Q&A: What new school admissions proposals could mean

One issue that may concern parents about proposals to govern school admissions by law is that waiting lists could no longer be used to determine who gets into a school. Some of the details involved are set out here.

What is the rationale for the proposal?

Education Minister Richard Bruton says, as did Ruairi Quinn when he first proposed the measure, that it will end discrimination.

This relates to situations where parents moving into a new area could see their children left out, if some names have been registered with a school since birth or from a very young age.

So what is wrong with that plan?

Many parents will feel that there was greater peace of mind knowing they had a better chance of getting their child into a preferred school if their names were down on a list. Instead, the allocation of places would not now be decided until the autumn or spring before children start primary or second-level school. Schools could also be worried about challenges from parents who already have a child’s name down on a school waiting list.

Wouldn’t those children whose names are already on a list lose any benefit as a result of the new law?

Yes, some would. But the bill is likely to include an amendment to be proposed by Mr Bruton, setting out a short period for which existing waiting lists can continue. However, this is only likely to be for entry to schools up to a maximum of four or five years from enactment of the bill.

This would mean those who are further out from beginning — particularly those with names down for second-level schools — could lose any guarantee of admission their parents might have expected.

Isn’t this a small issue, if only one in five schools are over-subscribed?

The proportion of schools affected may be small, but it can be a big issue for families in those communities where there is competition for entry to schools.

If places of children of past pupils are being restricted, does this mean children with a brother or sister already in a school will not be able to guarantee a place?

No. Schools will still be allowed to have admissions rules that give priority to the siblings of existing pupils if criteria have to be used to decide who gets a place.

What does the planned law say about children who are unable to get a school place?

Children who are refused enrolment can be designated a school by the National Council for Special Education if it relates to a special educational need or by the child and family agency Tusla, subject to appeal by a school board.

What about the ability of parents to appeal if a child is turned down by a school?

The law will make it illegal to refuse entry to any child if, like 80% of schools, there are enough places for everyone who applies.

But planned changes to the system that allows parents appeal a refusal to enrol will not be detailed by the minister until during the bill’s discussion in the Dáil and Seanad.

A previous plan to give responsibility for admissions to a principal, open to appeal to the school board, was strongly opposed by representatives of parents and schools and is no longer being considered.

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