A FAMILY have been left devastated and distraught after their youngest son was refused a place at the local school his brother attends.
The parents of four-year-old Amar Khaliq desperately wanted him to join seven-year-old brother Aadham at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Primary School, in Hartlepool, in September.
But despite Amar attending Sacred Heart’s nursery for the past 18 months and the family living close by, he has been turned down by the over-subscribed school.
Instead, he has been offered a place at a school almost two miles away.
Parents Hamid, 38, and Asiya, 32, say it will be impossible for them to take and collect both children to school on time.
Dad Hamid believes the school’s admission policy discriminates against non-Catholics.
But the school strongly denied claims of discrimination and said it rigorously followed its admissions policy.
Hamid said: “The criteria for admissions is disgusting. Because he is not Catholic he has been refused a place in this school. I know they are not breaking the law but they are discriminating based on religion.”
Mr Khaliq said the refusal is distressing for the children.
He added: “Despite my child having a sibling at the school, despite living a few hundred yards away in the catchment area and despite attending the nursery for the past 18 months he has been refused a place.
“On my son’s last day at nursery he asked me ‘why can’t I go to Sacred Heart with my brother,’ and ‘why do I have to leave my friends behind?’
“My eldest son is also upset at why his little brother can’t join him in the school.”
The family were told Amar had not been given a place because the school had 129 applications for just 60 places and other children were given higher priority under its admissions criteria.
Mr and Mrs Khaliq took their case to the independent Schools Admission Appeal Panel at Hartlepool Civic Centre but lost.
Amar has been offered a place at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School in Musgrave Street, Hartlepool, which is 1.7 miles away from the family home on Hart Lane.
Mr Khaliq, a self-employed landlord, added: “It is not possible for both of us to be available all of the time and my wife doesn’t drive.
“It is going to be a massive problem.”
The family have complained to the Local Government Ombudsman which will examine whether the appeal was carried out properly and a fresh appeal could be held if the original hearing was found to be flawed.
Jeff Cook, acting headteacher of Sacred Heart Primary School, said: “We totally refute any suggestion of discrimination and in doing so would point to the fact that Mr Khaliq’s older child is already a pupil at the school.
“Unfortunately, the school was very heavily oversubscribed for this coming year, with 129 applications for 60 places.
“In allocating those places, the school rigorously followed its admissions policy which it drew up in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle and which fully complies with national legislation.
“Where places are oversubscribed, faith schools are entitled under national law to give higher priority to applications from children who are members of, or who practice, the faith of that particular school.
“The school has done everything it can to help Mr Khaliq and to explain the situation to him.
“His son is currently third on the waiting list for a place at the school should places become available.”