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Boards implement their own enrolment policies

The Department of Education cannot compel a school to admit a pupil – unless a successful appeal has been mounted.

A spokeswoman said: "The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which may be in a position to assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child."

She added that it is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy.

A board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a "particular area or a particular age group or on the basis of some other criterion". The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances "are a matter for the schools themselves".

Schools with a religious ethos can give priority to children of their faith. It is a controversial issue, with parents who have not had their children baptised taking to parenting websites to vent their frustration that it places additional pressure on them.

Equality legislation, which outlaws discrimination in relation to the admission of a student, makes provision for exemptions to apply in the case of single-sex schools and in the case of schools "where the objective is to provide education in an environment that promotes certain religious values".