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Legal battle school 'could make pupil leave'

By Alan Erwin

Published 07/09/2016

An Asian boy who launched legal action to get into a Belfast grammar school could still be made to leave
An Asian boy who launched legal action to get into a Belfast grammar school could still be made to leave

An Asian boy who launched legal action to get into a Belfast grammar school could still be made to leave.

The 12-year-old, whose family was subjected to a racist attack, was permitted to enter first year when term started last week.

But it was confirmed in the High Court yesterday that the school is pressing ahead with a separate challenge to the decision that a place must be found for him. If it ultimately wins its case, a judge was told, the possibility of the boy having to leave remains an issue.

Anonymity orders imposed in the case prevent either the pupil or the school being identified.

The child, whose family have been granted political asylum in the UK, scored well below the minimum entry level when he sat the AQE transfer test last year.

However, his parents applied to the Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) in a bid to gain admission to the school. They cited psychiatric trauma he suffered following an earlier racist attack on the family.

No further details of the incident were disclosed in court.

The ECB considered the case twice and issued the same direction both times - that the boy should be admitted to the school.

Counsel for the family claimed that there was a consistent refusal to comply with legally binding decisions.

During an emergency hearing last month, the school's lawyers argued that it was not informed about the first ECB meeting called to discuss the case.

They stressed that the school's focus was on both the boy's welfare and the interests of the wider school community.

At that stage it was accepted there is currently a legal obligation to accept the child.

But although the boy was allowed to start classes last week, the move was taken without prejudice to the grammar school's own challenge.

Stephen Shaw QC said yesterday that proceedings have now been lodged against the ECB.

Pressed by the judge on the school's intentions if it ultimately succeeded, the barrister indicated the boy's departure was a potential issue still in play.

Mr Justice Maguire listed the case for a further review later this month in a bid to ensure no drawn-out court action.

He said: "It would be highly undesirable if matters were to go on for a lengthy period and if, at the end of it, the boy had to leave the school."

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