Irish language schools targeted over restrictive entrance rules
ANY Gaelscoil that refuses entry to prospective students if they do not speak Irish at home will have to change its approach under new enrolment rules.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has expressed concern about restrictive practices at some all-Irish schools, which are prohibiting some pupils from entry.
His comments came in the wake of his announcement of a major overhaul in school admissions policies generally, in order to make them fairer and more transparent.
The shake-up will include a prohibition on Irish-medium schools insisting that pupils come from an Irish-speaking family, both at primary and second-level.
Yesterday, Mr Quinn said he was "concerned that in some cases, Gaelcholaiste have indicated to some applicant parents that unless the language at home is 'as Gaeilge' that they would not be inclined to accept a pupil for a place in a Gaelcholaiste".
Mr Quinn said the proposed new enrolment measures for the country's schools "will apply to all schools that are in receipt of taxpayers' money".
"We now have a large Gaelscoileanna movement across the country. We are building up a network of Gaelcholaiste to enable parents who want to continue their (children's) education right through the second-level stream.
"I would be concerned with restrictive practices for entrance into those schools just as I would be for entrances into other schools," he said.
Currently, there are about 100 Gaelcholaiste in the country.
Mr Quinn will bring proposals to Cabinet soon outlining plans for legislation to tighten up school enrolment policies.
The changes will have little or no impact on the 80pc of schools that accommodate all applicants, but will affect the other 20pc that use selective criteria.
A range of different selection methods allow schools to control admissions, and means others may end up taking more than their fair share of pupils of lesser academic ability or with a special educational need.
Mr Quinn's plans include proposals to end the 'first come, first served' policies used by many schools, which discriminate against people who move into a new area.
There will be a ban on booking deposits, which range from €50 to €200, charged by some schools. These are usually non-refundable if the child is not offered or does not take up a place.
The new rules will also curtail the practice of giving priority to children of past pupils and of using compulsory open day and interviews to screen students, and their parents.
But schools under church control will continue to be able to protect their religious ethos by giving preference to children of that faith.
The changes could mean that schools will have to rely on a lottery system to allocate places where demand exceeds the number of available places.
Sean Cottrell, director of the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN), welcomed the proposals which, he said, would make the enrolment process transparent and less stressful for parents.
"Minister Quinn's reforms will go a long way towards levelling the playing field for all. But they must involve creating uniform enrolment criteria."
Teachers in conference: pages 18-20
Quinn's not the villain