11 July, 2018 - Minister Bruton delivers new law making it easier for Children and Parents to access local school

Education (Admission to Schools) Bill passes final stage in the Oireachtas, will now be sent to President for signing

Broad ranging reforms include removal of religion as criteria in school admissions; fees relating to admissions and waiting lists banned

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., this evening (Wednesday, the 11th of July 2018) welcomed the passage of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 through both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill will now be sent to the President for signing and enactment.

This new law will deliver a number of broad ranging reforms, which will make it easier for a child to access their local school. The passage of this Bill fulfils a key action in the Minister’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

Among other things the new law will:

  • Remove the role of religion in school admissions for virtually all primary schools;
  • Ban waiting lists, thus ensuring parents who move to a new area, or parents who rent, are not disadvantaged;
  • Ban fees relating to admissions in non-fee charging schools;
  • Require all schools to publish their admissions policies, which will include details of their arrangements for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction;
  • Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to their admissions policies;
  • Ensure that where a  school is not oversubscribed (approximately 80% of schools) it must admit all students applying;
  • Provide for a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, and allow the National Council for Special Education or Tusla (Child and Family Agency) to designate a school place for the child;
  • Provide for the Minister to require a school to open a special class for children with special educational needs where the National Council of Special Education deems it necessary;
  • Provide for Irish medium schools to give priority to Irish speaking children;
  • An oversubscribed school, for the first time, will not be permitted to allocate more than  25% of their places to the children of past pupils (currently there is no such restriction in place so in theory a school could  allocate all of their places to the children of past pupils)

Minister Bruton said: “This new law is a significant public service reform which will make it easier for parents to access their local school and to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs.” 

“There are a number of reforms in the Bill, all aimed at increasing the transparency and fairness of school admissions. The vast majority of our schools accept and welcome every child into their school. This new law will make sure that this is the case in all schools and will eradicate any soft barriers which may have inadvertently acted as a deterrent for some children previously.”

“We are removing the role of religion in school admissions in virtually all primary schools. As I have said before, I believe that it is unfair that a local child of no religion is passed over in favour of a child of religion, living some distance away for access to their local school. Parents should not feel pressured to baptise their child, when they would not otherwise do so, to get access to their local school.

“We are banning waiting lists which discriminate against parents who newly move into an area, or parents who rent. We are also introducing a restriction for the first time on the proportion of places that an oversubscribed school can reserve for the the children of past pupils. Currently there is no such restriction in place so in theory a school could allocate all of their places to the children of past pupils.”

“These changes along with the other provisions in the Bill will make a very significant contribution to ensuring that all our children have improved access to schools and have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”