Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has today launched a discussion document on the issue of how schools select pupils. “The purpose of this discussion paper is to inform consideration by the education partners and other interested parties, of the range of issues and options to be considered in creating a new regulatory framework for application to recognised schools, both in terms of the content of schools’ enrolment policies and the processes operated by schools when enrolling children. “
After the consultative process, the Minister proposes to bring forward legislation to ensure that school enrolment arrangements "support access through inclusive, transparent and fair enrolment policies and practices”
While enrolment policies has been under review by the Department of Education for some years the publication of this discussion paper represents the first concrete initiative towards reform.
The Ministers’ initiative comes after a recent Equality Tribunal ruling that a Traveller boy, John Stokes (13), suffered indirect discrimination when he failed to get a place in the Christian Brothers High School, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, last year. The school is appealing the ruling in the Circuit Court. A few years back there was also a lot of upset in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, when migrant families failed to find places for their children in local schools.
At present schools are free to draw up their own admissions policies, so long as they are compatible with the law, i.e. they cannot discriminate on grounds such as race, sexual orientation, gender or family status. Schools can also protect their ethos, so denominational schools are legally entitled to give priority to children of a particular faith. However, over the years there has been growing concern about practices which appear to exclude certain groups of children such as waiting lists and giving priority to siblings of existing or former pupils.
Any views or comments on the options for the regulation of school enrolment outlined in the Ministers discussion paper should be forwarded to the Department on or before 28th October 2011