The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has today released its findings in respect of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2015. Its purpose is to assess legislation and advise government in the implications of the legislation on human rights and equality.
The IHREC recommended that the Equal Status Act be amended to prevent a child being refused a place in a school on the basis of their religious orientation.
Additionally it proposed two changes to Section 62 (6) of the Education Act. The first being a recommendation that a school must provide the State curriculum in “an objective, critical and pluralistic manner that avoids indoctrination, outside of the specific context of religious instruction and faith formation classes where exemptions apply”.
The second change would be that the Admissions policy of the school would have an inclusive nature and would accommodate diversity across all nine grounds contained within equality legislation.
The Commission also recommends that the derogation applied for the pupils whose parents attended the school be removed and be limited to situations where pupils of siblings who are currently attending the school are given preference.
The introduction of new powers to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, was welcomed by the IHREC, which allows them to assign a school to a pupil who has failed to find a school place. The IHREC recommended this should be accompanied by the ability for a parent to appeal the school chosen for their child.
The IHREC outlined the view that the current proportion of non-religious and non-Catholic children in the migrant population of Ireland, would lead to significant disadvantage amongst this cohort in accessing school places under the current religious exemption clause of the Equality Act.