Under the Equal Status Act, schools are not permitted to discriminate in admission on any of the grounds set out in the Act. However, the Act contains an exemption which permits schools in which the objective is to provide education that promotes certain religious values to admit a student of a particular religion in preference to others.
The Deputy will be aware of the many positive elements of the admissions Bill, which will put an end to the charging of fees to parents who apply for a school place, tear down the soft barriers erected in front of some children with special needs, and bring openness and transparency to all school admissions.
The issue of the need to amend the Equal Status Act was not a feature of the consultation paper published in advance of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill. When the Oireachtas committee considered this matter, it simply noted that "there is a potential tension between Articles 42 (Education) and 44 (Religion) of Bunreacht na hÉireann, and this poses a particular difficulty when legislating in this policy area." No amendment to the Equal Status Act has been included in the published Bill.
I have subsequently made clear my view that this is a matter that does need to be reviewed and addressed, and it will need to be a priority for the next Government so that it can be dealt with in advance of the next school year.