Department to inspect pregnancy ban school

The Department of Education is about to conduct a second inspection at a Tipperary secondary school which refused to enrol a teenager because she was pregnant.

The founder, owner and manager of St Joseph’s College in Borrisoleigh had told Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan’s investigation the school “is NOT a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers”, when she began investigating the young woman’s complaint.

She was twice refused enrolment at the school, once after it learned she was pregnant and again after the birth of her child. On both occasions, the girl said she was first given indications she was going to be accepted.

Ms Logan told the Irish Examiner that, up to last week, the girl had not received the written apology her report last December recommended the school should make for the negative impact on her. Ms Logan had also recommended the school immediately review its enrolment and admissions policy, ensuring it complies with equity principles required under law.

The school could not be contacted yesterday, despite several phone calls and email requests for comment.

In a 2008 evaluation report on St Joseph’s College, Department of Education inspectors suggested the enrolment policy be reviewed and more detailed information be given to parents on criteria for admission. It was also suggested the school consider forming an advisory group representing parents, staff and other interests to assist in the running of the school.

The department said yesterday that, following correspondence from Ms Logan, it initiated an inspection of the school, which is ongoing.

“The first part of the inspection involved an unannounced, incidental inspection visit on Feb 22, 2012. A second inspection will be completed during May 2012,” a spokesperson said.

It is understood the report will be published on the department website, and will focus on:

* Whether the school has a written enrolment policy;

* The availability of any such policy to parents of prospective students;

* What procedures are available to parents with complaints about enrolment.

The report is expected to be completed by the end of June and will be given to the school and relevant stakeholders.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will bring proposals to Government later this year on a new regulatory framework for school enrolment. He confirmed last night that he will introduce legislation next year to put that framework on a statutory basis. The department published a discussion paper last year with suggestions on making school admissions more open, equitable and consistent.

Ms Logan’s report, completed last December and now published on her website, said the investigation raised serious concerns about a lack of transparency in how the school handles complaints. It said the absence of a board of management precludes a meaningful appeals mechanism if a family is unhappy with the manager’s decision.


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