The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, has announced that Government has approved the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016. The Bill will be introduced to the Oireachtas this week with view to enactment as soon as possible after that. The Programme for Government targets enactment of this legislation before September 2017.
Minister Bruton has written to all opposition parties seeking to consult on this legislation, and hopes that all parties can work constructively on this legislation with a view to having these important measures in place as early as possible.
Among other things the new law will:
- Ensure that where a school is not oversubscribed (80% of schools) it must admit all students applying
- Ban waiting lists, thus ending the discrimination against parents who move in to a new area
- Ban fees relating to admissions
- Require all schools to publish their admissions policies, which will include details of the provisions for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction
- Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to admissions policies
- Explicitly ban discrimination in school admissions (excluding religion)
- Provide for a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, and allow the National Council for Special Education or Tusla to designate a school place for the child
Minister Bruton said: “The basic aim of this Government is to use our economic success to build a fair and compassionate society. Few areas are more important to this vision than education.This legislation is a significant public service reform designed to make it easier for parents to more easily access local schools and to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs.”
“This legislation will increase the transparency and fairness of school admissions. It makes clear that every school must be welcoming of every young person –regardless of their colour, their abilities or disabilities. It will help to end the soft barriers that some of our schools erect in the way of children with special needs.”
“The vast majority of our schools work to welcome every child in their communities; to give them the care and attention that their young minds demand and to support the integration of all children, whatever their differences. But I know that some schools are oversubscribed. They cannot be blamed for that. But they must be fair and transparent in deciding how to prioritise children for admission to the school. This Bill will make sure that is the case in all schools.”
The Minister concluded by saying “Overall, I consider that the changes now being brought forward will make a very significant contribution to ensuring that all our children have improved access to schools and have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”