Kildare TD Martin Heydon has welcomed the passage of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill will now be sent to the President for signing and enactment. This new law will deliver a number of broad ranging reforms that will address a number of concerns raised by some Kildare students and their parents, it will also make a child’s access to their local school fairer for all. The passage of this Bill fulfils a key action in the Minister for Education’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.
Among other things the new law will:
· Remove the role of religion in school admissions for virtually all primary schools; · Ban waiting lists, thus ensuring parents who move to a new area, or parents who rent, are not disadvantaged;
· Ban fees relating to admissions in non-fee charging schools;
· Require all schools to publish their admissions policies, which will include details of their arrangements for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction;
· Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to their admissions policies;
· Ensure that where a school is not oversubscribed (approximately 80% of schools) it must admit all students applying;
· 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 (Child and Family Agency) to designate a school place for the child;
· Provide for the Minister to require a school to open a special class for children with special educational needs where the National Council of Special Education deems it necessary;
· Provide for Irish medium schools to give priority to Irish speaking children;
· An oversubscribed school, for the first time, will not be permitted to allocate more than 25% of their places to the children of past pupils (currently there is no such restriction in place so in theory a school could allocate all of their places to the children of past pupils)
Deputy Heydon said: “I’ve dealt with many families who have gone through the stress of applying for over-subscribed schools. Those families who have more recently moved to Kildare to work, have been particularly affected by some school’s admission policies. With the passage of this Bill the practise of some schools having waiting lists and parents needing to pay for a number of years to keep their child on it, will no longer be allowed.
“Up to now some schools could decide not to take any students with special educational needs, it is important that schools do not discriminate and share in the educational reasonability of providing places to those who wish to avail of them.
“These changes along with the other provisions in the Bill will make a very significant contribution to ensuring that all of our children have improved access to schools and have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”