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Sibling ruling quashed

Anat Arkin reports on two judgments with implications for admissions policies

THE High Court last month backed an education authority's decision to admit local children to a school ahead of the siblings of existing pupils.

Last autumn an appeal panel overturned as "unreasonable" Hounslow council's decision not to admit three five-year-olds to the popular Grove Park school in Chiswick, west London. The boys' older brothers and sisters already went there.

But a High Court judge found nothing unreasonable in Hounslow's admissions criteria, and quashed the panel's decision.

Mr Justice Maurice Kay said that appeal panels should consider the lawfulness of the criteria only if there were obvious illegalities. Otherwise, they should allow a High Court judicial review to clarify the issues.

According to Jack Rabinowicz, chair of the Education Law Association, the judge was merely re-stating existing law that admissions policies need not give priority to siblings. However, the creation of catchment areas, which can end up excluding siblings, may be an attack on the 1990 Greenwich ruling that local authorities' policies must not discriminate against children living outside the boundaries.

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