Northern Ireland

School place case is 'thrown out'

High Court, Belfast
Image caption The case was heard at the High Court in Belfast

The High Court in Belfast has thrown out an attempt to force a grammar school to give a place to a child it refused.

The case deals with a girl who claimed special circumstances when she received the equivalent of a D grade.

The girl's sibling was already at the school, and a close relative had been ill at the time she sat the exam.

Mr Justice Deeny said he could not rule that the school had acted wrongly as it had abided by its criteria.

Solicitors for the child said the case highlighed the labyrinth which faced parents under the new procedure which grammar schools have used to replace the 11 plus.

Refusing leave to seek a judicial review, the judge said he could not see any circumstances under which the child could succeed.

"One has every sympathy with her being separated from the sibling and I say that with all sincerity," he said.

"But the court is not sitting under a palm tree. The court would have to make a finding of illegality or unlawful conduct... and it seems to be inconceivable it could do that."

A huge burden on parents

The girl sat the GL Assessment examination last November.

When her results came out the school agreed to a request from her mother that the case merited a claim for special circumstances.

Other educational criteria were then considered, only for the same outcome to be reached.

Following the ruling, a lawyer for the girl's family said an appeal was now being considered.

"Everybody is not singing from the same hymn sheet. The Department of Education doesn't want academic selection, the grammar schools do, and primary school principals are straight-jacketed with regards to what information they can provide to parents," he said.

"Ultimately the whole system is unfair to the child, but it also places a huge burden on the parents who have to take a real pro-active role in the transfer procedure."

A separate case being brought by the family of a boy refused a place at another grammar school is to be heard next month. ends