Thursday 14 December 2017

One in four school spots can be kept for 'old boys'

Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Education Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Schools will be able to reserve one in four places for children of past pupils under the latest admission rules to be proposed by Education Minister Richard Bruton.

The minister will today bring forward a series of amendments to the long-awaited Schools Admissions Bill which is due to make it easier for parents to find a school place.

Among the proposals are:

* The phasing out of waiting lists over five years.

* A ban on fees relating to admissions.

* A ban on preference for children who attend specific pre-schools.

* And a ban on mandatory attendance at interviews or open days.

The previous Fine Gael/Labour Party coalition had planned to limit the places for the so-called 'old boys club' to 10pc during Jan O'Sullivan's tenure as education minister.

However, she faced serious resistance from some private schools and from within the ranks of Fine Gael who believed this was too small. Mr Bruton will today outline why he believes 25pc is fairer. This is the same as the figure originally proposed by Ruairí Quinn during his time as minister.

The new legislation is designed to ensure any denominational school which is not oversubscribed - or 80pc of all schools - must admit all students who apply. It will also state a student or parent's academic ability, skills or aptitude cannot be factored into the admissions process, excluding admission to special schools/classes.

Mr Burton will tell an Oireachtas committee the Bill will increase the transparency of the admission process by requiring schools to publish an annual admission notice before accepting applications for admission.

The admissions notice will clearly set out the key dates for the admissions process and the number of places to be offered in the intake year. Sources said the plan to end waiting lists is being phased in so as to ensure children currently on lists will not be affected. Changes are also included to help address the situation where parents make applications to multiple schools.

It is proposed to provide that when a parent accepts an offer of admission at a school they must indicate if they have accepted an offer for another school or are awaiting the outcome of the admission process at other schools.

Irish Independent

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