Jessica (11) in her own plea for school place

Margaret Ogilvie. (DER3413PG33)
Margaret Ogilvie. (DER3413PG33)
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An 11 year-old girl refused a place at St Mary’s College is to stay at home until the school accepts her.

The parents of Jessica Ogilvie have said they won’t send their child to any school when the new academic year begins as she is “devastated” at not being accepted to St Mary’s while all of her friends have been.

“She is absolutely distraught,” Margaret told the ‘Journal’. Jessica has even written to the ‘Prime Minister of Northern Ireland’. The letter reads: “My name is Jessica and I am 11 years old. I am going to the big school in September, but the school closest to my home will not let me in. Could you help me please.”

St Mary’s College is less than 10 minutes walk from Jessica’s home. Mum Margaret Ogilvie said Jessica had “fallen through the cracks” because the school had “failed” to carry out the admissions process properly. The second of six criterion for the selection of children at St Mary’s College is whether a pupil is an ‘eldest child’. however the admissions form does not state that when there is a seven year gap between a pupil and an older sibling then they can be considered an eldest child.

“We honestly wrote ‘no’ on the form, we were not made aware of the seven year gap rule,” Margaret said.

When Jessica was first refused admission, the Ogilvies appealed the decision to the Schools Admissions Appeals Tribunal. However, the tribunal dismissed the appeal after the St Mary’s principal stated that she could be considered an eldest girl because of the age gap between her a her sibling. A statement from the Board of Governors of St Mary’s stated that Jessica was not considered at criterion 2 as her application form “did not indicate that she was the eldest girl” and that the information “only came to light at the Appeals Tribunal”. The statement added: “However had she been considered under criterion 2 she still could not have been offered a place due to the random selection tiebreaker.” With the dismissal of the appeal the school cannot now legally offer a place to Jessica unless directed to so by the Department of Education.