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Pupil's legal bid over padlocked classrooms row

By Anna Maguire

A teenager is taking an education board to court after it barred access to classrooms at her school.

The pupil claims Belfast Education and Library Board's (BELB) decision infringes her human rights and an application for a judicial review could be heard this morning.

Yesterday, KRW Law issued a letter to the BELB, giving it 24 hours to respond.

The law firm, formerly known as Kevin Winters Solicitors, is representing a fourth-year pupil at Hazelwood Integrated College, the north Belfast school entangled in a dispute with the BELB.

It prompted fury among teachers and pupils this week when it padlocked shut a sprawling, £150,000 set of new mobile classrooms on land it owns, citing outstanding health and safety issues, which it claims must be signed off on before issues over the lease of the land can be resolved.

But Paul Pierce, a partner at KRW Law, claimed the education board has yet to provide a reasonable explanation for its decision.

In a letter issued to the BELB, the firm said it was its contention that the decision to bar access to the classrooms is unlawful.

The firm claims the BELB is in breach of its obligations under the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights.

"We will argue that includes the right to access educational facilities," Mr Pierce said, adding: "From what we have seen, this is a new building and everything seems to be in place."

A spokesman for BELB said it could not comment as the case involves an individual child.

UUP MLA Danny Kinahan, vice-chairman of the Assembly's education committee, claimed a basic failure of administration was responsible for the deepening row.

"This is an issue to which there is an obvious solution and they need to get the remaining documents drawn up now," he said.

STORY SO FAR

Nearly 200 Hazelwood pupils were sent home early on Tuesday after returning to find their classes padlocked shut on their first day back after the summer holidays. They are currently being taught in makeshift classrooms in the school's corridors and principal's office.

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