Sheriff hearings 'a farce'

22nd August 1997 at 01:00
Dundee case highlights conflict between choice and catchment areas

Parents' appeals to sheriffs are a "farce'' and should be abandoned, says Bill Coyle, a leading school planner and consultant who has been involved with 300 disputes between parents and education departments.

Mr Coyle, who is attached to East Renfrewshire Council, has called for the Scottish parliament to rewrite the placing request legislation and end the confusion for parents and councils over entry to primary and secondary schools. "We were landed with stupid legislation. I am in favour of choice but there is a limit. I feel sorry for parents," Mr Coyle said.

He favours the English system of set intake limits for primaries and secondaries based on space and number of rooms available, and wants a Scottish parliament to draw up guidelines. It would also have a role in monitoring how councils operate parental choice systems to ensure fair play.

Mr Coyle said the Dundee case this week highlighted the failings of the present system. Lawyers could cost Pounds 2,000 a day and court cases were generally a "pantomime".

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Maginnis, the local authorities' education spokeswoman, has backed Dundee's action in seeking a judicial review over catchment areas. "It will clarify the situation on parental choice and catchment areas for every education authority in Scotland," she said.

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