Successful NI free pre-school places announced

25 April 2013

Brian Moss of Worthingtons Solicitors Belfast advises on options open to parents of children who have not been allocated the pre-school places of their choosing.

It has been reported in the news recently that some fortunate parents have been informed that their sons and daughters have been granted free pre-school places in nurseries by their local Educational and Library Boards. However, there are many disappointed parents, and it is understood that competition for free places is most acute in East Belfast.

Like any other school admission decision, one of the key concerns of parents is that their child will be able to attend the nursery school of the parents’ choosing. A number of things will influence parents’ choice: the school’s closeness to home, where other children in the family go to school, and the school’s reputation, to name but a few.

Children whose parents are out work will be prioritised for the free places, ahead of those parents who are in work. This will undoubtedly cause some parents to feel aggrieved by a decision of their Education and Library Board not to offer their child a free place at the parents’ nursery of choice.

For disappointed parents, there may be a right of appeal to the local Board’s independent appeal tribunal, against a decision not to offer a free place to their child at a particular nursery. Thereafter - and if there is no right of appeal -  it would seem that the only recourse a disappointed parent would have to try and challenge a decision of this nature, would be to the Courts, by seeking a judicial review.

Judicial review can only be sought on certain legal grounds, as it is different to an appeal, and it must be sought urgently. If you are affected by a decision of this nature and wish to explore the possibility of challenging it (by appeal or through the Courts), you should seek legal advice urgently.

Brian Moss of Worthingtons Solicitors is experienced in dealing with matters of educational law. He can offer brief initial advice free of charge and legal aid may be available in appropriate cases.

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