Education (Admission to Schools) Bill Explanation
There has been lots of talk about the changes to the Admission to Schools Bill that will affect entry to primary and post primary schools nationwide. We’ve broken down the jargon, to (hopefully) explain clearly what it all means.
So let’s start at the beginning;
What is it?
2011 – A discussion paper on school enrolment was launched and this was discussed at a public consultation.
2013 – After this consultation a Draft General Scheme for an Education (Admission to Schools) Bill along with two other drafts were published.
2014 – These were referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education & Social Protection and the public, parents and education stakeholders were given the chance to provide feedback on them. After this feedback was gathered, a report was completed and was published on the 5th of March 2014. A few issues were raised but on the 25th of March 2014, the Government gave approval for drafting Education (Admission to Schools) Bill.
2015 – The bill was published on the 8th of April 2015 BUT the bill was not passed through the House of the Oireachtas before Dáil Éireann was dissolved on the 3rd of February
2016 to allow for the election of a new government in the General Election which took place in 2016.
So what does this mean?
The draft bill has been discussed and debated recently as many people (including us in the ISSU) feel that it is needed but that it still doesn’t provide for all of the changes to the law that many people believe are necessary. It doesn’t prevent students being discriminated against on the basis of their religion or non-religion. Many people and organisations have been campaigning and asking for further changes to be made to the bill.
However, this week the bill was approved by the government BUT without including a provision to remove the ‘baptism barrier’ which prevents students that have not been baptised from gaining entry to certain schools. The legislation is expected to be drafted by next week and the amendments that will be brought forward to change the law on school admissions include the following:
- Denominational schools (schools that have a faith ethos/that follow a certain religion) which are not oversubscribed (still have places), must admit all students who apply regardless of their religion;
- The government will ensure that a child with special needs is given the opportunity to attend a designated school by the National Council for Special Education or Tusla
- All schools will be required to publish their admission policies, including details on how they will provide for children who decline to take part in religious education;
- Waiting lists will be banned. This means that children can only apply for a place in a school one year before admission;
- School admission fees will be banned;
- Discrimination in school admissions will be banned BUT schools of a faith ethos (96% of primary schools) will still be allowed to give preference to students which practice that faith.
The above are welcomed changes, however it is disappointing that discrimination on the basis of religion has not been properly addressed. As we mentioned in our Equal Access to Education post (http://issu.ie/2016/07/equalaccess/), we believe that all children and young people, regardless of their religious beliefs, should have the choice and option to attend their local school. While there are more multi-denominational and non-denominational second-level schools than non-faith ethos schools, such multi-denominational and non-denominational schools are not located in every area in the country so will not always be a student’s local school. This forces second-level students to travel to a school further away if the local school gives preference to students that practice a religion and so does not grant other students a place on the basis of religion even if the non-religion practicing students had applied for a place first. This will still be allowed to happen under the new legislation as schools will still be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion.
There is a need for Government to ensure that action is taken to ensure that the legislation is amended to outlaw this religious discrimination in schools. This change would ensure that we have schools which respect the values of inclusivity and equality and that these values would be promoted among young people through experiencing different cultures in school and having the chance to make friends from different religious and cultural backgrounds. This would be a really positive change for Irish society!
Please note: blog posts reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union. Blogs are updated daily by 6.30 pm on scheduled examination dates.
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