EDUCATION bosses have won a court battle to stop three first year pupils from going to St Columba's High School in Gourock.

Inverclyde Council spent thousands of pounds on a QC to take on the families who launched an appeal when their placing requests were refused.

Following a two day hearing, a sheriff accepted the local authority's argument that the school is full.

The three families - whose children went to St Ninian's, an associated primary of the secondary school - say the children have been left 'devastated' at being separated from their friends and older siblings.

Independent councillor Lynne Quinn is now calling for education bosses to address the serious concerns raised by the case over the future school's capacity.

One of the parents, speaking for the families, said: "We have been treated appallingly by the council.

"Our kids are devastated.

"All we wanted was for our children to go to high school with their friendship group and their older siblings.

"It has been the most stressful five months of our lives."

Before the summer break a number of families who'd sent their children to St Ninian's Primary in Gourock were told that their placing requests to St Columba's had been rejected.

The families appealed the decision, which was made by officials based on the school having to employ additional teachers and change the accommodation.

When the appeal panel ruled in favour of the council, the families began pursing legal means.

In the end three families took the case to the sheriff court this week for a two day hearing.

The mum added: "We don't regret it.

"We had to fight an injustice for our children.

"I know that people will say we shouldn't have taken it as far, that we were digging our heels in but at the end of the day the sheriff rejected the council's original two arguments.

"We went to court based on those points which we had appealed against.

"The council only won when they introduced their third point, which was that the school was full.

"The sheriff basically said he couldn't argue with that.

"But the council only made this point on the first day of the hearing."

The three pupils are now set to go to Clydeview Academy together.

The parent spokeswoman added: "Clydeview was really the only alternative open to us for a number of reasons.

"Previously the council have said that we did have a choice, to send them to Notre Dame.

"But Notre Dame has never been an option for any of us.

"We need to draw a line under it now.

"Clydeview Academy is a fantastic school and I know they will make our three children so welcome.

"We would like to thank the whole of the St Ninian's community as we have had so many messages of support.

"This has affected everyone."

The parents are calling on the council to take action to stop a repeat in the future.

One parent said: "I would now ask the council to act decently with other parents from St Ninian's Primary and let them know that their children will not get into St Columba's High with a placing request.

"This would allow parents to make alternative arrangements earlier, something which we were denied.

"We did not know there was a problem until it was too late - there had never been any issues with placing requests before this.

"Now that St Columba's High is full the council now have to look at what they are going to do with those in the catchment area.

The latest school roll figures show that next year there will be a total of 163 pupils eligible to start at St Columba's, while the intake is capped at 120.

Councillor Quinn, who lives in Gourock, told the Telegraph said: "Serious questions need to be asked about the policy for school catchment areas.

"This problem with St Columba's High has been coming for three years.

"We can't have cases being dragged through the courts like this.

A council spokesman said: “When it comes to placing requests we will always try to accommodate the wishes of parents and we manage to do so on almost every occasion.

"Where we aren’t able to accommodate their wishes we have, like every council in the country, procedures to manage the situation and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

"This is done through our Policy for Admission & Pupil Placement.

"Our number one priority is always the education of our young people.

"No matter what school children attend in Inverclyde our commitment is clear that we will aim to offer our young people the best start in life and the very best education we can.

"We will continue to monitor the situation at St Columba’s High School.”