Wednesday 13 December 2017

Public gets to have its say on 'baptism barrier'

Mr Bruton recently announced plans to limit or remove the role religion plays in the school admission process. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Bruton recently announced plans to limit or remove the role religion plays in the school admission process. Photo: Tom Burke
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Education Minister Richard Bruton has opened a four-week public consultation process on the so-called 'baptism barrier' to entry to church-controlled schools.

Mr Bruton recently announced plans to limit or remove the role religion plays in the school admission process, and put forward four possible approaches.

The consultation paper, published on the Department of Education website, highlighted the associated challenges with each option.

One suggestion is catchment areas, which would prohibit religious-run schools from giving preference to children of their own religion, who live outside the area, ahead of children of a different, or no, religion, living inside the catchment.

Read more: Analysis - Bruton is facing a baptism of parental ire over the Catholic school enrolment policies

The paper cautions that methods would be needed to ensure schools did not draw catchment areas artificially large and to avoid catchments for two schools of the same religion from overlapping.

The 'nearest school' option would allow a school to give preference only where it was the child's nearest school of that religion. This would require detailed calculations about distance, such as whether the front or back door of a child's home is the starting point.

A quota system would allow a school to give priority in respect of a certain proportion of places - careful design would be needed to avoid a situation where children of the school's religion, who lived quite a distance away, were given preference.

The fourth option is an outright prohibition on the use of religion as an admission criterion. This includes three sub-options, including asking parents or students to sign a declaration they would support the school's ethos.

The closing date for submissions, from groups that stand to be affected and members of the public, is February 20.

Irish Independent

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