School forced to enrol pupils goes to High Court

A NATIONAL school has brought a High Court challenge to a decision by a Department of Educationappointed body to force it to enrol two pupils although the school claims it does not have room for them.

St Molaga’s NS, Bremore, Balbriggan, Dublin, claims the decision by a committee which hears appeals against enrolment refusals, was irrational and wrong in law.

The school’s board of management was yesterday given leave by Mr Justice Michael Peart to seek a judicial review of the Appeals Committee’s decision, which arose out of an attempt by the parents of the two sibling children to enrol them earlier this year.

The committee was set up under Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act which gives parents the right to appeal a refusal by a school to enrol children.

The case is being taken against the secretary general of the Department of Education and Science Brigid McManus, and the members of the Section 29 Appeals Committee — Kevin Meehan, Maura Ni Mhairtin and Paddy Hogan.

The parents of the two children involved are notice parties in the case.

The Appeals Committee decided on April 28 that the school had the capacity to accommodate the children, the High Court was told.

However, Caitriona O’Reilly, chairperson of St Molaga’s board of management says the 16-teacher school already had to refuse enrolment to 40 pupils in September last.

The school caters for third to sixth class pupils and has doubled in the last ten years, said Ms O’Reilly.

It already has 12 prefabricated classrooms in an attempt to cater for increasing enrolment and has taken a decision not to acquire any more prefabs but has said it is willing to expand to a 24-classroom school if permanent accommodation is provided, she says.

However no progress has been made on this, said Ms O’Reilly.

Ms O’Reilly said the board of management was “at a loss to understand” the basis of the Appeals Committee finding and says the decision is inexplicable.

Feichin McDonagh SC, for the school, said there was a danger that unless the matter is clarified by the court that it would “create chaos in future years”.

The school wants a declaration that the Appeals Committee’s decision is of no legal effect, and it was in breach of justice and/or rationality in holding that it has capacity to accommodate the children.


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