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Written Answers. - School Enrolments.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 51. Mr. R. Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  his plans to introduce a standardised enrolment policy for primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26592/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey Statutory rights to choice of school derive from the Education Act 1998, section 6 of which provides for a number of objects to which those concerned with the implementation of the Act must have regard. These include promoting the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice having regard to the rights of patrons and the effective and efficient use of resources. In addition, section 15 (2)(d) of the 1998 Act provides that a board of management of a primary school shall publish, in such manner as the board with the agreement of the patron considers appropriate, the policy of the school concerning admission to and participation in the school and ensure that as regards that policy principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents' choice are respected and such directions as may be made from time to time by the Minister, having regard to the characteristic spirit of the school and the constitutional rights of all persons concerned, are complied with.

At present, officials in my Department are working with officials in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government with a view to drawing up regulations under the Act governing the preparation of admissions policies. The purpose of the proposed regulations is to promote greater consistency, transparency and accountability in decision-making at school level and to further the objective, under the Education Act, of equal status to, and participation in, education. It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to very [1496]limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission or the terms or conditions of admission of a person as a student to the school.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student themselves, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases, appeals must be dealt with in 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management are considered necessary in order to remedy the matter complained of. In addition, in cases where parents experience difficulties in having their child admitted to the school system, my Department gives assistance in securing a suitable school placement through the involvement of its inspectorate in a consultative process with the school authorities.

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