A rise in appeals by parents facing "a cloud of uncertainty" over the school transfer process after tests were cancelled is now inevitable, a leading family lawyer has said.
Following the cancellation of AQE and GL school assessments earlier this month, lawyer Louise McNally has said some parents are already seeking legal guidance.
"The decision taken by the NI Executive on 5th January 2021 cancelling both the GL and AQE assessments was a disappointing and frustrating announcement for many children and parents," said Louise McNally of Belfast law firm Millar McCall Wylie.
"With many questions still unanswered, parents are currently facing a cloud of uncertainty and many are understandably seeking legal guidance as to what their options are if their child does not secure a post primary school place at their preferred school," she said.
"As it stands, it is not clear how children will be allocated their post primary school place or what specific criteria will be used as part of this process by each school. What is certain however is that a significant number of schools will be oversubscribed and, as a consequence, the admission criteria will be absolutely crucial."
Ms McNally said parents are already seeking advice.
"Understandably, parents are finding this pivotal time in their child's education particularly stressful. We are seeing requests for legal advice in relation to what can be done if a child does not secure a place at their preferred school and this leads us to believe a significant number of appeals are inevitable.
"In such a scenario, parents have the right to appeal a decision to an Independent Tribunal set up by the Education Authority (EA). Grounds for appeal are based upon the post primary school not applying its admission criteria or not applying it correctly.
"This exceptional year will undoubtedly impact the school career of many children and whilst we hope every family is able to come to a satisfactory situation for their child's education, at this stage we fully appreciate the level of concern they are experiencing and would advise parents to familiarise themselves with the criteria of their preferred school extremely carefully," Ms McNally said.