School bring action over Department of Education ruling

A primary school has challenged a direction of the Department of Education that it must enrol a child with speech and language problems despite there not being a place for him.

The school told the High Court it had just three places available in a special class for such children and had to whittle its intake for the current academic year down to three from 17 applications it had received.

Feichin McDonagh SC, counsel for the school board of management, told Ms Justice Eileen Creedon that the mother of one of the children turned away had appealed the school’s refusal. He said her appeal had gone before a three-person committee established by the department, which had been successful. The committee had made a recommendation that the child be enrolled.

Mr McDonagh told the court that the mother’s main complaint centred on the lack of places for children with speech and language needs. He said the school adopts a policy of professionally assessing the needs of the individual applicants before deciding who gets a place in the class.

The court heard the committee had taken issue with the school’s method of assessment which was something those representing the school at the appeal had not expected they would have to deal with and did not have the necessary documents with them to do so.

“The committee said the school must enrol the student despite the fact there is no place for him,” said Mr McDonagh.

Judge Creedon granted the board of management permission to bring its action and ordered that neither the school nor the child and his family be identified in the media.

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