The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 is 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 Bill is part of a suite of measures that will respond to the expectations of citizens for a more progressive education service. Other measures include:
- The Parents and Students Charter which will for the first time set out the principles to guide how schools engage with students and their parents
- Fitness to Teach – for the first time, any person, including a member of the public, an employer or a teacher will be able to make a complaint to the Teaching Council about a registered teacher. Complaints will be possible under a number of headings, including professional misconduct or poor professional performance
- This bill 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.
Publication of this Bill reflects a commitment contained in the Programme for Government to publish new School Admissions legislation taking account of current draft proposals and addressing issues including publication of school enrolment policies, an end to waiting lists, introduction of annual enrolment structures, and transparency and fairness in admissions for pupils and their parents.
The Bill aims to provide an over-arching framework for greater transparency and consistency in school enrolment generally and to thereby give greater confidence to parents that the admission criteria laid down by schools and the procedures used by them are legitimate, reasonable and fair.
· A key objective of the Bill and its associated regulations is to improve access to schools for all pupils.
· The Bill will allow the NCSE and the Child and Family Agency to designate a place for a child in a school. However it is important to be clear that the Bill does not enable the Child and Family Agency or the NCSE to increase a school’s capacity. A school must have places available for a designation to be made.
· This Bill will enshrine in law a ban on schools charging parents to apply for a place in school.
· The Bill, while including provision for single sex schools and denominational schools to reflect in their admission policy the exemptions applicable to such schools under equality legislation, makes clear that every school must be welcoming of every child – regardless of their colour, their abilities or disabilities, or indeed their sexual orientation or membership of the Traveller community.
· The Bill also requires schools to publish an admission policy which will include details of the school’s arrangements for students who do not want to attend religious instruction.
· I know that many parents are happy with the schools their children attend and that the vast majority of schools are inclusive and welcoming places. But there are cases where there is disappointment and dissatisfaction, with limited means of dealing with this.
· In schools where there are more applicants than places available, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the admission policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.
· In this regard, the Bill will prevent schools from prioritising applicants on the basis of waiting lists – a mechanism that often blocks people who move to a community from being able to access the schools in that community.
· In relation to a school providing priority in admissions to children of past pupils, the approach taken in the draft regulations, which were published in September 2013, aimed to strike a balance by limiting the number of places that could be allocated to children of past pupils to a maximum of 25%.
· The previous Oireachtas Committee’s report on the draft General Scheme considered that a school should not be permitted to give any priority to children of past pupils.
· At present, this Bill is silent in relation to a limitation on the power of a school to determine a priority for children of past pupils.
· The Minister has already had discussions with opposition parties and Oireachtas colleagues on this matter and considers that in bringing the Bill through the Oireachtas, there will be further opportunities for members to raise and debate this matter, which he plans to deal with in primary legislation by way of a Committee Stage amendment.
Further information can be found here http://bit.ly/2fNn0C2