Child with Special Educational Needs takes Education Minister to Court

01 July 2015

Worthingtons are currently representing a child with special educational needs, in their fight to have the Education Minister’s decision to close their primary school, overturned.

Avoniel Primary School in east Belfast is set to close on 31 August under the Minister’s current plans, but a judge is now set to decide, early next month, whether the child should be allowed to seek a judicial review of the Minister’s decision.

The Education Minister, John O'Dowd MLA, announced in May this year that he was approving the closure of Avoniel Primary and increasing admissions and enrolment at nearby Elmgrove Primary School. At the time, Mr O’Dowd said the proposals were the first phase in plans to reshape controlled primary provision in east Belfast.

But parents of pupils at Avoniel reacted with anger to the decision, claiming they have been left with little time to find a new school by September.

Now one child at the school with special educational needs is seeking a judicial review. It is contended in this legal case that the Minister's decision should be overturned because a prior consultation process carried out by the Belfast Education and Library Board was allegedly not properly nor fairly conducted. According to their case, the parents believe that when this exercise was carried out, back in 2014, the Board's proposals were already at an advanced stage.

An injunction is also being sought to prevent the Education Authority (who have taken over from the Education & Library Boards) from implementing the Minister's decision to close the school before the legal action is determined.

The case was mentioned in front of Mr Justice Treacy in the High Court yesterday. He will now determine whether the case should advance to a full hearing in four weeks time.

Our solicitor Brian Moss is representing the child taking the case, and he insists that the case has major significance within the east Belfast community. He said "Local political representatives had raised concerns about the closure of the school during the consultation which was carried out by the Belfast Education and Library Board. It is now for the Court to decide whether the applicant should be given the right to challenge the Minister's decision through a judicial review."

Please contact Brian Moss at our Belfast office, who specialises in educational law, should you require any advice on any similar legal matters.

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