazing. I did follow them a few times just to make sure without their knowledge but all was well. Yesterday the headteacher stopped the other parent who gets them from class and crosses the road with them, and took my children from her claiming that she heard my children walk home by themselves and this is not allowed. She took my children into the school office and called to say that she has them. I told her that It’s my choice that they walk home and I couldn’t understand why she was allowed to take them away from the other authorised person. She said that she would not let them leave. I arrived within 10 minutes of the call as police was leaving the building. I was told that I must have a meeting with the headteacher and deputy head now or they will take procedures against me. I asked them if they believed my children were in danger, they said no so I said I had no meeting arranged therefor I am leaving with my children. They used the threat of procedures again. Am I doing anything illegally or neglectful is my question and when does the duty of the school (loco parentis) finish. It is at the school gate?
Wondermom - 7-Jun-18 @ 2:39 PM
My daughter is in yr 7 of high school and has been severely bullied for months be it in and out of school and cyberbullying and hacking of her social media accounts, I have spoown with school on many occasions as the stress and tourment this bully has caused has made my daughter ill with abdominal migraines,which in turn ends up her being off school and for me to be threatened with fines. We have video evidence and parent evidence of verbal abuse whilst this child was in uniform yet in their school policy it states that behaviour is not tolerated. I feel the school have broken in loco parentis as she is not safe in school, safeguarding, health and safety and their own policies. I spoke with local education office who said she needs a managed move to another school but why should my daughter be made to move when this bully has terrorised not only my daughter but 3 others in the process to which one tried to commit suicide because of it. The parent of the bully is a local councillor and we feel the school are worried of expelling the pupil to avoid publicity. I am at a loss of what to do as this is a very saught after christian school but the situation is out of control, any advice would be great.
Zof77 - 23-May-18 @ 9:31 AM
Hi for the past 2 years my daughters class has had over 20 teachers ! They are called a bad class ! No teacher stays mire than a few weeks and the head really isnt bothered . She is 9 years old!!! What can parents do legally ??
Nicola McHugh - 21-Mar-18 @ 12:21 AM
Steph - Your Question:
I received a call from my daughter's school stating that my daughter had been brought to the main office by another child's parent because she was found on her own outside the school gates at home time. She was meant to be attending a school sponsored after school club but got confused and left the classroom to find her grandmother she thought was picking her up. The school have taken the tone that it is completely her fault and that she knows she's not supposed to leave the classroom without a parent. The problem is that they didn't even notice she was gone nor that she had not made it to the school sponsored club. My question is whether the school's loco parentis status extends beyond school hours for the purposes of a sponsored after school club? I'm planning a complaint letter to the Board of Governors as this is not the only issue but want to ensure I use the correct terminology. And thank goodness another honest parent found her and helped her!

Our Response:
How old is she? Most schools tell pupils not to leave the school premises/playground without an accompanying adult. In very young children (reception and sometimes year 1) it's common for a teacher to stand and watch children find their parent/guardian, but generally after that age they're expected to know and follow the rules.Clearly there are other issues here that you've not explained so it's difficult to comment. We suggestyou check the school's policy on how children leave at the end of the day and what happens on after school club days.
LawAndParents - 12-Dec-17 @ 9:41 AM
I have a child going on school ski holiday and i have been told his advanced groups maybe slowed in their teaching as the school now insists their safeguarding policy demands a teacher stays with the group at all times on the mountain slopes, and that the qualified instructors[ who have been criminal record checked are not acceptable for safeguarding standards now.] As a parent I place my child in 'ski school' when on holiday and do not follow the ski instructor around the mountain to check for safeguarding concerns - are the schools demands for an ever present teacher reasonable/required by law. Can I forfeit that by writing a letter?Or do I need to accept a less skilfull teacher slowing the group up, on an expensive holiday to improve their skiing?
eggman - 9-Dec-17 @ 2:56 PM
I received a call from my daughter's school stating that my daughter had been brought to the main office by another child's parent because she was found on her own outside the school gates at home time. She was meant to be attending a school sponsored after school club but got confused and left the classroom to find her grandmother she thought was picking her up. The school have taken the tone that it is completely her fault and that she knows she's not supposed to leave the classroom without a parent. The problem is that they didn't even notice she was gone nor that she had not made it to the school sponsored club. My question is whether the school's loco parentis status extends beyond school hours for the purposes of a sponsored after school club? I'm planning a complaint letter to the Board of Governors as this is not the only issue but want to ensure I use the correct terminology. And thank goodness another honest parent found her and helped her!
Steph - 9-Dec-17 @ 12:55 AM
My oldest daughter (21) is bringing my 11 year old out to USA to meet us. What documentation does she need to be loco parentis while we are away and while they travel?
Jan - 12-Jul-17 @ 10:28 AM
I have just purchased a new lamborgini, and everytime i try to drop my son of o school the staff at the school try and force me to stop brining my lamborgini to the school because of the crows that it gathers. is thre any law that states i have to listen to the school and stop bringing my car to drop of my 14 year old boy? Thank you
James - 5-May-17 @ 1:59 PM
Mydaughter was attempted raped in the school playground by another child school staff were notified but no action was taken we found out for days later when a child broke down in tears and told us he didn't contacted the school headmasterremove the child from school until the other child was removed took three months promised us to resolve issues cancelling this that the other we have just got school files and he has not put anything in the records my daughter is being bullied into her secondary school ongoing issues and concerns and then she was moved to a naughty school where the perpetrator was sent once I found that we remove definite school as she has not had an education for over a year and a half we are now trying to get school to admit liability any help what can I do
David - 4-May-17 @ 8:48 PM
LillyAnn - Your Question:
So my DS (yr4) went on a school trip with his school for three nights. All the info we got is that they arrived safely and thats it. One of the parents asked school if they could put at least one pic that we would be calmer. response surprised us - "no all the pic will be posted on the last day" (suposedly they will be with us already) do we loose any responsibility of our kids when we put them in hands of teachers and have no right to that they are ok even if its just one or two pic in a day to post (school has fb ). response of office staff rises red flags to me not because I think kids are in harm but all the atitude. Rather than saying ok we will post one at least to calm you down. We arent going there to check on our kids just few pic was all we asked and "NO" was all we got. Is that normal ?? Do we need a law of some kind to keep parents informed? (Other of friends sent his daughter for one night school trip and didn't have any info about whatsoever until he got her "back" after school trip)

Our Response:
No, this is quite common. Teaching staff need only contact you if there is an emergency or child becomes ill etc.
LawAndParents - 4-May-17 @ 2:43 PM
Bambam75 - Your Question:
My daughters college has not got sufficient tutors to teach her subject - level 2 pattiserie at catering college. She - and the rest of the class- has no qualified tutor and have their end of course exams coming up within the next few months. They do not know what the will be tested on as they have not had any practical teaching lessons for the last few weeks. Their tutor resigned his post some weeks ago and no tutor has been provided for them. They are all concerned that they are going to fail - my daughter handed all her written work to the tutor before he left and it appears to have disappeared. Does the college not have a legal obligation to provide a sufficient level of course content and qualified tutors ? If all 9 students fail the college should be held accountable. Any advice on how to proceed with the college would be most appreciated.

Our Response:
Yes the college should be held accountable for this. We suggest you contact the college management first of all and find out what remedies that can offer. If you're not satisfied and the course is recognised by Ofqual you could contact them. If it's a non-regulated course/qualification, you might need to seek legal advice.
LawAndParents - 4-May-17 @ 2:27 PM
So my DS (yr4) went on a school trip with his school for three nights. All the info we got is that they arrived safely and thats it. One of the parents asked school if they could put at least one pic that we would be calmer . response surprised us - "no all the pic will be posted on the last day" (suposedly they will be with us already) do we loose any responsibility of our kids when we put them in hands of teachers and have no right to that they are ok even if its just one or two pic in a day to post (school has fb ) . response of office staff rises red flags to me not because i think kids are in harm but all the atitude. Rather than saying ok we will post one at least to calm you down. We arent going there to check on our kids just few pic was all we asked and "NO" was all we got. Is that normal ?? Do we need a law of some kind to keep parents informed? (Other of friends sent his daughter for one night school trip and didn't have any info about whatsoever until he got her "back" after school trip)
LillyAnn - 4-May-17 @ 11:41 AM
My daughters college has not got sufficient tutors to teach her subject - level 2 pattiserie at catering college. She - and the rest of the class- has no qualified tutor and have their end of course exams coming up within the next few months. They do not know what the will be tested on as they have not had any practical teaching lessons for the last few weeks. Their tutor resigned his post some weeks ago and no tutor has been provided for them. They are all concerned that they are going to fail - my daughter handed all her written work to the tutor before he left and it appears to have disappeared. Does the college not have a legal obligation to provide a sufficient level of course content and qualified tutors ? If all 9 students fail the college should be held accountable. Any advice on how to proceed with the college would be most appreciated.
Bambam75 - 4-May-17 @ 7:57 AM
stu - Your Question:
The primary school has set a local policy that pupils can enter the school upto 8:55am without having to be signed in. It has come to light that the school have been marking pupils (8 years old) as late even though they have entered through the door before it has been shut. When the door is shut, parents are required to go to the main entrance (different door) and sign the pupil in electronically. Are they allowed to mark the pupils as late if they go through the door before 8:55am if they have not had to be signed in electronically? They have changed to this routine since hiring a new head. Before this parents were allowed to enter the school and walk them to their classroom. Now this has been stopped. Surely it is the schools responsibility to ensure that children coming into school are monitored and guided to their classrooms as the parent has now left their child in the schools care?

Our Response:
This is a school policy and it sounds as though it needs some clarification. Most 8 year old pupils would be expected to go straight to their classrooms unattended once their parents had ensured they were safely through the door - so the latter seems like a reasonable policy. We're not sure how the late mark is given unless pupils are stopping off (maybe at the toilets) en route to their classes.
LawAndParents - 20-Mar-17 @ 2:18 PM
The primary school has set a local policy that pupils can enter the school upto 8:55am without having to be signed in. It has come to light that the school have been marking pupils (8 years old) as late even though they have entered through the door before it has been shut. When the door is shut, parents are required to go to the main entrance (different door) and sign the pupil in electronically. Are they allowed to mark the pupils as late if they go through the door before 8:55am if they have not had to be signed in electronically? They have changed to this routine since hiring a new head. Before this parents were allowed to enter the school and walk them to their classroom. Now this has been stopped. Surely it is the schools responsibility to ensure that children coming into school are monitored and guided to their classrooms as the parent has now left their child in the schools care?
stu - 17-Mar-17 @ 8:38 PM
I dropped both of my kids of at school at 8.50am (staff are in the playground at this time).I found out after school that another mum had approached both my girls asking them if they are hitting her son.My girls said no and the mum went into the school office to complain. I was shocked that a stranger could approach my two girls in the school playground whilst staff were there(the school staff did not see what happened).Regardless of what thus mother said to my girls, if felt like my kids did not have anyone to stand on their side.It turns out that the boy lied about my girls hitting him and in actual fact he was hitting my youngest daughter. I now feel that I should wait with my kids in the car until the school bell rings at 9am.That stranger could have behaved worse than that or it makes me feel that any person can approach my kids in the school playground. What responsibilities does the school have in this situation and what should be done about it.I live in the UK.
Zed - 9-Feb-17 @ 12:11 AM
Do your rights as a parent override loco parentis whilst your child is at school. We recently advised our son to sit a lesson out and go to the library as he was shouted at for something he did not do and teacher told him he was not to come back to her class until his apologized. Our son sat out lesson as we instructed and he has been sanctioned and we have been told we as parents have no rights to influence what our son does whilst at school.
Odin - 18-Jan-17 @ 9:08 AM
My son is in year 8 and he injured his hand playing basketball and when he told the teacher his reply was I'm not bothered and he told him to see another teacher the other issue is that me and my wife asked for my son to be removed from the same teachers other class maths which he was removed from how can I make sure this teacher has nothing to do with my son With thanks Andrew Hall
Hally - 12-Jan-17 @ 9:27 PM
My son started a specialist high school ( he has asd & ADHD) he was in school for 5 days as I have taken him out has he came home with bruises under his arms. This has apparently been investigated and came back with nothing. Also he was team teached on 3 occasions in those 5 days for really trivial things. I have had nothing from school as in information as to how my son came to be harmed. Do we have a case of neglect or assault?
Worriedmam - 22-Dec-16 @ 2:20 PM
Sez - Your Question:
My grandchildren school are constantly undermining my daughter by excluding her from anything to do with her children education she has full custody instead any important decisions are discussed and decided upon by her ex partner and his sister with the school and my daughter is only told after the event what rights has she got to stop this happening

Our Response:
She should write a letter to the school asking to be kept informed of any events etc. Usually letters are sent home with the children themselves so it if your daughter is not the one picking up, that may be why she's not getting the letters etc. Also school's websites are usually kept well up to date with news about events etc.
LawAndParents - 25-Nov-16 @ 12:07 PM
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