Family launch case after Asian boy refused place at Belfast grammar

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An Asian boy whose family was subjected to a racist attack has launched legal action over being refused a place at a Belfast grammar school.

Lawyers for the 12-year-old child claim binding directions were issued that he should be admitted due to exceptional circumstances.

A High Court judge was told today the school is now prepared to let him enter first year when term starts next week.

But it is to press ahead with a separate challenge to the decision that a place must be found for the pupil.

Anonymity orders imposed in the case prevent either the boy 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.

Mr Justice Treacy was told the ECB has considered the case twice and issued the same direction both times that the body should be admitted to the school.

Barrister Damien Halleron, representing the family, said: “They were told that if they don’t have a place for this child then get a place for him.”

He contended there has been a consistent refusal to comply with legally binding decisions.

With the new term looming, the court heard the boy’s family have already bought him a uniform for the school he wants to attend.

Mr Halleron argued that the child faced being sent to a secondary school anywhere in Belfast and the possibility of being uprooted again later if his challenge is ultimately successful.

It was accepted in court that the grammar school is currently under a legal obligation to accept the boy.

However, it is also preparing to issue judicial review proceedings against the ECB’s decision.

Stephen Shaw QC, for the school, said: “At the heart of this there’s a little boy who needs to be taken care of, but we are driven by concern not only for his welfare but (also) the interests of the wider school community.”

He told the court his client was not informed about the first ECB meeting to discuss the case last month.

But after being pressed on whether the school intended to defy or comply with the direction, Mr Shaw confirmed the boy will be allowed to start at the school.

He stressed the move was being taken without prejudice to its own challenge.

Mr Justice Treacy was also told the principal has invited the boy’s parents to meet as soon as possible in a bid to discuss his pastoral care arrangements.

He granted leave for the child to continue with his legal action and adjourned the case until next month.