Government to amend plan to end school waiting lists

The Education Minister says he will consider "an appropriate time period" before abolishing waiting lists

Government to amend plan to end school waiting lists

File photo, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, 29-05-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Updated 20:30

The Minister for Education has said he will consider an “appropriate time period” to implement his plan to phase out school waiting lists following outcry from parents.

The plan is part of Education Minister Richard Bruton’s new Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 bill, which aims to end discrimination in school admissions procedures.

The phasing out of waiting lists is one of the signature elements of the bill – however parents at certain fee-paying schools have voiced concerns, as many have had their children’s places booked for up to ten years.

The Department of Education originally planned to implement the legislation from this September – phasing out waiting lists within three to five years.

However, schools and parents have called for a longer lead-in time to allow children to hold on to places they have already booked – especially in circumstances where deposits have already been paid.

Transitional measures

This afternoon, a spokesperson for the minister confirmed the bill will end waiting lists but said “transitional measures” will be put in place in the interim.

He told Newstalk that the Minister is “considering an appropriate time period to phase in this measure” and will amend the bill before it passes into law.

He said the use of waiting lists “can give rise to discrimination, in particular in relation to people who have newly moved into an area, and people who are renting.”

“The admissions bill is about making it easier for parents to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs,” he said. 

Admissions to Schools Bill

Under the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 children will be required to apply for a school place in the year before their enrolment.

Where a school is not oversubscribed it will be required to admit all students that apply.

Admission fees will be banned and schools will only be allowed to set aside a maximum of 25% of school places for children of past pupils.

Schools will be required to publish an admission policy – including a pledge not to discriminate against the admission of a student on the basis of “specified grounds” including:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Racism against the Traveller community
  • Special needs

The admissions policy will need to include details of the arrangements that have been put in place to provide for any student who do not wish to attend religious instruction. 

Schools will be required to consult with and inform parents of any changes to the admissions policy.

The department spokesperson said that 80% of Irish schools are not currently oversubscribed.