The Education (Admissions to Schools ) Bill 2016 was published on 8th July and is designed to make provision that a school (recognised in accordance with section 10 of the Education Act 1998) must prepare and publish an admission policy which must include a statement that the school shall not discriminate in its admission of a student to the school on specified grounds.
The aim of the Bill is to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications for admission is structured, fair and transparent.
The admission policy of a school should include a statement that the school shall not discriminate in its admission of a student to the school on the following grounds: gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, Traveller community ground or the ground that the student or the applicant in respect of the student concerned has special educational needs.
The mandatory requirements for a school’s admission policy, include, inter alia:
(a) setting out the characteristic spirit of the school;
(b) including an admission statement (above)
(c) providing details of the school’s arrangements for students who do not wish to attend religious instruction;
(d) providing that the school shall enrol each student seeking admission other than in the following circumstances: (a) where the number of students seeking admission is greater than the number of places being made available by the school, (b) where the parents fail to accept the Code of Behaviour of the school or, (c) in accordance with the existing exemptions in the Equal Status Act for schools of one gender and schools where the objective is to provide education in an environment that promotes certain religious values;
(e) setting out the selection criteria to be applied where the number of students seeking admission to a school is greater than the number of places being made available by the school and the manner and sequence in which selection criteria will be applied;
(f) providing details of procedures for appealing a decision to refuse admission;
(g) setting out the procedures for admission of students after the commencement of the school year and to classes or years other than the school’s intake group;
(h) including a statement that no fees or contributions can be requested as part of the admissions process, subject to subsection 63 (which provides for exceptions in the case of fees charged by schools known as fee charging schools, the boarding element of boarding schools and for post leaving certificate courses insofar as those fees relate to the cost of providing such courses)
In essence the existing provisions in Equality legislation in relation to admission to single sex schools and denominational schools are also provided for. These enable single sex schools to refuse admission to students who are not of the gender of the school. Schools whose objective is to provide education in an environment that promotes certain religious values, can admit a student of a particular religious denomination in preference to other students or such a school can refuse to admit a student who is not of that denomination, provided it can prove that such a refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.
The Bill also prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for an application for admission to a school or for the enrolment or continued enrolment of a student in a school. Exceptions are provided in the case of fees charged by schools known as fee charging schools, fees charged by boarding schools for the boarding element and fees charged by schools for post leaving certificate courses insofar as those fees relate to the cost of providing such courses.
The Bill also provides that in certain circumstances the patron or Minister can issue a direction to a board of management of the school in relation to the admission of students to a school and to provide that in certain circumstances the patron may appoint an independent person to comply with such direction. It also provides that in certain circumstances the National Council for Special Education or the Child and Family Agency may designate a school or centre for education which a child is to attend, and for those and other purposes to amend the Education Act 1998 , the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, and to provide for related matters.