The County Londonderry family of an 11-year-old boy who has been turned down for admission to his three local schools are having him educated at home as they prepare to launch legal action.
Last week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Jack McIvar had instead been offered places by the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) in 10 other schools — including one in Larne which is 45 miles away from his Garvagh home.
The family have also insisted that the board raised the possibility of Jack being taken to school by taxi, despite a board statement claiming their position had been misrepresented.
Jack was due to transfer from primary school to secondary school this week after gaining a D Grade in his 11-plus, but the family’s first three choices were turned down by the NEELB — Loreto College in Coleraine, St Patrick’s in Maghera, and St Paul’s in Kilrea.
His parents, Terry and Fidelma, appealed to the board and they came up with a list of 10 schools where there were vacancies.
“These included Larne which is 45 miles away, Ballycastle which is 32 and Portglenone which is 18 — the board’s list, not mine,” said Mr McIlvar.
“And the subject of taxis was brought up by the board’s transfer officer, not by me. I was horrified at the prospect of a 90-mile round trip every day.”
A statement from the NEELB said they would never suggest such a course of action or undertake to pay the taxi fare journey.
It said: “The NEELB, in an endeavour to be helpful to a parent whose child was turned down by all of the schools they had nominated, provided a list of 10 schools in the maintained and integrated sectors in the Board’s area which still have vacant places.
“This list included Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Ballymoney, St Joseph’s College, Coleraine, North Coast Integrated College, Coleraine, and St Patrick’s College in Ballymena, all within a relatively reasonable distance from the pupil’s home.”
Mr McIlvar, however, pointed out that Larne and Ballycastle were also included on the list of 10 schools.
He said: “This shows how badly out of touch the board is with reality — I can’t believe they would include schools so far away.”
“None of their schools are acceptable to us. Loreto is our first choice because Jack’s two sisters and brother went from primary school to Loreto, and that was followed by St Patrick’s, Maghera and St Paul’s Kilrea. We’re disappointed that he has been turned down by all three — we believe it’s the first time in many years all three have turned down a child.
“Anyway, the taxi saga is irrelevant as he won’t be going to Larne. We have consulted our solicitor to set a judicial review in motion and in the meantime we’ll be paying for a private tutor to teach Jack. Of course, we’ll have to accept the result of the review, but at least we’ll have done all we can for him.”