Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Department of Education and Skills
238. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the education (admissions to schools) Bill; the provision the Bill will make to ensure that all children have appropriate access to State-funded schools; his views on the practice whereby some schools ask for the baptismal certificates of pupils before enrolment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2399/14]
The Deputy will be aware that last September, I published a draft General Scheme for an Education (Admission to Schools) Bill, 2013 as well as draft regulations for discussion ahead of enacting legislation. These are available on my Department's website. The aim of these proposals is to ensure that the way schools decide on applications for enrolment is structured, fair and transparent.
Existing equality legislation, which outlaws discrimination in relation to the admission of a student, makes provision for exemptions to apply in the case of single sex schools and in the case of schools where the objective is to provide education in an environment that promotes certain religious values. The legislation provides that any school that has this objective may admit a student of a particular religious denomination in preference to other students. Such a school can also refuse to admit a student who is not of that religion, provided it can prove that this refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school. The draft General Scheme does not propose changes to the existing equality legislation.
I have referred the draft General Scheme and draft regulations to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, to allow a full public discussion of the proposed legislative framework, including inputs from parents and the education partners. The draft General Scheme and draft regulations are currently under consideration by the Joint Committee. When it has completed its consideration, I will reflect carefully on the Committee's report before progressing to the next stage of legislation.