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: 17 Mar 2017 |
 
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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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
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
Sez - 24-Nov-16 @ 9:09 AM
School runs an after school club that my yr 4 child attends. Apparently the children were told of an impending cancellation to the club. But the parents were only emailed on the day ( an email I didn't see due to work) school defends the method and lateness of the cancellation communication because the children already knew. I say parents should have been told sooner and children so young shouldn't be relied upon. Am I right? Thanks I advance.
Confused parent - 14-Jul-16 @ 4:56 PM
My son,aged 14, was allowed to watch a dvd in an English class as a treat due to end of term fun. Teacher agreed to said film.classified 15,violent, gorey and 86 f-words,, sex ++,.... I am not happy at all and feel that even though our kids might watch these with their mates, that school should be a safe place where appropriate films are shown.He thinks I am being a killjoy.
Dee - 30-Jun-16 @ 5:42 PM
Chez- Your Question:
Hello my daughter had her lunch and lunch card taken out of her hand yesterday due to a change in circumstances with benefits that we as parents knew nothing about. She had to mock exams and had no food from leaving the house at 7.45am until her return at 4.15pm, what should I do about this as I am furious and they are supposed to act in loco parentis surely they should have given her some food regardless of the situation?

Our Response:
Make a complaint to the head teacher and the governors, a school should always contact a parent first in this kind of situation.
LawAndParents - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:30 PM
Hello my daughter had her lunch and lunch card taken out of her hand yesterday due to a change in circumstances with benefits that we as parents knew nothing about.She had to mock exams and had no food from leaving the house at 7.45am until her return at 4.15pm, what should I do about this as I am furious and they are supposed to act in loco parentis surely they should have given her some food regardless of the situation?
Chez - 28-Jun-16 @ 9:01 AM
The head teacher at my sons school is rather proud that my son is afraid of her. When I ask him he says he is afraid of her. (He calls her Miss Trunchbull)! Do I have the right to request that she not treat my son this way. Does 'In loco parentis' mean that the teachers power derives from the parent and can the parent require the teacher to carry out such reasonable requests?
Totas - 26-May-16 @ 6:40 PM
Sorry there are too many conflicting pieces of information here, you say the school phone your husband to say they were excluding him but your husband did not go into the school to speak to them/take your son home? It would be better for you both to make an appointment to see the head teacher (you could ask to have one of the governors present too) and establish the full facts of the situation and the options available to your son from here on. Can I add: that the school placed my son in isolation for over and hour, with a pen. Self harmers do tend to use whatever they can access, and there apears to have been no thought as to what might have happened whilst my son was alone. He told me yesterday about this. Also, the school did not phone to tell my husband that he was being exluded, but to advise he was to stay home the next day. At the end of school time, my son was released, again unsupervised - there was no attempt to detain him until an adult could collect him. My husband was not asked to collect him during the call.I feel there was a complete lack of belief in my sons disclosure of self harm - the reason he had the knife in school in the first place.There was a letter sent to the school last july from my sons consultant to confirm that he had anxiety and anger issues - none of this has been acknowledged by the school and no assistance has been offered, ever. There has been uproar about the safety of the other child,but not one mention about the schools duty of care to my son.
ydnam - 22-Apr-16 @ 8:29 AM
worried mum - Your Question:
Hi, my son attends a local secondary school and has suffered from extreme anxiety for around 8 years -he has additional physical health concerns, is borderline autistic (but paedeatrics suspect possible more likely to be mild ADHD) and has not had an easy start in life. He has extremely low self esteem, something which was addressed in primary school but has been ignored in secondary school where he suffers regular bullying. During 3 years of secondary school education he has received little or no additional help in a large school of 1200+ pupilsSadly, he made an extremely poor decision to take a knife to school recently, he says to show his friends (I believe him) but when showing them somebody came over and goaded him and he threatened the other boy. nobody was hurt, but obviously this is a serious offence. he later volunteered that he has been self harming (he had the scars to prove this) and felt suicidal. The school phoned my husband after secluding my son for the remainder of the day, and explained he would not be attending school the following day. We have now been told that we can choose to have him formally excluded, or we can opt for a PEX Withdrawn - this is where we elect to educate him elsewhere (so an informal exclusion - I thought this was illigal?). My biggest concern at this point is that the staff member sent my son home unaided, to an empty house, where he self medicated with alcohol. He is 14. It could have been worse, it could have been tablets or knives :(. My question is, has the school been negligent in not requesting a parent collect a child who has proof they are self harming? If he had hurt himself badly, who would have been responsible. I am fully aware that my son has committed an offence, but equally horrified that they left him to leave unescorted, he could be dead.

Our Response:
Sorry there are too many conflicting pieces of information here, you say the school phone your husband to say they were excluding him but your husband did not go into the school to speak to them/take your son home? It would be better for you both to make an appointment to see the head teacher (you could ask to have one of the governors present too) and establish the full facts of the situation and the options available to your son from here on.
LawAndParents - 20-Apr-16 @ 11:49 AM
Hi, my son attends a local secondary school and has suffered from extreme anxiety for around 8 years -he has additional physical health concerns, is borderline autistic (but paedeatrics suspect possible more likely to be mild ADHD) and has not had an easy start in life. He has extremely low self esteem, something which was addressed in primary school but has been ignored in secondary school where he suffers regular bullying.During 3 years of secondary school education he has received little or no additional help in a large school of 1200+ pupilsSadly, he made an extremely poor decision to take a knife to school recently, he says to show his friends (I believe him) but when showing them somebody came over and goaded him and he threatened the other boy. nobody was hurt, but obviously this is a serious offence.he later volunteered that he has been self harming (he had the scars to prove this) and felt suicidal.The school phoned my husband after secluding my son for the remainder of the day, and explained he would not be attending school the following day.We have now been told that we can choose to have him formally excluded, or we can opt for a PEX Withdrawn - this is where we elect to educate him elsewhere (so an informal exclusion - i thought this was illigal?). My biggest concern at this point is that the staff member sent my son home unaided, to an empty house, where he self medicated with alcohol. He is 14. It could have been worse, it could have been tablets or knives :( . My question is, has the school been negligent in not requesting a parent collect a child who has proof they are self harming? If he had hurt himself badly, who would have been responsible. I am fully aware that my son has committed an offence, but equally horrified that they left him to leave unescorted, he could be dead.
worried mum - 18-Apr-16 @ 10:54 AM
I have a eight year old son in guardianship with my mother and her husband. Through court it was agreed I see my son three times a week. My mother doesn't always abide by this. He started going beavers I was pleased about this and agreed for this to happen on our day Wednesday (not that she has any respect for my rights as a mother anyway ) Now he goes cubs on a Tuesday as this is the the step from beavers but refuses my day back. But this was legal set up. She breaks the contract whenever she wants and uses my son as a weapon to punish me when she don't get her own way. I find myself apologising just to keep the peace quite often when I'm not in the wrong because she stops me seeing him. I've heard her on a few occasions threatening to sting my son's legs and calling him names which isn't healthy for his self esteem. In her world she thinks I have no rights what can I do.
Michelle - 2-Mar-16 @ 7:12 PM
My six year old grandson has a medical condition which he has had since birth.He suffers from what is described as 'impactive constipation' which manifests itself as an inability to open his bowels without severe pain.He is under the care of two consultant paedatricians at different hospitals, who have prescribed varying doses of 'Movicol' to enable him to to do so.This has until now had some success, though he has had problems in school with soiling his underwear as a result of the medication.The School nurse has been involved and until recently the school had additional classroom support for him, though this was recently withdrawn.As a result my daughter - herself a secondary school teacher - has been called to school on a number of occasions to 'clean him up'. He is awaiting a referral to counselling services, and though regarded as an urgent case no date has yet been set. Last week he was rushed into hospital with severe intestinal pain, which revealed a new major blockage, and he has been put back on the Movicol regime. My daughterhas contacted the school to explain the implications, but his class teacher has said that he cannot cope with the increased potential for him soiling himself.My daughter has had a brief conversation with the Headteacher to seek the reintroduction of the classroom support, but he insists that he requires 'evidence' before he is prepared to seek additional funding for help in the classroom. Can you advise on the position, as she finds it difficult to understand the stance adopted by the school as they have been fully aware of his medical history for four years.She is in the process of obtaining documentary evidence from both consultants, but this will obviously take some time to gather. Does the school have a legal obligation to cater for his immediate medical needs under the notion of 'in loco parentis', with a duty of care as outlined in the Children Act 1989 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Bob - 9-Nov-15 @ 9:36 PM
gem1 - Your Question:
Unfortunately due to my work commitments, I am unable to take omy child to school and pick him up. Luckily my mother or father do the school run for me. The teachers including the new head, refuse to speak to my parents regarding my child. I have previously signed a document saying we would like them to speak to my parents as it is difficult for me within school hours. Can they do this?

Our Response:
We can't find any specific legislation relating to this but certainly know of many examples where schools are very happy to speak to grandparents at the school gates and to allow grandparents to sign consent forms for school trips etc. If you have signed a document saying you are happy for the school to speak with your parents then perhaps you should ask your local education authority and/or the board of governors for a copy of the policy on this.
LawAndParents - 25-Sep-15 @ 12:15 PM
Unfortunately due to my work commitments, I am unable to take omy child to school and pick him up. Luckily my mother or father do the school run for me. The teachers including the new head, refuse to speak to my parents regarding my child. I have previously signed a document saying we would like them to speak to my parents as it is difficult for me within school hours. Can they do this?
gem1 - 24-Sep-15 @ 4:24 PM
stubby1979 - Your Question:
My question is regarding loco parentis\child protection at my sons senior school in england, in the brochere part of the pe kit specifys a towel and soap however he has been coming home caked in mud when I asked the teachers they said didnt encourage showers as they felt there could bé child protection issues they also said they belived they didnt have the right under loco parentis to ensure or allow\encourage showers as child protection outweighed any loco parentis they admitted they still had to draw up child protecton policys over showering but this was unenforceable and discouraged by teachers whats the legal position on this please surely its unacceptable for a child to bé plastered in mud for hours ?

Our Response:
Unfortunately there are no "rules/laws" that we know of to enforce the showering after PE. It does seem to be increasingly common that children don't shower after PE, but this often due to time constraints as much as anything else.
LawAndParents - 8-Sep-15 @ 2:29 PM
My question is regarding loco parentis\child protection at my sons senior school in england, in the brochere part of the pe kit specifys a towel and soap however he has been coming home caked in mud when i asked the teachers they said didnt encourage showers as they felt there could bé child protection issues they also said they belived they didnt have the right under loco parentis to ensure or allow\encourage showers as child protection outweighed any loco parentis they admitted they still had to draw up child protecton policys over showering but this was unenforceable and discouraged by teachers whats the legal position on this please surely its unacceptable for a child to bé plastered in mud for hours ?
stubby1979 - 7-Sep-15 @ 10:25 PM
Hi i have a stepdaughter at a secondary school her dad was meeting her down at school every morning with her friend who was having a sexual relationship with which is wrong . The point is it had been reported to the school five times Are they failing in safeguarding her when they did nothing about it ?
Mr blog - 8-Jul-15 @ 3:55 PM
@Aerosmith1. We're sure the school will be happy to make an appointment to discuss these events with you if you ring up.
LawAndParents - 12-May-15 @ 12:13 PM
Advice please: 12 year old son and friend are playing with other boys. Boy X approaches and verbally insults my son who tells him to go away. Boy X returns with the branch of a tree and threatens my son by thrusting the branch in my son's face. My son grabs the branch and throws it away and fends himself off from Boy X. My son's friend attempts to hold back Boy X. The boys disperse and Boy X then charges my son down to the ground. At this point a teacher is sort out. Response of School: I am unsure what punishment has been dealt to Boy X, my son has been put in a withdrawal room (exclusion from lessons) for 6 sessions, his friend for 3. The events and the punishments planned have not been discussed with the parents.
Aerosmith1 - 6-May-15 @ 5:35 PM
@wallers. You don't have any legal rights if you're not the natural father. If you were still together with your partner and she agreed, you could have applied for parental repsonsibility. Speak with your ex to see if you can come to some sort of compromise. You could also try seeking professional legal advice to see if there is anything you can do in law.
LawAndParents - 5-May-15 @ 10:24 AM
scenario: me and 3 of my friends are hanging out at my house 2:00 AM. 2 friends are 17, 1 is 18 we decide to go to the store to get some food in a car. can the 18 year old adopt loco parentis and we not get In trouble for being out pass curfew, if say the 18 year old driver were to get pulled over.
katlyppi - 29-Apr-15 @ 3:47 AM
My question is I raised my ex girlfriend's child since he was a month old till he was six though I'm not his biological father I still thought of him as my own six years is a long time to spend as a father since we broke up 3 months ago I haven't been allowed see him not even a phone call have I any rights
wallers - 27-Apr-15 @ 1:56 PM
@Li. Most schools have an anti bullying policy and this is in practice throughout the day. The lunchtime assistants will be aware of the policy and in most schools they have to advice teaching staff of any issues during that occur. Speak to the head teacher first of all and ask what can be done.
LawAndParents - 11-Mar-15 @ 11:56 AM
@SunnyElls. We'd be angry in this situation too. It would have been the right thing to get this checked out at a medical facility. You could try asking to see the schools policy on this kind of thing - they usually have written procedures. Did your daughter seek the help of an alternative member of staff? Was their opinion the same? The remedy will really depend on what kind of action you would like to see. If you simply want an apology then write to the school asking for an explanation (and apology). The board of governorsor Local Education Authority should be contacted if the school does not respond. If you are seeking compensation for this, for example if your daugher's injury has been exacerbated or will result in further problems because of the delay in treatment, then you will need to seek legal advice.
LawAndParents - 10-Mar-15 @ 2:36 PM
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