Court ruling against school ‘is landmark’

A “landmark” court ruling against a Co Down grammar school could lead to other grammars amending their admissions criteria, an education expert has said.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 7:38 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 7:49 am
Abbey Christian Brothers, Newry

Dr William H Kitchen was commenting after the High Court in Belfast yesterday found that the selection process used by Abbey Christian Brothers in Newry indirectly discriminated against children with origins outside Northern Ireland.

Reaching a verdict that could now clear the way for a son of migrant workers to secure enrolment in the school, Mr Justice Scoffield held that a condition giving priority to those with a father who attended the school was unlawful.

“Even assuming that the maintenance of family links is part of the preservation of the school’s ethos, which is a pressing need for the school, the discriminatory effect of [the] criterion on racial grounds is not justified in pursuit of that end,” the judge said.

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Academic and author Dr Kitchen said: “My feeling on this is that it is a landmark case”.

He added: “In short, it tells us that selecting a child by familial connection is a criterion which ought to be considered potentially discriminatory for any number of reasons; and this case provides legal precedent for that.

“As such, selection by connection should be avoided.”