Education news

Two girls who missed out on places at Co Fermanagh grammar school lose High Court challenge

A judge at the High Court rejected the claims

TWO girls who missed out on places at a Co Fermanagh grammar school after transfer tests were cancelled due to Covid-19 have lost a High Court challenge to its admission policy.

A judge rejected claims that criteria used by Mount Lourdes in Enniskillen which involved taking dates of birth into account was irrational.

Despite identifying no unlawfulness, Mr Justice Scoffield recognised both girls were likely to have secured places if the normal admissions process had been in operation.

He said: "Sadly, (they) are some of the many young victims of circumstance of the pandemic".

Judicial review proceedings were brought against the school's board of governors following their failure to gain entry for the 2021/22 academic year.

With transfer tests stopped at the time, parents applied on behalf of their children as part of an amended admissions criteria.

A total of 126 applicants were made for 96 places at the school with priority given to those with another girl of the family currently enrolled, and then those first in their family to transfer to secondary education.

A further criterion involved admitting eldest pupils first to remaining places in the oversubscribed school as part of an age-based tie-breaker.

One of the girls in the legal action was described as topping the class at primary school, while the other was heard to have been capable of achieving high standards in her future academic career.

Lawyers for their parents argued that the school's admissions criteria were illegal, irrational and discriminatory.

But Mr Justice Scoffield held that it had properly engaged with Department of Education guidance and acted validly in highly unusual circumstances

where academically selective schools were deprived of normal transfer test procedures.

Claims that the age-based criterion unlawfully discriminated against the girls were also dismissed.

Citing delays in taking the case, he confirmed that leave to seek a judicial review was being refused.

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