New law to remove discrimination in school admissions – Richmond

-   Senator Neale Richmond

Fine Gael Dublin Rathdown Senator, Neale Richmond, has welcomed the approval by Government of the new Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016, saying it will remove discrimination in school admissions.

“The new legislation explicitly bans discrimination in school admissions and will make it easier for parents to access local schools and to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs.

“The discrimination that currently exists in the area of school admissions is going to be a thing of the past. The law will mean that where a school is not oversubscribed it must accept all students applying. Over 80% of schools are not oversubscribed, so this will mean a big change across the school system. The new law also bans waiting lists, so children who move to a new area will no longer be discriminated against.

“The legislation also ensures that in a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, the National Council for Special Education or Tusla will designate a school place for the child.

“I was also pleased to see that there is currently no provision in the legislation to limit the access to schools for children and siblings of past pupils. The passing of the legislation through the Oireachtas will no doubt raise issues in this regard, but I will be working to ensure that the children and siblings of past pupils can maintain a reasonable level of guarantee of access to their school. I know the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton is aware of the need to strike the balance between catering for people who move to new areas, while also allowing schools to build the kind of continuity among families that serves to strengthen both the school itself and the local community.

“As well as these practical changes the new law is going to greatly increase transparency in the area of schools admissions generally. It requires all schools to publish their admissions policies, and also to detail the provisions for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction. It also requires all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to admissions policies.

“I would like to see this legislation taking effect as soon as possible, as parents have been waiting for change in this area for a long time. I am told that the Bill will be introduced to the Oireachtas this week, with view to enactment as soon as possible after that. I would like to see all sides of the Oireachtas coming on board with this legislation. I know that Minister Bruton has taken a consultative approach, writing to all opposition parties in relation to the Bill. The sooner the Bill goes through the Oireachtas, the sooner we can start to see changes in the way our schools admit pupils and the introduction of a fairer, more transparent system that caters to the needs of all students.” 

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