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School managers tell Quinn to drop new pupil enrolment laws

SECONDARY school managers say there is no need for a law to back up proposed changes in enrolment policies.

They are unhappy with some of the proposed changes and insist that they do not need to be supported by legislation.

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing management in over half of second-level schools, is responding to moves by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who will bring draft legislation on the issue to Cabinet within weeks.

Mr Quinn will set out a range of practices that schools will not be able to engage in when enrolling pupils.

One proposal to which the JMB is opposed is Mr Quinn's intention to curb the practice in many schools of giving preference to the children of past pupils.

Advantage

While the new rules are expected to allow schools give priority to brothers or sisters of an existing pupil, siblings of past pupils will not enjoy the same advantage.

A ban on booking deposits, curtailment of compulsory open days and interviews of children and parents and an end to the use of first-come, first-served as a basis for admissions, are also envisaged.

Mr Quinn, who says the overhaul is designed to introduce more fairness and transparency, says he needs the backing of legislation so the changes can be enforced.

The legislation would allow the minister to impose sanctions in the event of a breach.

About 80pc of schools can accommodate all applications, but the changes are designed for the 20pc of schools that are oversubscribed.

Addressing Mr Quinn at his association's annual conference yesterday, JMB president Fr Paul Connell said those 20pc attempted to enrol pupils in as fair, equitable and inclusive a manner as possible.

He said that included a commitment to the "family unit", a reference to the practice of giving priority to applicants with family links to the school.

Fr Connell said legislation was unnecessary, and where there was perceived inequity or difficulty it was open to the Department of Education to approach a school directly.

Irish Independent