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Sheriff turns down appeal on placing

Edinburgh has won an important legal challenge to the city's policy on oversubscribed schools as the Government seeks local authority views on the effects of the placing requests legislation. A sheriff has turned down the claim by a parent that her daughter should be allowed to attend the Royal High School although it has already reached its maximum first-year intake.

Sheriff Nigel Morrison told Helen Cameron, mother of 12-year-old Eilidh, that inconvenience in attending Craigmount High, in whose catchment area Eilidh lives, could not outweigh the cost and disruption to the Royal High if the girl was admitted. Eilidh was 21st on a waiting list.

Colin Dalrymple, Edinburgh's head of pupil support services, had told the court that extra accommodation at the Royal High to take more than the limit of 200 first-year pupils and not breach the restriction on class sizes for practical subjects would cost Pounds 450,000. The sheriff accepted that this constituted "significant" expenditure as defined in last year's Education (Scotland) Act and was sufficient reason for denying the placing request.

Mrs Cameron said that Eilidh, like her elder sister, had attended Cramond primary, an associated school of the Royal High, but whereas the older girl had been admitted to the secondary, Eilidh had not. Safety and transport problems prevented her easily attending Craigmount.

Sheriff Morrison said: "Getting to school is a parental responsibility. The pursuer (Mrs Cameron) and her family have chosen to live where they do. " Referring to the elder daughter's acceptance by the Royal High, he added: "The family is, unfortunately, a victim of its earlier success."

The inconvenience it now faced was not the council's fault.

Edinburgh's victory will highlight the problem recognised by the Education Minister of reconciling parental wishes and the shortage of places in popular schools. The city has particular difficulties in that schools with excess capacity are left undersubscribed.

The Government's review was sparked off by the well publicised case last month of two boys excluded from the first year at Downfield primary in Dundee on the grounds of excessive class size. The full hearing of an appeal by the city against a sheriff's finding for the boys' parents is awaited. Meanwhile Ian Muir has been admitted to Saints Peter and Paul primary, while Liam McKenzie, aged four, has gone back to nursery school.

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