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Cameron Fyfe
"My instructions ae to get this boy a place in the school"
 real 28k

John Oates of the Catholic Education Commission
"Our position is that Catholic schools are essentially for Catholic pupils"
 real 28k

Martha Fairlie reports
"The family are claiming Nathan is being discriminated against because he is not a Catholic"
 real 56k

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Parents in Catholic school fight
playground
The boy's parents plan to challenge the decision
The parents of a 12-year-old boy who allege he was refused a place at a Catholic school on the grounds of his religion plan to challenge the decision under human rights legislation.

Nathan Mackay, who is a non-Catholic, was denied a place at St Margaret's Academy in Livingston, West Lothian, and is currently on a waiting list.

His parents believe their son was discriminated against purely because he is not a Catholic.

Cameron Fyfe, the Glasgow-based solicitor representing the family, said he would be seeking judicial review in Nathan's name of the decision by West Lothian Council.

Cameron Fyfe
Cameron Fyfe: Believes there could be wide implications
Mr Fyfe will argue that the legislation on which the council has based its rules for offering places to both denominational and non-denominational schools is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Nathan's father Iain said it is the best school in the area and close to home - alternative schools would involve a long journey.

Mr Fyfe told BBC Radio Scotland: "If we win it would mean that the Scottish Executive and various councils could not discriminate in favour of any religion, not just Catholic, and every child must be accepted on merit and not what he was baptised as.

"It would have a fundamental effect on the education system."

'Strong evidence'

He said there was evidence Nathan had been clearly discriminated against on the grounds of faith.

He said: "At the interview the parents were specifically asked was Nathan a baptised Catholic.

"They take the view they would not have been asked that if it had not been relevant.

"Other children were accepted after Nathan was refused and these other children were baptised Catholics.

"There is strong evidence to show that Nathan was discriminated against because he was non-denomination.

School playground
Plans to seek a judicial review of the decision
"I wrote to the council several months ago, and they said they were considering a placement request but that was several months ago and nothing has happened.

"The family have now instructed me to apply for legal aid to raise an action in the Court of Session.

"That action would be to declare that the current legislation, which prefers Roman Catholic children in these circumstances, is incompatible with European convention and must fall."

The Catholic Education Commission said preference should be given to Catholic pupils.

Commision field officer John Oates said: "My understanding is the school is oversubscribed.

"Our position is Catholic schools are essentially for Catholic pupils. We are talking about the rights of Catholic parents. This is why Catholic schools exist."

West Lothian education authority confirmed a placement request from the family had been refused, a decision which had been upheld at appeal.

A spokesman said the school had been greatly oversubscribed and it had been necessary to admit children against strict criteria, which included their religion because of the school's denominational status.

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See also:

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