I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's decision to select this important matter. The serious concerns about the grossly unfair treatment of a pregnant teenage girl underline the need to develop clear and fair admission policy guidelines as part of a broader approach to ensure fairness and equality in the education system. The Office of the Children's Ombudsman carries out important work and the concerns of the ombudsman are clear from her comments, as she has requested that the school involved apologise for excluding the 16 year old girl in question. While the Minister may not want to comment on the school, he must have a view on the general issue of refusing access to a student on grounds such as those cited by the school. It is absolutely scandalous in this day and age for a school to refuse admission to a girl simply because she is the mother of a child. Most would agree that the behaviour of the school is unacceptable and that such instances should never be allowed to happen. This is discrimination, pure and simple, and it is most disappointing that it is happening. Nobody in the education system should be discriminated against, whether a gay teacher looking for employment or a young girl looking for entry to a school.
What is the timeframe for the introduction of the admissions policy guidelines about which the Minister has spoken? Will school inspectors scrutinise admission systems in the future based on these guidelines? Will the guidelines be legislated for? Are the requirements of the Education Act 1998 that each school have an admissions policy applicable to all private schools? We want to see an inclusive and modern education system in place in this country.