School 'baptism barrier' gone for 2019 entry
Parents won't have to worry about having a baptism certificate for a child entering a Catholic primary school from September 2019.
Radical changes to admission rules, approved by the Dáil this week, mean that schools will no longer be able to use religion as a criterion for prioritising entry.
It will affect hundreds of Catholic schools, mainly in Dublin and other large urban centres, where demand exceeds the number of places, and where a baptism certificate can decide who gets in.
The baptism barrier led to situations where a non-baptised child living close to a school lost out in favour of a baptised child some distance away.
For historic reasons, nine in 10 primary schools are under Catholic Church control.
But a decline in adherence to the faith, and an influx of migrants of many religions means that the primary sector is not reflecting modern needs.
"Finally, parents will be able to enjoy the right to freely choose and practise their own beliefs without the fear of being refused a school place as a result," said April Duff, chair of the Education Equality campaign group.
The removal of the "baptism barrier" is one of a number of reforms in the School Admissions Bill, which goes to the Seanad on June 13 and, following its passage there, Education Minister Richard Bruton will then pursue early implementation.
While some changes, such as a ban on waiting lists, are being phased in, the religious rule will take effect immediately.
Other changes include a cap of 25pc on the number of children of past pupils who can be guaranteed a place in an individual school, and a ban on deposits, except in fee-charging schools.