Minister's refusal to allow child attend special summer school scheme prompts court challenge

Generic and unrelated image of boy walking to school

A High Court challenge has been brought against the refusal of the Minister for Education to allow a young child with "complex educational needs" to attend school during the summer holidays.

The action has been taken on behalf of a six-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who has Down Syndrome along with other educational and social needs.

The child has been attending a mainstream school.

His family, in order to ensure that he does not regress over the long summer holidays, tried to enrol him in a special scheme operated by the Minister for Education known as the July Provision Scheme.

The Minister provides funding for children that are accepted into this scheme for tuition during the month of July, which is delivered either at their homes or at certain recognised schools.

The boy's family applied for his inclusion in the 2018 July Provision Scheme.

That application was refused on the grounds that the boy did not have the specific diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder or a severe or profound general learning disability.

According to the scheme's guidelines, only children with those diagnoses are eligible for inclusion in the scheme.

Arising out of that refusal the family brought a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Equal Status Act, claiming that the boy was unlawfully discriminated against.

The hearing of that matter, following an unsuccessful mediation, remains pending before the WRC and is unlikely to go ahead before this year's school holidays.

The family made an application in respect of the 2019 July Provision scheme, and despite the support of parties including the boy's teachers, were again told the boy did not qualify for inclusion.

The family now claim that the decision not to include him the in 2019 scheme is irrational, unreasonable and is in breach of the boy's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

They also claim the refusal, given the boy's needs and their fears that he may regress and come September have to relearn skills he had been taught in the previous academic year, is contrary to the 1998 Education Act.

The family seeks an order quashing the Minister's decision of May 13 last declining to enrol the child into the July Provision Scheme.

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan on Monday.

The judge noting the urgency in the matter adjourned the action for a week.

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