15 January, 2020 – Minister for Education and Skills commences sections of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act, 2018 in respect of school admission

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D has today (Wednesday 15th January 2020) announced new rules are coming into effect at the start of February in relation to admission to schools.

The Minister has signed a Commencement Order in respect of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act.

The new laws around admission to schools will ensure greater transparency, equity and consistency in school enrolment generally and they will come into operation in time for admission processes for the 2021/2022 school year.

From February 2020 every recognised school will be required to draft a new school admission policy in accordance with the act’s requirements following consultation with the patron, the staff of the school and parents of current pupils.

The Minister said: “These key changes also include the introduction of certain procedures and timelines for school admission processes which will give parents greater confidence that school admission processes are transparent and fair. 

“Schools will be required by law to accept all applicants where they have places and if there are more applicants than places available, selection criteria will be required.” 

The Commencement Order provides for the new laws to come into effect in respect of applications made for admission to schools for the 2021/2022 school year onwards. 

Commencing the relevant sections of the act now will provide schools with time to start putting in place their arrangements for the new framework. 

The Minister said: “This means that, from 1 February 2020, boards of management will have three months to prepare a draft admission policy having first consulted with the patron, parents of students attending the school and staff of the school.”

Newly revised school admission polices under the commenced provisions of the act will include the following:

  • That the school admit all applicants, where the school has places available and is not oversubscribed.
  • Set out the manner and sequence in which selection criteria will be applied in the case of oversubscription.
  • Set out requirements for schools to make offers and for applicants to accept offers and arrangements where offers may be withdrawn.
  • Place a ban on waiting lists, apart from waiting lists maintained for the school year concerned. There is a provision that will allow for a five-year period for current waiting lists to expire, allowing schools to honour commitments they have already made to parents.
  • Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to their admissions policies.
  • Prohibit interviews, consideration of a student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude, consideration of a parent’s occupation, financial status, academic ability, skills or aptitude, apart from in the case of the stated exceptions, as a consideration for the offer of a place.
  • Provide details of the school’s arrangements in respect of students, where the parent, or the student if they are 18 or over, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious instruction. 

New arrangements introducing an Annual Admission Notice will contain important information for parents regarding the application process, including key dates and the number of places available, which will ensure a consistent and transparent approach to school admission processes.   

Note to Editors 

Background Information

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, was signed into law by the President on 18 July 2018. A number of sections of the act were commenced in 2018.

Sections Commenced in 2018

Section 11 prohibits schools from using religion as a selection criterion in school admissions and includes protections for applicants of a minority faith.

Section 9 (new section 64) School Fees prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for an application for admission to or for continued enrolment in a school.

Section 9 (new section 66) Co-operation of boards allows for sharing of information between schools and provides the Minister with the power to require schools to co-operate in relation to admissions.

Section 8 Special Classes provides the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of a school, to compel a school to open a special class. 

Section Commenced on 14 January 2020

Section 65 – Regulations

Section 65, which contains the enabling provision for regulations, will commence immediately in order to have the regulations containing the necessary procedures and timelines in place before 1 February. 

Key Sections Commencing on 1 February 2020

Section 61 Admission Statement

This provision requires schools to include an Admission Statement in their Admissions Policy advising that the school will not discriminate on any of the grounds set out in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. 

Section 62 Admission Policy

Section 62 requires that, from 1February 2020, boards of management have three months to revise their admission policies in line with the commenced provisions of the act. 

Prior to preparing the draft policy, school boards of management must consult with the patron, staff and parents of current students. This is a one-off process and is not required on an ongoing basis except where a school decides to revise the policy at some future date. 

Newly revised school admission polices under the commenced provisions of the act will include the following:

  • That the school admit all applicants, where the school has places available and is not oversubscribed.
  • Set out the manner and sequence in which selection criteria will be applied in the case of oversubscription.
  • Set out requirements for schools to make offers and for applicants to accept offers and arrangements where offers may be withdrawn.
  • Place a ban on waiting lists, apart from waiting lists maintained for the school year concerned. There is a provision that will allow for a five year period for current waiting lists to expire allowing schools to honour commitments they have already made to parents.
  • Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to their admissions policies.
  • Prohibit interviews, consideration of a student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude, consideration of a parent’s occupation, financial status, academic ability, skills or aptitude, apart from in the case of the stated exceptions, as a consideration for the offer of a place.
  • Provide details of the school’s arrangements in respect of students, where the parent, or the student if they are 18 or over, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious instruction. 

Section 63 – Annual Admission Notice 

This section provides for the publication of an admission notice each year so that key information about the annual admission process is available to parents and saves schools having to change their admission policy on an annual basis.  Schools will be required to publish their Annual Admission Notice at least one week before receiving applications for admission for the school year concerned. 

Section 10 (a) – Amendment of Education Welfare Act 2000

This section provides that schools must now publish their code of behaviour. 

Commencement of Sections of the Act relating to appeals

Section 7 will replace Section 29 in the 1998 Education Act in relation to appeals processes to align the legislation with actual practice and procedures as they have developed over the years, and to increase the efficiency of the processes involved. This section is designed to operate in conjunction with the new admission framework and will be commenced when the new framework is operational. 

New timelines and procedures

From 1 February 2020 boards of management will have three months to consult with the patron, parents of students attending the school and staff of the school and prepare a draft admission policy.  

Once the draft admission policy is prepared it is forwarded to the patron for approval. The regulations provide that the patron has a period of over 4 months to approve the draft policy of the school. Once the policy is approved by the patron it must be returned to the board and published after 1 September 2020 and prior to the commencement of their admission process. 

Schools can decide when to run their admission process as long as they do not begin accepting applications for admissions for the school year concerned before 1 October in the previous year. The advantage of having a clear starting date is that parents will know with certainty that schools will not start accepting applications before this key date, but that once this date arrives, they must then be alert to the possibility of the school(s) in which they are interested commencing their admission process.  

Starting Date for Admission Processes

The Department will be providing a Q & A document that will assist with any queries in relation to the new admissions process and will contain some useful templates for schools. 

The Education (Admission to Schools) Act, 2018 is available on the Oireachtas website at the following link: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2018/act/14/enacted/en/html