Northern Ireland news

Lithuanian boy given new hope in legal battle to secure grammar school place

The Court of Appeal ruled that it should extend time to examine claims of indirect discrimination on grounds of the boy's national origin

A LITHUANIAN boy has been given new hope in his legal battle to secure a place at a Co Down grammar school.

The 11-year-old's challenge to the admission criteria at Abbey Christian Brothers in Newry was previously dismissed due to the delay in issuing proceedings.

But the Court of Appeal ruled that it should extend time to examine claims of indirect discrimination on grounds of the boy's national origin.

Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan said: "There is a potentially meritorious claim for judicial review which should not be barred by virtue of the time issue."

The boy at the centre of the case applied for entry into Year 8 at Abbey.

With the school oversubscribed and academic selection cancelled due to the pandemic, he missed out on a place in its September 2021 intake.

Lawyers representing the boy challenged an admissions policy said to advantage prospective pupils who have a family connection to the school.

The main focus was on criteria giving preference to those whose father or guardian attended.

Defending the claim, the school's board of governors contended that Department of Education guidance was properly considered and taken into account.

Allegations of any direct or indirect discrimination were denied.

Raising issues around delay, counsel for the board suggested that allowing the case to proceed could cause mayhem for schools using similar admissions criteria.

In September a High Court judge held that the boy was out of time to mount a challenge.

He identified no reasonable excuse for mounting the application more than three months after the list of criteria was published in February this year.

However, the Court of Appeal has now determined that the case against the governors should advance to a full hearing after the Halloween break.

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