Contract Law Part 2 : The Enrolment Contract

The enrolment contract is the most obvious contractual agreement a school has with the community. It is the foundation for the relationship a school has with its students through a legal arrangement with parents/guardians for the provision of the service of education. Frequently, however, the enrolment contract is overlooked as an administrative document rather than a potentially quite powerful and legally binding document. This article is part two of three on an introduction to contract law.

Elements of a Contract 

As discussed in Contract Law Part 1, any contract must adhere to the relevant legal principals and requirements in order to be binding and enforceable. An enrolment contract is no different:

  • There must be an offer of enrolment from the school;
  • There must be acceptance of that offer by the parent(s)/guardian(s);
  • There must be an intention from all parties to create a legally binding agreement.
  • There must be a price paid (money or otherwise);
  • All parties entering the contact must have legal capacity to enter the enrolment contract*;
  • There can be no dubious dealings.

Having a ‘proper understanding’ of the contract

In order for a parent/guardian to enter into a legally binding contract they must have a proper understanding of and consent to what is involved. This means the contract should be explained to them, they have an opportunity to review the document and any unusual policies specific to your school are specifically pointed out to them. For example, this may be the suspension and expulsion policy of your school.

*As mentioned in Contract Law Part 1, whether or not students can have legal capacity is unclear and so it is advisable when a student is under 18 years of age to enter the contract with the parent(s)/guardian(s).

The Contracting Parties

To avoid doubt, the parties should be accurately and clearly articulated in the enrolment contract.

The School

The school’s name should reflect the legal name of the school operating entity.

The parent(s)/guardian(s)

The parent(s)/guardian(s) with legal decision making responsibility over the child should be listed as the party to the contract.

When the family situation is not clear

Difficulty arises where there are separated parents or other guardianship arrangements. The below discussion is not exhaustive of the possible family arrangements that you may encounter but rather provides a brief overview of the most common.

Two parents, not separated

Where there are two parents that care for the child they each have the right to enter into a contract on behalf of a student.

Separated/estranged/divorced parents

It may be difficult to ascertain who has decision making responsibility over the child when parents are estranged. This can be even more difficult to ascertain when there are Court Orders and parenting plans involved. In this case an investigation into any arrangement should be undertaken.

If the Court Orders/parenting plans reveal a shared responsibility, it is best practice for the school to still communicate with both parents. Whilst it is explicitly not the responsibility of the school to ensure that the decision is joint, too often a school or principal will otherwise find themselves caught in the crossfire of a greater family law dispute.

There are many complicated family arrangements a school may find themselves in the crossfire of. When in doubt it is prudent to seek tailored legal advice.

How can Brennan Law Partners assist?

It is recommended that schools regularly review their enrolment contracts. If you have any concerns about your school’s enrolment contract, or if you are experiencing a contractual dispute, please contact us for tailored advice.

If you have any questions regarding any information in this BLP Brief, we welcome you to contact us at any time.

Part 3 of the Introduction to Contracts will discuss contracts with third party suppliers.

If you have any questions regarding any information in this BLP Brief, we welcome you to contact us at any time.

This is meant as a guide only.

Contracts Part 2