Asian boy at Belfast grammar school is at ‘bottom of the year’

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A Belfast grammar school who admitted an Asian pupil “under protest” is questioning whether it’s in his best interests to remain, the High Court heard today.

Despite scoring well below the minimum entry level in a transfer test, the 12-year-old boy was given a place based on circumstances linked to a racist attack on his family.

But the school is now taking legal action against the body that directed it must take the child.

A judge was told today that the pupil’s academic performance has put him at the bottom of the year.

Stephen Shaw QC, for the school, contended: “Ultimately it’s not in the boy’s best interests that he should continue in that environment, where he’s not just at the end of the line but so very far behind the rest of the pack.”

Anonymity orders imposed in the case prevent any of the parties being identified.

The boy, whose family have been granted political asylum in the UK, failed to gain the required score when he sat the AQE transfer test last year.

However, his parents applied to the Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) in an attempt 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.

Following emergency court action taken by the family in August the school agreed to let him enter first year.

But it made clear that consent was given “under protest” and without prejudice to its own challenge to the ECB.

As that bid for a judicial review got underway today the judge, Mr Justice Colton, asked if the school was seeking an order for the boy to be removed.

Although Mr Shaw stopped short of confirming it wanted such an outcome, he set out how the pupil’s ability to cope with academic demands has raised “persistent concerns” since his arrival.

He continued: “Beyond that concern there’s the live issue of the welfare of this boy, where he is going forward and whether he should remain there.”

The court heard the child continues to suffer from psychological distress.

A panel who assessed his case concluded that it was essential for him to retain a close network of close friends who also attend the school.

But Mr Shaw pointed out that his client knew nothing about the first ECB hearing in July.

He also claimed the principal was wrongly “kept in the dark” about the so-called network of friends during the second tribunal in August.

The hearing continues.