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Grammar schools taken to court over transfer cases

An attempt to challenge a grammar school’s admissions process will suffer a “knock-out blow” if it is given the go-ahead by the courts, it has been claimed.

The comment was made by a barrister appearing on behalf of Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Omagh in Belfast’s High Court yesterday.

Mr Justice Deeny agreed to an adjournment for two landmark cases being heard jointly in which two families are seeking leave to apply for a judicial review after their children were turned away from grammar schools.

The schools’ decisions were upheld by education board tribunals.

The other school caught up in the legal tussle is St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon. In this case, a girl was affected by personal circumstances on the day of the tests.

Her primary school felt it could not give information on her academic record to the academy because of guidance by Education Minister Caitriona Ruane that primary schools should have nothing to do with the tests.

The judge directed yesterday that the children — a girl and a boy — could not be named publicly.

The adjournment was sought by the families’ barristers to enable the Department of Education’s new Execptional Circumstances Body (ECB) to consider the cases.

Turlough Montague QC, appearing for Omagh CBS, argued that the judicial review application should not be adjourned.

He said the applicant sat the GL Assessment test in St Colman’s in Derry on 21 November 2009, and did not report illness then.

The barrister said: “It was only after he received his results that a claim was registered with St Colman’s on 12 February, 2010 and it recorded that he was violently ill the night before the test.”

He added: “This should be dealt with at this stage and not prolonged pending the outcome of the ECB application. It is our submission that there is a clear knock-out blow on the arguable case.”

Mr Justice Deeny said that were were “significant legal issues” involved in the case.

He added that he would adjourn the matter to allow for the exceptional circumstances hearing to take place. The two cases will return for mention in the High Court next month.

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