‘Elitist’ rules that let schools reserve places for children of past pupils should be abolished, according to Labour’s education spokesperson.
Despite new laws around school admissions, introduced in recent years, schools are still permitted to reserve 25% of their school places for past pupils.
The rule has been criticised by the Children’s Ombudsman and branded ‘elitist’ by the Labour Party.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the party’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he is “snowed under” with complaints from parents warning that they can’t find school places for September.
He called on the Government to remove the 25% rule so all children in an area have the same opportunity to attend the local school.
“In any given community, it shouldn’t matter where the parents are from,” he said.
“It shouldn’t matter what country they’re from, it shouldn’t matter what school they went to – everybody should be able to access the local school on the same basis.
“There’s no need for his provision.”
Private school lobby
The Dublin TD said the rule was left in the legislation following pressure from the “private school lobby”.
He said the law lets schools reserve places for the children and grandchildren of past pupils – and said it is “at its very basis, elitist”.
“It’s elitist because you get access to a school based on who your parents are and who your grandparents are – not based on who you are,” he said.
“What happens if your parents or your grandparents didn’t go to secondary school?” he said.
“In my case, none of my grandparents went to secondary school. I will be at a disadvantage if I try to access a local secondary school in that scenario.
“There is no need for this provision.”
Also on the show, the Principal of Alexandra College in Dublin, Barbara Ennis, said there is nothing elitist about the rule.
She said the majority of schools taking advantage of the rule are non-fee-paying.
“Now how can that be seen to be elitist?” she asked.
“At the moment, we’re going through a demographic bulge in that age group and every school in the country is going through the same thing.
“I think every school is entitled to continue on with the sense of community that has been built up over many years by reserving places for past pupils.”
She said the places that are reserved for past pupils are handed out based on a lottery system.
“They’re not handpicked and they’re not picking people who have more money or less money or whatever,” she said. “It’s a random lottery.
“To say it is elitist is to abuse the English language.”
What’s it all about?
The Education (Admissions to Schools) Act set down a range of new rules around waiting lists and school admissions.
The legislation prevents most schools from prioritising pupils based on their religion and bans long waiting lists and waiting list fees.
The legislation still lets schools reserve up to 25% of their school places for children and grandchildren of past pupils – a provision that has been criticised by the Children’s Ombudsman.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin is urging the Government to accept a Labour Party amendment that would ban the practice.
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