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Family cry foul over prodigy ruled too young for school

He can count up to 50 in Spanish, has started learning Chinese and tells the time using the 24 hour clock, but little Daryll McBride is deemed too young to get an automatic place at school – by just 20 days.

The four-year-old is widely recognised as clever enough to go to primary a year early, but because he is officially not old enough he is not a priority case.

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South Lanarkshire Council had hoped to find Daryll a space at Castlefield Primary, in East Kilbride, which is five minutes walk from his home, and his family had even bought him the school uniform. However, this week, officials informed his mother Kirsty that the primary is now full with children who are of school age.

That leaves the McBride family with an agonising decision of either sending Daryll, who turned four on March 20, to another school in East Kilbride, or waiting another year, when he would be guaranteed a place at Castlefield but would be academically well in advance of his peers.

To make matters worse, Mrs McBride cannot appeal the decision through the courts because legal action is only available to children of school age.

It throws open the debate about what age is considered appropriate to send a child to school.

Previous studies have been inconclusive, with some suggesting four is appropriate, depending on the maturity and intelligence of the child. However, others suggest children who are held back a year will not be disadvantaged.

“It is very distressing because we believe Daryll is being discriminated against because he is so clever,” said Mrs McBride, 24, who works part-time as a care assistant.

“Daryll has always been very advanced for his age. His favourite toy when he was one year old was a calculator and he could read letters and numbers from car registration plates at the age of two.

“He is now a fluent reader, knows his numbers up to thousands and is developing language skills and we feel it is vital he goes to school now.

“Another year in nursery would be very detrimental to him and he would be completely bored if he had to go to school in a year’s time.”

Cameron Fyfe, a partner with Glasgow-based Ross Harper solicitors, took up the case to see if there were grounds for an appeal.

However, while he believes Daryll has been discriminated against, there is nothing that can be done through the courts under education legislation.

“It seems to me the current law discriminates against Daryll. In effect, he has been deprived of an appeal hearing because of his high intelligence,” said Mr Fyfe.

“This would be a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, which allows every individual a fair hearing.

“At the moment, Daryll is not entitled to any hearing, let alone a fair one, but, unfortunately, an application to the courts under human rights legislation would not be in Daryll’s interests because it would take too long.”

A spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire said she hoped a solution could be found.

She added: “Following a request from the parents of Daryll McBride for him to start school early, he sat and passed an early entry exam for primary school. However, every year priority for entry to school is given to children of school age from within the catchment area.

“This year, the P1 class at Castlefield is full following pupil registration of those from within the catchment area in January and placing request applications.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able accommodate the request made by Daryll’s parents for him to start school early as there are no places available.”

However, she said the family had been advised they could still make a request for their son to go to another school – an option currently being considered.

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