Blow for school admissions challenge

3rd October 2008 at 01:00

A legal bid by a single mother in one of the more deprived areas of Glasgow to overturn the admissions policy of Jordanhill School has been stopped in its tracks. But it has prompted calls from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council for a review of the placing request system.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board has terminated its funding to Roisin McMahon, represented by Iain Nisbet of the Govan Law Centre, because it does not believe her case was strong enough. Mr Nisbet told The TESS he hoped to challenge the decision, either through its internal review process or by judicial review.

But the challenge by the 25-year-old parent from Govan to what she saw as a "closed shop" admissions policy operated by one of the top-performing state schools has come to a halt.

Jordanhill, the only non-specialist state school in Scotland directly funded by the Government, designates a list of addresses in the west end of Glasgow from which children are eligible for entry. New-build developments and conversions are frequently excluded from List 1 of designated addresses, no matter how close to the school they are.

Children who live in the immediate area but not at a designated address are put on a second waiting list and prioritised if they have a sibling already in the school. There is a third waiting list for children who live outwith the local area.

When Ms McMahon, who lives three miles away, applied for a place for her son Shae, she was told he was 166th on the list. Only 66 children are admitted each year into P1.

Her petition to the Court of Session argued Jordanhill's admissions policy ran counter to the legislation which allows parents elsewhere in Scotland to use placing requests to get their children into primary and secondary schools outwith their designated catchment area.

The school's entry procedures were discriminatory, stated her petition, because they did not provide any system of permitting children from disadvantaged areas to obtain a place: "If the school wanted to benefit the local area, it would apply a catchment area, not an exclusive system of known addresses."

Paul Thomson, the headteacher, said: "Jordanhill is the local community comprehensive school. Like all state schools, we give priority to local children. Thereafter, places are open to any child who wishes to apply and the school regularly admits children from outwith its geographical area.

"The school is not large enough to accommodate all primary-age children locally and in some years there are not even enough places for all secondary children. We therefore must have a set of criteria to allocate places - the applications criteria are fair and transparent."

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