Waiting lists and admission fees banned from schools, under new Bill

The Admissions Bill will be introduced to the Oireachtas this week

Waiting lists and admission fees banned from schools, under new Bill

File photo of children at school raising their hands to answer a question | Image: Dave Thompson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Schools will no longer be allowed to have waiting lists or fees relating to admissions, under a new Bill published today.

The Minister for Education and Skills said that the Government has approved the 'Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016', which will be introduced to the Oireachtas this week.

Among other things the new law will also ensure that, where a school is not oversubscribed, it must admit all students applying. This rule will apply to 80% of schools.

The new law will place a ban on admission fees and prohibit waiting lists, in an effort to end discrimination against parents who move to an area.

It will also require schools to consult and inform parents when changes are being made to the policies, and will allow the National Council for Special Education or Tusla to designate a school place for a child who cannot find a place.

The controversial clause on religious schools being allowed discriminate in favour of their ethos remains and is being examined separately, by the Oireachtas Education Committee.

Last week, Minister Bruton said any change to the Equal Status Act would be extremely difficult as it’s a complex area legally, constitutionally, and in other ways.

The Education Minister also said that schools will continue to have their usual admissions policies, but the Bill will require them to publish these - including details of the provisions for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction.

“This legislation will increase the transparency and fairness of school admissions," he said.

"It makes clear that every school must be welcoming of every young person –regardless of their colour, their abilities or disabilities and it will help to end the soft barriers that some of our schools erect in the way of children with special needs.”

The Government believes the new bill will go a long way in making school admissions fairer, and make it easier for parents to access local schools.