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Sunday 21 September 2014

TDs demand level playing field in school enrolment

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30

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THE children of past pupils should not be given priority in schools' enrolment policies, a Dail committee has recommended.

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An end to the first-come-first-served school waiting lists is also called for in order to prevent discrimination against newcomers to an area.

Schools should be allowed to give priority to a pupil who has a brother or sister already attending the school, but not to the children of teachers in the school or past pupils.

And the committee says that multiple patronage and ethos as a basis for policy can lead to "segregation and inequality in the education system".

It says: "The objectives of admission policy should be equality and integration."

The recommendations are contained in a report compiled by the Oireachtas education committee on forthcoming schools admissions legislation.

The committee wants an independent and transparent appeals process where children are rejected for enrolment in a school, which it says could be provided for on a regional basis.

The members of the committee also express concern at the proposals for a derogation for children of past pupils and school staff members.

The report also recommends:

* Where a school is designated to enrol a student with special educational needs, resources should be provided by the Department of Education within a statutory timetable.

* The protection of the integrity of Irish language schools, while also ensuring that no discrimination takes place in relation to admissions.

* Schools be allowed to exercise a high priority in their enrolment policies to the small percentage of schoolchildren who are native speakers of Irish outside of the Gaeltacht.

* Every school's admission policies should be written in a simple style so that they are understandable to all parents.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is drafting new laws on enrolment policies and asked the Oireachtas Education Committee for its views.

The committee chairperson, Joanna Tuffy, said that admission to school must adapt to meet a more diverse and changing society.

Irish Independent

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