Saturday 21 January 2017

Bruton supports changes to school baptism bias 'in principle'

Published 29/06/2016 | 02:30

Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tom Burke
Education Minister Richard Bruton Photo: Tom Burke

Education Minister Richard Bruton says he agrees in principle with a Labour Party move to put limits on the extent to which religious-run schools can prioritise enrolment of children of their own faith.

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However, he wants to delay for a year the progress of proposed Labour legislation in this area in order to allow the Oireachtas Education Committee to explore all the issues involved.

A Labour Private Member's Bill, currently under discussion by the Dáil, is seeking to change the law to restrict priority entry to pupils of a particular faith to those living within the school's catchment area.

Current practices see Catholic schools enrolling baptised children from other parishes ahead of an unbaptised child living close to the school.

Mr Bruton told the Dáil yesterday that it was "unfair for schools to recruit co-religionists" while others living close by did not get an opportunity to enrol.

"We need to deal with the situation whereby some religious schools, when they are oversubscribed, admit children of their own religion from some distance away ahead of children of other religions or no religion who live close by. That is why we are supporting the principle of the Labour Party bill," the minister said.

But he added that he had serious reservations about "the manner in which the Labour Party bill proposed to deal with this issue, and believe that it has the potential to cause serious issues on a constitutional, legal and operational level".

Labour sources said they did not want the issue to be "kicked to touch" and would be seeking a vote on their bill in the Dáil tomorrow, to allow it to progress to the next stage in the legislative process.

Irish Independent

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