My Department does not define catchment areas for primary schools. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. In formulating an admissions policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters, including the admission or the terms or conditions of admission of a person as a student to the school.
Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student themselves, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. A committee is established to hear the appeal with hearings conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt with in 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.
In addition, in cases where parents experience difficulties in having their child admitted to the school system, my Department gives assistance in securing a suitable school placement through the involvement of the inspectorate in a consultative process with the school authorities.