Teachers' Conference: VIDEO -  Bill on school places unveiled

Fee-paying schools have been lobbying the Government to allow them keep places for the children of past pupils, according to Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan.

Teachers' Conference: VIDEO -  Bill on school places unveiled

Under the new Admission to Schools Bill, a draft of which was published yesterday, only 10% of places can be reserved for children of former students.

“I’ve received letters. I haven’t actually met with them,” said the minister.

“We will have a process in the future but at this stage we just want to bring the legislation forward, have it debated, have it agreed, and then we’ll move on to the regulations.”

While discussions about the bill will now determine what amendments need to be made, Ms O’Sullivan remains adamant schools should not be allowed hold any more than 10% of places for the children of past pupils.

“Different people have different views on it, and I suppose that’s the whole purpose really of issuing draft regulations and then having debate.”

“The Education Committee expressed a view that we shouldn’t have any percentage for the children of past pupils. Others say we should have at least 25%. So we have to find some space in the middle,” she said. “It is certainly my view that a much lower exemption, of perhaps 10% of all school places, is as high as such a threshold should be set.”

Speaking at the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) annual congress in Ennis, the minister said schools that are oversubscribed “cannot be blamed for that”, but should be expected to be fair and transparent in deciding how to prioritise admissions.

“This bill will make sure that is the case in all schools into the future,” she said.

“Every school must be welcoming of every child regardless of their colour, their abilities or disabilities, or indeed their sexual orientation or membership of the Traveller community.”

The bill is expected to be in place by the start of next year, with all primary and secondary schools obliged to comply with the new rules.

Schools will be banned from charging parents to apply for places, except at private or boarding schools, while waiting lists, which are seen to discriminate against immigrants and parents who have relocated, will be phased out.

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