Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 1 and 2.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
In page 3, line 16, after “school,” to insert the following:
“to amend section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 in relation to its application to recognised primary schools, to further amend that Act to provide for the application for admission to recognised primary schools by students of minority religions;”.
- (Minister for Education and Skills)

I think we had concluded our consideration of amendment No. 2 in the name of the Minister and the related amendments.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, lines 16 to 18, to delete all words from and including "the" where it secondly occurs in line 16 down to and including "2004," in line 18 and substitute the following:

"the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007,".

Amendment No. 3 is a proofing amendment to ensure that the Long Title reflects the fact that the Bill repeals sections 4 and 6 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007. The reference to that Act was inadvertently not included in the original Long Title of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 30, 31, 69, 89, 104, 105 and 139 are related and may be discussed together. While we await Deputy Boyd Barrett, are there any contributions on any of these amendments?

My amendment No. 69 amends the provision of the Bill which requires schools to set out their arrangements for children who wish to opt out of religious instruction classes to provide that such arrangements will not involve any reduction in the school day for the children concerned.

Are there any other amendments in this group that anybody wishes to raise?

I ask the Minister to clarify how schools will be advised as to how this will operate. Will the Minister agree to provide schools with the additional resources? At present, if pupils opt out, often they go somewhere, such as a library or, worse still, maybe to a corridor, or they sit at the back of the class. Parents affected by this have made it clear that they do not want their children in this invidious position.

There has also been many references in the Bill to religious instruction taking place either at the beginning or at the end of the day. We heard that, particularly from some of the groups which came in and addressed the committee. What I am concerned about is whether the Minister will clarify what resources he will put into this? The organisation of this will take considerable resources. It would be better to leave it to the after-school period or to have it early in the school day so that it would involve the minimum disruption.

Many children dislike being left out of what is seen to be an activity of the school. It can be quite invidious and quite alienating for them to be left out, and parents also find it so. It is necessary for the Department of Education and Skills to make it clear to schools that there ought to be discussions in schools about how this sensitive issue is dealt with. One should bear in mind that in many schools in Dublin West, as in many areas around Dublin, there are the 70 to 90 flags of different countries which pupils come from. Many of our schools, at both primary and second level, have 1,000 pupils.

When we talk about people coming from every continent on the globe, we are talking about a lot of religious affiliations and people from different backgrounds. We are also talking about significant numbers of children who may have no religious affiliation. A lot of Catholic and traditional parish schools are extremely welcoming of children from diverse backgrounds. It is, however, very difficult to be inclusive, as schools want to be, when they have religious curriculum at the heart of the school day and when there are some who are not for it, perhaps because they are of a religion that is not the religion of the patron of the school. It is an issue that needs to be faced. School principals are acquiring more and more managerial responsibilities. As the Minister knows, it is becoming more difficult to get a lot of people to apply to become school principals because there are so many sensitive issues that need to be managed. Will he share his thoughts on how he will provide for this in terms of the provision of resources?

I have tabled amendments Nos. 89 and 104 in this group. Amendment No. 89 would require the Minister to provide guidelines for schools on how they should put in place age-appropriate alternatives for children who do not wish to attend classes in religious instruction, The Minister must set minimum standards for the nature of exemptions for students who do not want to attend classes in religious instruction. This would ensure freedom from discrimination and protection of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in schools. The Bill, in section 62(7)(n), already provides that a school should provide details of its policy on arrangements to meet parents' wishes or those of any student over 18 years who does not wish to attend classes in religious instruction. Government amendment No. 69 also ensures a student cannot miss a day of school if he or she does not attend classes in religious instruction. The next logical step is to ensure the Minister will set guidelines to ensure all students will be treated equally across schools when they opt out of classes in religious instruction. In February the Minister issued a circular to all ETB schools requiring them to provide alternative subject choices for students who wished to opt out of classes in religious instruction, but it only applies to ETB schools, the logic being they are multi-denominational. The amendment would compel the Minister to issue guidelines to all schools.

Amendment No. 104 would require the Minister in his regulations to set age-appropriate guidelines for primary and post-primary schools, respectively, for students who did not wish to attend classes in religious instruction in publicly funded schools.

Will Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett move amendment No. 5?

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(2) Section 15(2) of the Act of 1998 is amended by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (g):

“(h) in performing the functions conferred on it, and notwithstanding subsection (2)(b), a board shall uphold equal respect and dignity for all pupils, regardless of religion, ethnicity or family background, and uphold their constitutional rights under Articles 44.2.3 and 44.2.4, specifically by ensuring no religious instruction or faith formation take place during class time.”.”.

The amendment seeks to remove religious instruction and faith formation from class hours and allow for it to take place after class hours. This is in line with our view that in an education system which is publicly funded - even private schools are publicly funded - there should be a curriculum taught which is inclusive of everybody and does not have a bias in favour of or prefer a particular religious ethos or does not seek to impose a particular moral or religious view of the world. I do not see how it is the job of a publicly funded education system and the curriculum that goes with it to teach people about particular religious preferences. I do not see how they two go together. Do not get me wrong - people are entitled to their religious views. I would fight to defend people's right to freedom of religious expression and association, but that is a separate matter from education. I am not saying people cannot privately make the decision to fund a religious education, although to me it is just about teaching a particular world view. I do not accept the idea that in an education system which is supposed to be in place to deliver a curriculum for everybody part of the day should be about teaching a particular moral world view is legitimate.

I know the historical reasons it happened and they have got the country into a terrible mess. We outsourced education largely to the Catholic Church and there was a quid pro quo which for people like Archbishop McQuaid was, "We will run the schools, but we get to indoctrinate the kids". That is what it came down to. I do not think that is acceptable. Religious instruction should be removed from normal school hours, but that is not to say I do not think we should not have as part of the curriculum the study of different belief systems, taught in an objective, fair an even-handed way because I absolutely think we should. We should have classes in philosophy - call it what one likes - in which different religious and non-religious world views or philosophies are taught to people as education about the world. Catholicism and any other religious view would be part of it, but it should not be prioritised in a school setting over and above other world views.

To my mind, it is a very simple position. No matter what stipulations are included about schools having to make alternative arrangements for children who do not have religious views or have minority religious views, in effect, they mark them out. It means that the State is supporting creating a certain religious and moral atmosphere which is imposed on children who may not share that view or whose parents may not share it. That is not right. That is my view and the purpose of the amendment. It is in line with a general view that we need to separate church and State in all areas and recognise that they are different. The jobs of the State and the particular religious institutions are different. In this state they have become intertwined and entangled in a way that has been toxic and unhealthy. The adoption scandal that erupted in the past few days, about which the people concerned have been campaigning for years, is of relevance to the issue of education because what happened and what potentially could happen is that the particular ethos and interest of a religious institution cut across what might have been the best interests of a child or service user who was in the care of a particular religious institution with its particular moral view. That is exactly what happened in the case of the adoption scandal because the Catholic Church had certain attitudes about parents who were not married. They were mothers who were not married and the Church had certain attitudes. That impacted on its ability to deliver what should have been just a welfare service for mothers and children. There is the same potential as long as there is an intertwining between church and State of particular religious and moral views and the delivery of what should be an education system which is equal and fair to everybody. That is my view. It is on that basis that I have moved the amendment which I will be pressing to a vote.

I will speak to amendments Nos. 6, 31 and 139 which concern the same issue. They would place a requirement on schools to place religious instruction or what is referred to as faith formation at the end of the school day in order that children who do not share the same belief system as that of the patron could avoid participating in it.

Parents have a constitutional right to have their children opt out of religious instruction and the only meaningful way this can be vindicated is if it is pushed to the end of the school day. Having religious instruction class within the school day entails segregating children and that is not a good practice. Within a school we should not divide or segregate children on the basis of their religion. We should be trying to encourage mutually respectful situations in our schools and respect for diversity and difference. One does not encourage that view by separating and segregating children.

The proposal for religious instruction classes to happen outside the regular school day is reasonable. If the school finishes at 2.30 p.m., it can happen then for the convenience of parents. Nobody has any difficulty with different denominational groups using a publicly-funded premises for instruction for convenience purposes. For children who do not share the belief system for which there is a religious instruction class, it is very important that this change is made.

I was concerned to hear the Minister last night making a reference to children of no religion going to Educate Together schools. That comment absolutely misses the point. It may have been a slip of the tongue. Educate Together schools are not schools for people of no religion; they are multidenominational schools and the multidenominational aspect of the school is one of the four key principles underpinning Educate Together. It is about respect for difference and bringing children together from different socioeconomic backgrounds, from different faith systems or none, and from different areas so that there is a vibrant mix within the school. It is really good for young people to work with, play with and be in the same classroom as people from different backgrounds and who have different views. It creates a great dynamic in schools to have that kind of diversity and that is what the Educate Together model is very much about. I was lucky to have been involved in the first Educate Together school on the north side of Dublin in 1983 and my own three children were able to attend, as was Deputy Burton's daughter. We very much valued the richness that came from a school that valued diversity and that is what our education system should be about. It should be about bringing children together and not separating them or dividing them.

Last night we talked about patronage and the baptism barrier but even within a school that has a denominational patronage, we should still strive to bring children together and respect difference and diversity, rather than drawing attention to difference. It is often seen as penalising children if they have to be taken out of a class to do something else and it separates them from their peers, which is not a good thing: it is not good practice to do that. For far too long the State has been quite happy to outsource education and healthcare to religious organisations but we should now be able to move beyond that. We should be a modern republic and ensure our institutions reflect that. Part and parcel of this is developing our own civic ethic but there has been very little time or consideration put into this. What is the moral code we want our young people and older people to live by? Can we have a debate about how we encourage respect for difference, honesty and integrity in our young people? There is a way of doing that which also includes respecting people who have a particular religious belief system. The way to do it is through a general course provided within schools. It is not one denomination over another but is about what the Educate Together schools call the core curriculum. This curriculum is devised by parents and staff in the school and reflects the moral code which we should all be striving to live by. It does not exclude anybody. It is about bringing people together, having mutual respect, treating people well, being honest, understanding and recognising different belief systems and accommodating all of that in an inclusive way rather than in a way that divides.

I strongly appeal to the Minister to listen to the views of so many parents from all backgrounds, from all religious belief systems and none, who want their children to be part of an inclusive society for which we should be striving. Separating people for religious instruction absolutely works against that objective.

These amendments, in particular amendments Nos. 30 and 31, get to the heart of a debate that will open up more and more in society in the coming years. We saw the incredible and tremendous scale of the victory at the weekend and it speaks to a desire of large sections of people for a very different society from the one we have had, with an end to the domination of the Catholic Church and the oppression of women. This is a struggle for equality and against oppression and a key part of that is the struggle for a secular society, where there is separation of church and State and where everybody's rights to practise religion are fully protected by the State, with no interference whatsoever. It is also, however, a society in which the State's resources are not used to promote any particular religion.

The key battlegrounds for a secular society are in education and healthcare, where the lack of a secular society has a daily impact on people's lives. Amendment No. 30 gets to the heart of the matter in respect of the education system. It is repugnant to me, as a secularist, that public funds and resources are used to promote different religions, in particular the Catholic Church which covers close to 95% of primary schools. I also happen to be an atheist but that does not inform my views in this case. We will not deal with this issue unless we enact something like what we are proposing in amendment No. 30, which is to remove all religious instruction and faith formation from school hours. That is because these are hours for which teaching staff are being paid by the public's taxes. It also proposes that "religious instruction and faith formation relating to or arising from the characteristic ethos of the school shall not...permeate education". These demands are quite basic and simple. They are asks but they are asks that have been implemented in other countries, such as in the US. The US is a religious society but there is separation of church and state.

That is what needs to be done if we are to have a secular society. We must have a separation of the two. We cannot have a promotion of religion in this way.

The points have been well made as to the impact of this on people. It is a pressure on children to participate in a particular religious education and, if they do not, the consequence is their potential social exclusion. It has negative consequences for children. Parents have the right that the children would hear about whatever religion they are a part of or advocate for, but they do not have the right to expect that the public would fund that through public schools and then put pressure on children, in effect, to experience that through religious education in school. For me, this is obvious and simple. We should not have religious education happening in our school system.

Clearly, the Government's approach is not to accept that. I presume the amendments will not pass because Fianna Fáil will go along with the Government, but I advise the Minister this issue is not going to go away. It has become clear that Fine Gael's approach to these issues of church-State relations is more skilful and a little more flexible than previous Governments. The Government has recognised which way the wind is blowing and has decided it is better to bend with that pressure rather than to face church-State relations being broken and the end of the State's reliance on, and outsourcing to, the church, but ultimately it will not work.

The movement of people who successfully repealed the eighth amendment will not just leave it there. They are turning their attention to all questions relating to education and health, and the Government's piecemeal approach to bend a little on the baptism barrier but not to deal with it fundamentally, to bend a very small amount on this issue before us but not to deal with it, and to bend a little on sex education by saying we will have a new curriculum but we will not deal with the religious ethos issue, which is at the core of why we cannot have objective sex education, will not be accepted. People will increasingly demand that each of these issues be dealt with but, more generally, they will say we need a separation of church and State in this country. We will have a major movement around that. It is quite clear that movement will ultimately be successful. The question is how long and how far the Government and various establishment parties will resist that rising demand and how much resistance they will put up.

Did Deputy Burton indicate she wished to speak?

I made a comment already.

I moved amendment No. 5 but I should also have moved amendment No. 30.

The Deputy cannot move amendment No. 30 until we reach it. He moved amendment No. 5 and we discuss it and the following amendments prior to dealing with amendment No. 30.

I bow to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's knowledge of procedure.

The Deputy can learn sitting at the feet of the master.

I will keep Deputy Boyd Barrett right on that.

On behalf of Fianna Fáil, I want to say that we can see a strong case to be made for having religion at the end of the school day. There is a strong case for that. It happens already, as alluded to by Deputy Shortall, in multidenominational schools where religious instruction is provided, in some cases to the majority of pupils, depending on the parents' wishes, and it seems to happen pretty seamlessly. There are practical issues. It would not be fair on schools to implement it straight away. There is an opportunity for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills to examine this issue, in particular, in the autumn and to invite in the stakeholders. It is important in our education system that we do not simply make laws and hand them down but that we bring the stakeholders along. That is the way the education system has worked in Ireland and the reason it has become the one it is today. I would be reluctant to support the amendments on that basis without in any way challenging the ethos of schools.

If we were to deal with the fact that say, for example, in rural Ireland there is one school in a parish or a village where parents do not subscribe to its ethos, it will not be possible for the State to provide a multiplicity of school ethoses in those areas and it might be better if faith formation were done at the end of the school day. It will also not be realistic to have wholescale divestment of schools from the various patrons. This might be a way of dealing with the issue and I do not believe anyone has anything to fear from it. There are practical implications to it, however, and there may well be resourcing implications also.

The Minister issued a circular to the education and training boards, ETB, sector recently demanding that they provide alternatives to religious education without providing the resources for that. While it may have got the Minister a fantastic headline to the effect that he is moving with the times and so on, on a practical basis it will not work in schools because they do not have the resources. In terms of any of these issues, I will not subscribe to the approach of just legislating for this today. The same applies to the Minister's circular on ETBs on which there was no consultation or announcement. The Oireachtas committee can examine this in some detail with the stakeholders later in the year or early next year to see first if it is an issue. It may well be the case that we could give schools the option but there is certainly an argument for it and it already works well.

In regard to patronage, and I said this last night, the Minister is embarking on a complicated process in terms of finding out who the patrons might be for the 42 schools he announced on 13 April. I am shocked to hear stories about the type of canvassing and negative campaigning that has been undertaken in some areas when this patronage issue has arisen. These are State schools we are providing. We have a multiplicity of religious denomination schools in the country and it seems that the education and training board sector is the most appropriate vehicle to take these schools. We can ensure there are a sufficient number of Gaelscoileanna as well through that model.

The process the Minister is undertaking this summer in terms deciphering the patronage is putting a huge administrative burden on his Department and on the patron bodies which, in some cases, do not have the resources. It might be better simply to state that these are State schools and should remain in State patronage. That would be efficient and would pursue the goals we share of further diversity in the education sector. It is clear from the Minister's statements that it is open to religious patrons to canvass for religious ethos schools, even where there is sufficient supply, and it would be open to patron bodies for Gaelscoileanna to canvass for Gaelscoileanna where there is already a Gaelscoil. That is something we believe is unnecessary and I strongly urge the Minister to reconsider the patronage campaign that will now have to be embarked on by these groups and organisations, including the State sector, that is, the Minister's ETBs, which will have to spend a good deal of money on this to introduce themselves to people. I strongly urge the Minister to reconsider that. It would take a huge administrative burden off his Department, bring clarity to the process and allow the ETBs to focus on the location of the sites for these schools, particularly the 21 starting in September 2019. It would also allow them to recruit principals for these schools. That would give some leadership, direction and identification to potential parents who would be seeking to send their children to those schools.

I will start by declaring a conflict of interest. I have been on the board of management of a Catholic school in west Cork for the past number of years and I was chairperson of the same board. I cannot understand why people come into this House and point fingers at the religious orders in regard to schools. I have been ten years involved in the same school in Schull in west Cork, but not once has religion been put before the interests of the child. Time and again I come into the Dáil and it seems that people are saying that religion is keeping people outside the door of schools. That is not the case. I would not have anything to do with the likes of any board of management if that were the case. It has been fair to everyone and, as chairperson, I never once heard religion being raised as an issue, thanks be to God, in the three years I was on the board.

Thanks be to God.

I am delighted to be able to thank God. The child came first, and I have first-hand experience of that. That has been the case during the time I have been a chairperson and a member of the board. The child always came first. I would like to calculate the amount of time we spent talking about religion on that board in ten years but I can safely say it did not take up too many hours because it was not an issue.

The child and the teaching of the child always came first in the school. That is the most important thing. I could not speak about this if I was not on a board, but I am and I know exactly what it is like. Nobody wants to admit that only for the local priest the school would not be there. Some people want to get rid of the church from schools, but they do not realise that it was Fr. Hurley, God rest his soul, who came up with the idea some years ago that we would build a school in Schull where male and female pupils could attend. We closed the convent school and the boys' national school and we now have one fabulous school going forward with a super principal, Mr. Diarmuid Duggan.

Reference was made to the difficulties faced by children who are of no religion or different religions when there are communions in the school. The schools accommodate this, in the same way they accommodate a pupil who may not need to learn Irish or other pupils. It does not mean that we have to shut down the school because a pupil is not able to do Irish. It does not mean that if a child cannot do physical education there is an issue. The schools accommodate these cases.

There has to be an understanding that the church is not all that bad as people proclaim it to be with regard to schools. It really comes down to the principal and how he or she runs the school, and to the board of management. Boards of management are made up of various representatives: two from the church, two from the community, two from the parents' association and two teachers' representatives. The church is totally outnumbered on the board so Deputies should not worry about that. I am a community representative on our board of management. People might say I should be a political representative but I was on the board over many years before I went into politics and people decided it was okay; it was up to the community to make that decision, not me.

I do not like to hear church bashing. Obviously there may need to be changes and people need to be aware that those children who have no religion need to be in these same schools. These pupils must be accepted with open arms the same as everybody else. This is the way it has been in the national school I represent and I am proud of this. I would not be on the board of management if it was any different. I never ask anyone about this. It is the same in politics: I do not ask anyone about their colour or their creed. When they come into my office I deal with their issues and do not even ask which constituency they come from. That is the way I have always been.

I stress that there are more important issues such as the pupil-teacher ratio in primary school classes. This is far more important for the education of our children. From junior infants through to sixth class this ratio must be reduced. It is vital that we stand up for the rights of our children's education. This is a far more important issue according to the parents with whom I speak. The children are our future.

Another important issue affecting schools is the capitation grant. We should be discussing this issue today because I am aware that schools, led by the principals, are out there - as a politician once said - with our paws out. We are looking for money to keep the basics going, to fill the oil tank in the school and to pay for the secretary. The money is not there because the capitation grant is not meeting the needs of the schools. It is not just the local national school in west Cork: this is replicated throughout the State in every other national school. It is a very difficult situation for schools to be in. They should not have to be in this situation and it is a far more important matter to be addressed than amendment No. 31 that we are currently discussing.

I wish to bring the serious issue of school waiting lists to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Bruton. It has become a huge issue. While I understand there are certain rules around feeder schools for second level students I feel that every parent and child who applies to a school should receive a direct, written response. There should be a more transparent way to be more open, for the purposes of parents' understanding the why, where and when. I am currently dealing with a situation where children were taken in from a non-feeder school before feeder school children were taken in. The parent concerned is very stressed, cannot understand why and feels the child was victimised. The parent is seeking an answer because the current rules and regulations state that the child would be taken from a feeder school before a child from a non-feeder school. It did not happen, unfortunately, in this case.

My constituency covers a vast area, and I accept it is not hugely populated, but nobody is coming to my office asking for the religious to be out of the schools. People are, however, coming to see me about the capitation grants, special needs assistants and all the other issues I have just referred to. These are the issues that really concern parents. Anybody who is in touch with parents knows that these are the issues they want resolved. I would appreciate if the Minister would focus more on those issues.

Are other Members offering?

The Minister will respond and then there will be another round.

There are two minutes remaining for any Member who wishes to speak. It is the Minister's amendment so he has an extra two minutes at the end. Perhaps the Minister might want to hear further-----

On a point of order, I have had my seven minutes and then it goes back to the Minister and then all Members here get two minutes. Then there is the last two minutes.

Does the Minister wish to continue for two minutes?

It will be the Minister's last contribution.

It is difficult to cover in two minutes all that has been said. Of course everyone recognises that Ireland is changing, but we also start from a position where 95% of schools are denominated and 99% of schools are privately owned. What we are really discussing is how to address the absolute constitutional right of a child to opt out of the religious activities within the school, if he or she chooses. This is what we are trying to do and this is what my amendment provides for. Clearly, many people take the more radical view of taking religion out of schools altogether and not using schools for any form of religious instruction. These are legitimately held different points of view. I seek to develop the provision for children who want to opt out and to make sure it is a good provision. Over the last years, since the forum on patronage, good practice was indicated. The forum indicated good practice such as online lessons for the particular lesson of the child or staggering the times of the religion class so it could accommodate different children. It emphasised that each school should have its own approach and not a one size fits all approach, as some Deputies claim. It was also suggested that religion class could be put at the end of the school day, but the patronage discussion did not come out in favour of that idea because it meant that some parents would have to collect their children earlier, and it appeared that these children were being excluded from some of the school activities. This might not be optimal.

If we want to change this then we need consultation. We cannot suddenly decide in the House that we are going to impose a set of rules immediately. The patronage forum indicated the need for flexibility. There are some very good practices emerging within denominational schools that have to be respected. They are valuable.

Deputies raised many other issues. Deputy Thomas Byrne spoke about confining new schools to education and training boards, but this would exclude Educate Together and Gaelscoileanna. The system I continue to apply is an independent group, recommending that diversity is a requirement of the process, parental choice being allowed and patrons being allowed to apply. It does not mean that a majority patron can deliver diversity. Clearly a majority patron cannot meet one of the critical criteria if all the existing schools, or the vast majority, are of that denomination.

Deputy Michael Collins spoke about transparency. This is what the Bill is all about. It makes it absolutely clear there will be a written policy of admission. We will ban waiting lists and there will be openness. We will not use religion as a criterion for selection in Catholic schools. There will be much greater clarity but schools can still have the sibling rule, which can override the feeder school. The schools can decide. The schools will have published admissions policies, but each school will have freedom within it. If my amendment passes, religion will not be a criterion to exclude a child.

Unfortunately, I cannot do justice in two minutes to many of the points being raised.

We have had an interesting discussion. It is a question of how to recognise the constitutional right of people to their religious affiliations or none. In effect, the Labour Party's proposal is to use the Citizens' Assembly model to have a discussion based on a representative sample, as was done successfully in respect of marriage equality and repealing the eighth amendment. This is an important issue for communities, schools and institutions.

I agree with Deputy Shortall about the Educate Together model, which started approximately 40 years ago in the Dalkey School Project in Dublin when there was less diversity. In fairness to some of the Deputies who have contributed, they do not represent constituencies that have the level of diversity seen in Dublin West, where 30% of the population have parents who were not born in Ireland or were not born in Ireland themselves.

I want to tell the Minister something that might also cheer up Deputy Michael Collins. At a school opening a week ago, the Taoiseach effectively promised an increase in the capitation in the budget. He did not write that down, but he certainly said it to many people.

We need a national discussion on this matter and to find a mechanism that is inclusive of different desires. A school with 30 religions and 70 or 80 nationalities is the reality in certain areas of Dublin West. In fairness, Catholic parish schools have been very inclusive down the years, but whether people of the Catholic faith are open and inclusive towards people of other faiths or none - they are - is not the issue. Rather, there are practical arrangements to be considered. I would like to hear the Minister's view on whether a Citizens' Assembly model should be used to address the sensitive issue of how to get the balance right between the various expressions. Just as there are religious sectarians, there can be sectarian atheists.

Where are the atheist schools?

We need to have a national discussion so that all views can be taken into account. What are the Minister's views on that suggestion?

The Minister cannot conclude that, just because parents are Catholic, they want their children to be given special treatment in school and to be separated from non-Catholic children. That is not the case. In the main, parents want our education system to be inclusive of all children, theirs and others', but it patently is not that at the moment. For some time, several people have been referring to the need for a national debate and engagement on the future of our schools. It is extraordinary that over 90% of primary schools are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, which does not reflect the Ireland of nowadays. We must work out how we get from the present unsatisfactory system to one that reflects the needs and desires of parents and children. Having a Citizens' Assembly kind of approach would be constructive, as many aspects need to be thought through.

I will discuss the Minister's proposal on education and training boards, ETBs, further, but his proposal in this context is just a sticking plaster and by no means a solution. We have heard and seen some disturbing attitudes expressed by people within the ETBs in terms of what they view as being multidenominational, which is not multidenominational at all.

Regarding patronage, we will need to plan out how to reach the point of being able to develop a modern education system that reflects the needs of the country. I support that idea. What are the Minister's views on it? Is it acceptable to segregate children? Surely that goes against the grain of what we should be trying to achieve in our schools.

I accept a number of positive points made by the Government and other Deputies who will not support this amendment, but I will press it because that is the right thing to do. The fudge that the Government has devised does not address the current system's fundamental unfairness vis-à-vis children. My obligation is to propose what I believe is in the best interests of children, and no matter how one construes it, I cannot see how it is the job of the State to promote particular religious views, make people who do not necessarily share those views feel different, segregated and under pressure, and impose same on them.

I accept Deputy Michael Collins's point that there are many people in denominational schools who would never want to discriminate and would want to accommodate, but the problem is that there is no protection against a situation where that is not the case. If the decision on how to accommodate people is left up to the school, maybe it will accommodate them well and maybe it will not. We get ourselves into a knot when we have schools that are informed and dominated by a particular religious view. Deputy Thomas Byrne rightly pointed to the rather unseemly scramble around patronage, where there are competitions like in football.

Not just by the religious groups.

I agree. Gaelscoileanna, ETBs, national schools and so on compete against one another. It is ridiculous. The way to address that is by separating church and State. The question of Irish language schools, which we should have, is a different matter, but it should not be intertwined with religious competition or competition over denomination. It is crazy. This is the way we have to go.

Is the Deputy ruling out Educate Together?

We have to reform the whole business completely. Educate Together is the best model to do that, but it is probably not the last word. Educate Together itself would agree. The problem is that religion is cutting across the State's obligation to provide unbiased education.

The problem is not religious schools but the preponderance of religious schools. At primary level, they account for more than 90% of schools. We can get fixated on teaching religion and on Catholic or Protestant schools, but there would be no issue if there was a much lower proportion of religious schools. At second level, for example, it is not as much of an issue because invariably there is choice and new schools follow the ETB model, which is what I suggest the Minister should consider to stop the unseemly fighting for patronage. That fight is not fair and is a waste of resources.

We must acknowledge that some people are put out by the fact that religion is taught in our current system. We can examine this matter. Deputy Boyd Barrett claims to know the position. He may well be right, but where education is concerned, we need to talk to everyone. That is just how the system works. Maybe we can change the system by legislating day in, day out and throwing new rules on top of people, but that would never work. The education partners will rise to the challenge and we will get something with which everyone agrees.

No one wants a full State-run education system. By and large, Catholic schools throughout the country have done a fantastic job, particularly at primary level, of accommodating diversity and immigrants.

Other schools simply do not want to do so. As Deputy Joan Burton says, it has to be acknowledged that they are there. There is no Catholic school in the country other than the small number that are oversubscribed that has refused anyone of any faith. The baptism barrier will be removed for the small number that are oversubscribed. The key for them is to provide for the provision. I would love to see a system in place where there was genuine diversity where it could be provided for by the State such that if somebody wanted to go to a religious school, he or she would not be threatened by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett or Deputy Paul Murphy saying there should not be religious instruction in schools. At the same time, if a neighbour does not want to go to a religious school, there should be provision for him or her too. If that cannot be provided for in villages or the west in places where there is only one school, we should come to some compromise such as looking at having religion instruction outside class hours. We should look at this issue very carefully.

There is no issue with religious education in the United Kingdom. There are issues with bits and pieces of the rules, but Catholic schools, Protestant schools and Muslim schools are all accepted because they do not dominate the educational landscape. They do not comprise a figure of 90%. The number is much lower than it is here. There is diversity and the United Kingdom does not have these ideological debates all of the time. Perhaps it is necessary to have them when one church comprises a figure of 90%, but the focus in England is relentlessly on school funding, resources and buildings. That is where Dáil Éireann should focus as much time as possible.

I will respond to Deputy Michael Collins. Like Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, I accept that there are areas where the issue of the baptism barrier does not apply, has not been applied and not created a problem in gaining access to schools. I also ask Deputy Michael Collins to accept that there are areas where it has happened. This is real. It is not a made up problem. The Government would not be moving to do something about it if it was. I have met multiple parents who had a real difficulty in getting their kids into school. I remember meeting one man - a Hindu - who had rung a school and been asked if he would think about baptising his child to get him into the Catholic school. It is appalling that anything like that would happen. There is a real problem.

A broader point was raised by Deputy Thomas Byrne. I do not agree with him that the problem is not religious schools but the preponderance of religious schools. I agree that the preponderance of Catholic schools, at over 90%, exacerbates the problem massively and makes it huge, but there is a more fundamental problem in having publicly funded schools - they may be privately owned but they would not exist without public funding for teachers - promoting religion. That is a problem. The consequence is the knock-on effects, with students being pressured to attend religious classes or feeling excluded as a result of not being part of them.

I thought Deputy Róisín Shortall was correct to say the Government's approach was a sticking plaster which just would not work. It will not deal with these problems. It will just create others. The only way to deal with it is not to deal with the flip-end of the constitutional right of the student not to be forced to attend classes in religious instruction but to deal with it in an holistic way and start with a publicly run, publicly funded education system that does not include the promotion of religion. That can take place outside school hours, be it privately funded, etc. That is the way to deal with the issue. I am for debate and discussion with stakeholders and such, but do not think we will find a solution other than that one.

On my amendment, if the Minister insists on religious instruction taking place during the school day, he will definitely need to set guidelines. I have worked in schools. I do not know how many the Minister has been in while religious instruction is happening. It happens on an ad hoc basis and is simply not good enough. It is not fair on students, teachers or parents. It is a timetable hazard and a nightmare for a principal. There are many scenarios. There are children who are not participating in religious instruction sitting at the back of the classroom. There are disciplinary nightmares for the teacher and children are listening to religious instruction as they try to study. There are schools which decide pupils can go to the library while religious instruction is taking place. Who supervises them? Sometimes they are not supervised. Who is the teacher who draws the short straw and has to do that duty instead of teaching his or her own subject? There is the situation where students study other subjects. This happens too in the case of Irish. Sometimes, in some schools, there are more students who are not taking Irish and there are no guidelines whatsoever for the schools on how to deal with the issue. It becomes a study class, which is completely unfair. Schools need guidelines. The Minister is leaving it up to schools, with some doing it right and some doing it wrong. If he insists on religious instruction taking place during the school day, guidelines are needed.

I listened to Deputy Paul Murphy who talked about the gentleman who was a Hindu and who had been asked to have his child baptised. There are such cases which are wrong, but the biggest issue is overcrowding which we are trying to address in the context of baptisms. Schools are in a dreadful position where there is overcrowding and are looking at the criteria. Feeder schools and non-feeder schools have different criteria. Is that wrong? Is it wrong for feeder schools to pick one or another thing? In this country we fail, as do the Government and the Minister, to acknowledge properly the role the religious have played in schools. We fail to stand up and are afraid to do so. It is wrong of us not to do so because they have done some incredible work during the years. I know of one school in west Cork that wanted to build an extension, for which the Department gave 50%, 60% or 70% of the funding. The rest had to be raised in the local community. The board of management could not raise it, nor could the parents' association. The local church took out a loan for the school. Except for it, the extension would never have been built. People fail to recognise this. If the churches are removed, who will take over responsibility for taking out loans for schools? I know the school first-hand and can talk about it. It is attended by Latvians, Lithuanians, English children, Poles, Germans, Dutch children, Catholics and Church of Ireland children and atheists and everybody works fine together. I cannot understand it. One would swear they were all at war. When I come into the Dáil Chamber, on a regular basis I ask what is happening in other parts of the country. They must all be involved in a fierce conflict. They should come and spend time in west Cork which Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett probably knows fairly well. They would see that there was harmony, that people were getting on fine and that there was no major hassle with reference to what is continuously discussed here. People are pleading to have issues such as capitation resolved, as well as teachers' pay.

I would appreciate it if we could look at both sides of the argument here. The churches have parish halls. I have gone to different parish halls, Church of Ireland or otherwise, and nobody has ever asked me at the entrance what my religion or creed is. Therefore, I do not understand what all the fuss is about.

The final contribution of two minutes will be by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett who moved the amendment.

I accept what Deputy Michael Collins said about resources. Pupil-teacher ratios are important and we need to have targets to reduce them substantially. I accept that there are issues with teachers' pay, resources, capitation grants and so on. I would not minimise the impact segregation can have on children or the pressure being put on children. Are we not dealing in this Chamber with the impact of moral views imposed on women and children, which resulted in mothers being forcibly separated from their children because of the religious views of Archbishop McQuaid and his followers? This is serious. They are dealing with the consequences because a social service was outsourced to people with a particular religious view. I am not saying anything as drastic as that is happening.

The subtle impact on children who feel isolated and have particular views imposed on them can be quite damaging. Sometimes people can be afraid to talk about them.

On a practical level, I have had a long debate with the Minister about the fact that he feels unable to do anything about the Christian Brothers wanting to sell off the playing fields at Clonkeen College. He has said there is nothing he can do and that the Christian Brothers are allowed to do so. Nobody could argue that their actions to protect themselves are not adversely affecting the students. There is something wrong with an education model where the patron of a school can do something that is blatantly and self-evidently against the interests of the schoolchildren in its care, yet it is allowed to persist. It is not an isolated example. I have referred to a similar case in Waterford where the Sisters of Charity are doing the same. There is a problem and it can only be solved by separating church and State in the area of education and also in health, while respecting and protecting the right of people to associate and express particular religious views but not in publicly funded school time.

That concludes the debate on a series of amendments.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett was given an extra two minutes because he had tabled an amendment. Do the rest of us who have tabled amendments in the group also get additional speaking time?

No. It is only given to the person who moves the first amendment. I am sorry.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 82; Staon, 5.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

  • Burton, Joan.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(2) Section 15 of the Act of 1998 is amended in subsection (2) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (g):

“(h) in performing the functions conferred on it, and notwithstanding paragraph (b), a board shall uphold equal respect and dignity for all pupils, regardless of religion, ethnicity or family background, and uphold their constitutional rights under Articles 44.2.3 and 44.2.4, specifically by ensuring no religious instruction or faith formation take place during class time prior to the last lesson of any school day.”.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 18, 32, 49, 50, 65 and 92 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 5, line 1, to delete “, or a special class in the school,”.

Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 18, 32, 49, 50, 65 and 92 are proofing amendments connected to the definition of oversubscribed. They remove explicit references in the Bill to a special class being oversubscribed as the definition of oversubscribed already explicitly incorporates oversubscription in a special class. Amendment No. 32 replaces the existing definition of oversubscribed in the Bill with a new definition of same.

Amendment No. 32 replaces the existing definition of "oversubscribed" in the Bill with a new definition. The definition in the Bill as it stands describes oversubscription in the context of the school as a whole or in the context of a special class only. During the proofing of this Bill, it emerged that this definition required adjustment to make it clear that oversubscription can arise in three different scenarios: in the intake year, in a special class and in classes or year groups other than the intake group. As the new definition of "oversubscription" incorporates oversubscription in each of these three scenarios, the sections of the Bill that refer to a school being oversubscribed no longer need to refer explicitly to a special class, intake year or other group.

Amendment No. 65 is a proofing amendment relating to the definition of "oversubscribed". The explicit reference to an intake group being oversubscribed that is being removed by this amendment is no longer necessary now that the amended definition of "oversubscribed" explicitly incorporates oversubscription in an intake group. The combined effect of amendments Nos. 32 and 65 will be to make it clear that a waiting list for a particular school year must be compiled and used when a school is oversubscribed, regardless of whether the oversubscription occurs in a special class, in an intake group or otherwise.

In line with the amended definition of "oversubscribed" that is being provided for, amendment No. 92 proposes to replace an alternative wording used in the Bill as its stands to describe "oversubscription" in the Bill with the phrase "the school is oversubscribed”. This will ensure a consistent approach in the Bill to describing oversubscription.

I would like to ask the Minister about amendment No. 49, which seeks to provide that a school will have to admit a student seeking admission to the school "including, where appropriate" a student seeking admission to a special class in the school. I wonder how that will work in practical terms. Will this provision not leave the door open to some discrimination? I ask the Minister to explain how this will work in practice to protect the child.

Amendment No. 49 proposes to amend section 62(7)(c) of the Bill, which states that an admission policy shall "provide that the school shall admit each student seeking admission to the school and each student seeking admission to a special class in the school". If amendment No. 49 is accepted, section 62(7)(c) will state that an admission policy shall "provide that the school shall admit each student seeking admission to the school including, where appropriate each student seeking admission to a special class in the school". This technical amendment involves the replacement of the word "and" with the words "including, where appropriate".

How do we define what is "appropriate" in the context of admission to a special class?

The use of the words "where appropriate" refers to circumstances in which an application for admission is being made in respect of such a child. This amendment must be looked at in conjunction with amendment No. 50, which proposes the deletion of the words "or special class concerned" from section 62(7)(c)(i) of the Bill so that it states that an admission policy shall "provide that the school shall admit each student seeking admission to the school including, where appropriate each student seeking admission to a special class in the school" other than "where the school is oversubscribed". We are providing for the removal of the special status given to special classes in this section of the Bill as it stands. Such classes are now covered by the revised definition of "oversubscription" which I set out earlier.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 5, line 3, to delete ", or a special class in the school,".

Amendment agreed to.

As amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, amendment No. 20, amendment No. 33 and amendments Nos. 34 to 36, inclusive, are related, they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, line 6, after "the student" to insert "(each of whom is, in this section and sections 29A to 29F, referred to as an applicant)".

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are proofing amendments which clarify that where a reference is made to an "applicant" in the provisions of the Bill relating to section 29 of the Education Act 1998, this means the parent, or in the case of a student over 18, the student who has made an appeal under section 29. Amendments Nos. 11 and 34 insert a definition of a "school year" for the purposes of the section 29 appeals provisions and the admission-related provisions in the Bill. The wording of the definition reflects the fact that individual schools start and finish the school year on different dates. Amendments Nos. 20 and 36 are proofing amendments which clarify the distinction between waiting lists that are newly compiled under this Bill - where a school is oversubscribed and which are drawn up and apply only in the particular school year - and any long-standing waiting lists that are currently in existence and will be phased out under this Bill following its commencement over a five-year period. Amendment No. 33 amends the existing definition of "school" to clarify that for the purposes of this Bill, a school does not include a hospital school or a school situated in a child and adolescent mental health facility, as admission to such schools does not happen in the normal way. It would not be appropriate or proportionate for such schools to be required to comply with the various requirements of this Bill, such as the requirement to prepare and publish policies and admission notices and to set selection criteria, etc.

I do not intend to delay the House. It is clear that many schools already operate waiting lists. I welcome the Minister's approach of phasing them out so that they are not removed overnight. Does the Minister intend to give schools assistance in implementing this and other aspects of this Bill, not only so they can implement the new rules but also so they can advise prospective parents on how their systems are changing? It would be commonly known in certain areas that particular schools have waiting lists. Such schools are going to have to get the word out that these waiting lists will no longer be applicable. Does the Minister propose to provide any assistance to schools in dealing with this issue and other issues that will arise as a result of this legislation?

We will provide such support, for example, in the form of guidelines. Where necessary, we will organise sessions where advice will be given to schools that are adjusting their admission policies. While we are making admission policy much more transparent, we are aware that many schools already have written admission policies that contain elements of what we are providing for here. For many schools, the transition to the new expectations will be relatively easy. As the Deputy has rightly said, schools with a tradition of waiting lists will have to cease adding to those waiting lists and phase out the existing lists over a period of time. That represents a change that will need to be communicated. When the entire Bill has been passed by this House and the Seanad, we will convey guidelines to the schools to assist them in implementing the new legal provisions.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 5, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

" 'applicant' has the meaning assigned to it by subsection (1);".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 5, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

" 'school year' has the same meaning as it has in Part X (inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018);".

Amendment agreed to.

As amendments Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, are related, they may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 6, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"(5) The Minister may, where he or she considers it necessary to do so—

(a) prior to an oral hearing in respect of an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii), or

(b) prior to the examination and determination of an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i),

replace a member of an appeals committee (including the chairperson) with another member of an appeals panel.".

I advised on Committee Stage that I would bring forward an amendment to allow for the replacement of a section 29 appeals committee member when the need arises. Amendment No. 12 addresses circumstances in which an appeals committee member, including the chairperson, is unable for some reason to continue with an appeal after the appeals committee has been appointed. This amendment allows the Minister to replace such a member in such circumstances. It provides the necessary flexibility for the replacement of members of a section 29 appeals committee by the Minister when required. Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are consequential renumbering amendments arising from amendment No. 12.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, line 5, to delete “(5) The Minister” and substitute “(6) The Minister”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, line 8, to delete “(6) An appeals” and substitute “(7) An appeals”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 7, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:

“(j) the form and manner in which a request for a review under section 29C(1) shall be made, including the period during which such request shall be made and the period in which the board shall issue a statement under section 29C(5);”.

Amendment No. 15 provides for the Minister to set out in procedures under section 29B the manner in which a request for a review of an enrolment decision shall be made by a parent, the timetable for a parent to request such a review and the timetable during which a school shall respond to such request. Amendment No. 16 is a re-numbering amendment arising from amendment No. 15.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 7, line 21, to delete “(j) such other” and substitute “(k) such other”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 7, line 33, to delete “by the school of its” and substitute “of the school’s”.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 are proofing amendments to ensure consistency of language with the Bill’s existing provisions that reflect the reality that it is the school principal, rather than the school or the board, that implements the school’s admissions policy. The relevant provisions in the Bill incorrectly refer to the school or the board as implementing the policy. Thee amendments correct this error.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 8, line 2, to delete “, or a special class in the school,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 8, line 13, to delete “its decision” and substitute “the decision”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 8, to delete lines 30 and 31 and substitute the following:

“(7) In this section and section 29E ‘waiting list’ means, in relation to a school, the waiting list compiled in accordance with section 62(7)(i) by the school concerned.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 11, line 11, to delete “any” and substitute “the”.

This is a proofing amendment to deal with a potential ambiguity in the provision. Section 29D(12) currently provides for an appeals committee to inform the Minister of its final decision on an appeal and, where it allows an appeal, to provide a copy of "any" direction it has issued. However, under the Bill, an appeals committee must always issue a direction when it allows an appeal. Therefore, it is necessary to adjust the wording in this provision to refer instead to "the direction" rather than "any direction".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 22 was discussed with amendment No. 2.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 12, line 28, to delete “section 3 or 7” and substitute “section 3, 7 or 7A”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 23 to 27, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 12, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

“(2) An appeals committee shall, by notice in writing, inform the Minister where it decides in accordance with subsection (1) to refuse to hear or determine, or to refuse to continue to hear or determine, an appeal under section 29.

(3) A notice under subsection (2) shall include the committee’s reasons for refusing to hear or determine, or refusing to continue to hear or determine, the appeal concerned.

(4) The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after he or she receives a notice under subsection (2), forward the applicant and the board a copy of the decision of the appeals committee and the reasons for its decision.”.

Amendment No. 23 provides that a section 29 appeals committee shall be required to inform the Minister in writing where it decides to refuse to hear or determine, or to refuse to continue to hear or determine, an appeal. It also provides that the committee must provide the Minister with the reasons for such a decision and that the Minister must forward the appellant a copy of that decision and the reasons set out by the committee. Amendments Nos. 24 to 27, inclusive, are consequential numbering amendments arising from amendment No. 23.

I have a query from somebody who believes there has been an arbitrary refusal to admit a child to a school. This is an ongoing issue. The child alleges that she has been and is being very badly bullied online and in the school. A transfer has been sought to another school where it is believed she could get away from the bullying. The parents are worried about her possibly being suicidal and have a very definite preference as to which school they would like her to go, but the school is refusing to let her in and giving what are rather concocted reasons that do not really stand up. As a result, she has now been out of school for several months. The parents' section 29 appeal was refused because it was over the 45 day time limit, which applies from the refusal of the school board. They did not know about the time limit applied. It seems very unfair and the child is now not in any school. The parents have doctors saying the girl needs to go to another school where she would feel safe and would not feel she would continue to be a victim of bullying. I know that section 29 relates to the appeals process. Can the Minister provide some reassurance? I am glad to hear that he would have to be notified if there was a refusal, but I would like to know a little more about the process. It is very disappointing if efforts are being made to save a child from serious bullying, especially given the very serious concerns of the parents about her welfare, if there is a refusal on spurious grounds and the parents' right to appeal is ruled out. To me, it does not seem to be a great process. If the Minister's officials are agreeable, I will contact them to look into the case. Perhaps the Minister might also give me some confidence that the proposed amendments to section 29 will make the process better.

I am quite happy to assess what has taken place. Section 29 appeals are entirely independent. There is an independent group appointed to hear appeals. There are procedures surrounding them. I understand there is a 45 day period within which an appeal has to be lodged. If it is lodged within the appeal period and there is a concocted reason, the appeal board will scrutinise it and will have the power to direct. From memory, I think 40% of appeals are upheld.

The Bill provides that Tusla, educational welfare services, will receive a power to require a school to admit a child who is out of school. That is one of the powers we are granting to Tusla, just as we are granting to the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, the power to require a school to take a child with special educational needs. There are defences offered by schools that are upheld by an appeals committee, as well as those that are rejected. Without knowing the exact circumstances, I cannot comment on the case referred to. Unfortunately, there are always procedures and time limits. There will be procedures set out in the new arrangement. I will check with my officials where the 45 day limit came from and to see whether parents need to be alerted to it. I will certainly get back to the Deputy on the matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 12, line 38, to delete “(2) Subject” and substitute “(5) Subject”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 13, line 6, to delete “(3) Where an appeal” and substitute “(6) Where an appeal”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 13, line 7, to delete “subsection (2)” and substitute “subsection (5)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 13, line 9, to delete “(4) An appeals” and substitute “(7) An appeals”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 13, to delete lines 12 to 20 and substitute “under section 29B.”.

This amendment provides for the deletion from the Bill of a provision which requires that a direction by an appeals committee must not provide that a school’s admissions policy be disregarded or amended. However, this would have had the unintended consequence of preventing an appeals committee from allowing an appeal and directing a school to admit a student where the policy of the school was contrary to the requirements of the Bill and resulted in a child not being admitted to the school who otherwise should have been admitted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 13, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

“Additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs

8. Part VI of the Act of 1998 is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 37:

“37A. (1)Where the Council is of the opinion that there is insufficient capacity in an area in relation to the provision of education for children with special educational needs, the Council shall inform the Minister by notice in writing of its opinion and the reasons for its opinion and shall specify the type of provision in respect of which there is insufficient capacity.

(2) Where, following consultation with the Minister and having regard to any information provided to the Council by the Minister in relation to any planned additional provision of education for children with special educational needs and available land and buildings, the Council remains of the opinion that there is insufficient capacity in an area for the provision of education to children with special educational needs, it shall prepare and submit a report on the matter to the Minister.

(3) A report under subsection (2) shall specify—

(a) the existing provision of education for children with special educational needs in the area concerned, having regard to the generality of provision of education within the area,

(b) any proposed or existing building projects which may affect capacity to provide education for children with special educational needs in the area concerned,

(c) any schools in the area concerned which the Council considers could meet additional demand for education for children with special educational needs,

(d) which (if any) of the schools referred to in paragraph (c) the Council considers should be requested to make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, and

(e) such other matters as the Council considers appropriate.

(4) Prior to preparing a report under subsection (2), the Council shall consult with the Minister, bodies representative of patrons, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations and recognised trade unions and staff associations representing teachers.

(5) (a) Where, on receipt of a report submitted under subsection (2), the Minister is of the opinion that a relevant person in respect of a school referred to in the report should make additional provision for children with special educational needs, he or she may serve a notice in writing on the relevant person.

(b) A notice under paragraph (a) shall—

(i) set out the Minister’s opinion that the relevant person named in the report should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs and state the reasons for his or her opinion,

(ii) include a copy of the report submitted under subsection (2), and

(iii) confirm that the relevant person may make representations to the Minister in respect of the notice not later than 28 days from the service of the notice.

(c) On receipt of any representations made under paragraph (b)(iii), the Minister may consult the relevant person.

(6) Where—

(a) on consideration of a report submitted to the Minister under subsection (2),

(b) after consideration of any representations made under paragraph(b)(iii) of subsection (5), and

(c) following any consultation with the relevant person under paragraph (c) of subsection (5),

the Minister remains of the opinion that the relevant person should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, the Minister may serve a notice in writing on the relevant person.

(7) A notice under subsection (6) shall—

(a) set out the Minister’s opinion that the relevant person should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs and state the reasons for his or her opinion,

(b) specify details of the measures to be taken by the relevant person,

(c) specify what, if any, resources the Minister considers appropriate to provide to the school in order to assist the school in increasing its provision of education for children with special educational needs,

and

(d) set out any proposed property arrangements, including any arrangements in relation to the provision of additional accommodation on the school premises and the funding arrangements the Minister shall provide for that purpose, in order to assist the school in increasing its provision of education for children with special educational needs.

(8) On receipt of a notice under subsection (6) the patron or any other person or body in relation to whom the ownership of the school premises is vested may, in respect of the matters referred to in subsection (7)(d), not later than 21 days from the service of the notice, make representations to the Minister.

(9) Where, following any representations under subsection (8), and such further consultation as the Minister considers appropriate, the Minister and the patron or any other person or body in relation to whom the ownership of the school premises is vested fail to agree arrangements in relation to the matters referred to in subsection (7)(d), the Minister may refer the matter to arbitration and, subject to section 29 of the Arbitration Act 2010, that Act shall apply to an arbitration under this section.

(10) On receipt of a notice under subsection (6) a board of management may, in respect of the matters referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of subsection (7), not later than 21 days from the service of the notice, make representations to the Minister.

(11) Where, after consideration of any representations made under subsections (8) and (10) and, where the Minister has referred the matter to arbitration under subsection (9), following the conclusion of the arbitration process, the Minister remains of the opinion that a school should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, he or she may by notice in writing request the board of management to agree to increasing such provision and such notice shall specify—

(a) the measures the Minister considers the board of management shall take in relation to increasing such provision,

(b) the resources the Minister shall make available to the school, in order to assist the school in increasing such provision, and

(c) any other matter the Minister considers appropriate.

(12) (a) The board of management shall, not later than 21 days from the service of a notice under subsection (11), by notice in writing to the Minister—

(i) agree to increasing its provision for children with special educational needs in accordance with the terms of the notice under subsection (11), or

(ii) refuse to increase such provision.

(b) Where a board of management fails by notice in writing to agree to increasing its provision for children with special educational needs in accordance with the terms of a notice under subsection (11), within 21 days from the service of a notice under that subsection, the board of management shall, for the purposes of this section, be regarded as having refused to increase such provision.

(13) Where, pursuant to subsection (12), a board of management refuses to increase its provision for children with special educational needs, and the Minister remains of the opinion that the school should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, the Minister may by notice in writing—

(a) inform the patron of his or her opinion that such school should make such additional provision, and state the reasons for that opinion,

(b) furnish the patron with a copy of the report prepared under subsection (2), and

(c) furnish the patron with a copy of the notice given to the board of management under subsection (11) and, where applicable, a copy of the refusal by the board of management provided under subsection (12).

(14) The patron may make representations to the Minister in respect of a notice under subsection (13) not later than 21 days from the service of a notice under that subsection.

(15) Where the Minister, after consideration of any representations made under subsection (14), remains of the opinion that a school should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, he or she may inform the patron and the board of management of his or her intention to give a direction under subsection (17) and shall serve a copy of a draft of the direction on the patron and the board of management.

(16) The patron and the board of management may, within 21 days from the service of the copy of the draft direction, make representations in writing to the Minister in relation to the draft direction.

(17) Where the Minister, after consideration of any representations made under subsection (16), remains of the opinion that a school should make additional provision in respect of children with special educational needs, the Minister may serve a direction (in this section referred to as a ‘Ministerial direction’) on the patron.

(18) A Ministerial direction may include such amendments to the draft direction served under subsection (15) as the Minister considers appropriate having regard to any representations made under subsection (16) and shall specify that the patron shall, within 10 days, direct the board to comply with the terms of the Ministerial direction, which terms shall include:

(a) the measures to be taken by the board in relation to making additional provision for children with special educational needs,

(b) the period during which such measures shall be taken, and

(c) any other matter the Minister considers appropriate.

(19) The patron and, following a direction by the patron, the board of management shall comply with a Ministerial direction.

(20) (a) The following documents shall be published in accordance with paragraph (b):

(i) any notices issued by the Minister under this section;

(ii) any representations received by the Minister under this section;

(iii) a draft direction served under subsection (15);

(iv) a Ministerial direction.

(b) The Minister shall publish the documents referred to in paragraph (a) on the website of the Department of Education and Skills not later than 7 days from the date on which he or she issues or receives them, or, in the case of a draft direction referred to in paragraph (a)(iii) or a Ministerial direction, not later than 7 days from the date he or she serves the draft direction or direction concerned.

(21) In this section—

‘Council’ means the National Council for Special Education;

‘relevant person’, in relation to a school, means the patron, the board of management or any other person or body in relation to whom the ownership of the school premises is vested;

‘resources’ includes resources made available by the Minister and allocated by the Council.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 13, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 30 of Act of 1998

8. Section 30 of the Education Act 1998 is amended by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (2):

“(2A) In order to afford equal respect and dignity to all pupils, regardless of religion, ethnicity or family background, and to uphold their constitutional rights under Articles 44.2.3 and 44.2.4—

(a) religious instruction and faith formation will not take place within school hours, and

(b) religious instruction and faith formation relating to or arising from the characteristic ethos of the school shall not take place at any time during the school day and shall not imbue or permeate education during the school day.”.”.

I am pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 31 not moved.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 14, to delete lines 15 to 22 and substitute the following:

“ ‘oversubscribed’, in relation to a school, means—

(a) in respect of the intake group of the school, that the number of students seeking admission to the intake group is greater than the number of places being made available by the school in respect of the intake group concerned,

(b) in respect of a special class, that the number of students seeking admission to the special class is greater than the number of places being made available by the school in respect of the class concerned, or

(c) in respect of any other class or year, that the number of students seeking admission to the class or year is greater than the number of places being made available by the school in respect of the class or year concerned;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 14, to delete line 23 and substitute the following:

“ ‘school’ means a recognised school other than a recognised school that is situated in a hospital or approved centre (within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2001) which is specified in a list of such schools published by the Minister from time to time;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 14, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

“ ‘school year’, in relation to a school, means the period commencing on the day the school reopens for tuition after the school’s summer holidays and ending on the last day in the following year that the school is open for tuition before the commencement of the school’s summer holidays for that year;”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 35, 38, 46, 48 and 54 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 14, to delete lines 24 to 27 and substitute the following:

“ ‘special class’ means a class that has, with the approval of the Minister, been established by a school to provide an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister;”.

I brought forward amendments on Committee Stage Bill to enable a special school or special class to refuse admission to children who do not have the category or categories of special educational needs being catered for by the school or special class concerned. This was appropriate to ensure that children with special educational needs are enrolled in the school or class that best suits their needs and that resources are used by such special schools or special classes for the purpose they were intended.

However, during the debate concerns were expressed that the wording of those amendments was not clear enough in this regard. Having regard to the concerns raised, I agreed to withdraw those particular amendments and re-examine their wording to ensure they achieved their intended purpose and did not cause any unintended consequences.

The wording of the corresponding amendments that I am now bringing forward has therefore been adjusted to make clearer that the special school or special class can refuse enrolment only where the child does not have the category of special educational needs for which the special school or special class was approved by the Minister to cater.

Similarly the information set out in the admission statement regarding the category of special educational need catered for must be consistent with the categories for which the school was approved by the Minister to cater. The revised wording addresses any concerns that a special school or special class might determine itself the categories it caters for or change or restrict the categories without the prior approval of the Minister, by making clear that the category or categories in question must be those specified by the Minister in respect of the special school or special class in question.

In addition to the amendments withdrawn on Committee Stage, I have included amendment No. 48 which will require special schools or schools with special classes to state clearly in their admission policy the category or categories of special educational needs that the special school or special class concerned has been approved by the Minister to cater for. This will complement the other provisions for special schools and special classes, as well as aiding transparency in the admission process for such schools and special classes.

I welcome the Minister’s amendments. I hope they achieve the desired effect. I have seen some special schools treat children inappropriately, particularly when dealing with expulsion or suspension, which is similar to admission. I do not want to see any barriers put up for children with special needs. This genuinely has the child’s interests at heart and it should not be a barrier for the school to say it does not want certain classes of children with special educational needs. Special schools and mainstream schools with special classes are finding it difficult to deal with the issue of behavioural challenges. I know the National Council for Special Education has included this in its review, which was launched today. That is welcome but what I am hearing on the ground is that due to the legal liability regarding assaults by pupils on other pupils - I am talking about assaults by children with special educational needs, in particular, who let us be frank do not know what they are doing, are not deliberately setting out to harm others and have a behavioural challenge - is such that insurance costs for some of these schools are becoming prohibitive. A fundamental problem is that teachers or SNAs do not have the necessary training to deal with children with challenging behaviour. Has the issue of insurance for special schools been brought to the Minister’s attention? If it has, does he propose to give extra resources to deal with pupils in such circumstances? I would not like to see children with behavioural challenges excluded from schools because of the criteria he is putting forward in these amendments.

I agree with the Deputy's comment. It shows the value of Committee Stage scrutiny which has brought a greater clarity to the provisions. In the past 48 hours I heard the same concern expressed about growing insurance liability. I do not know what is driving that but it seems to be an issue which has arisen quite suddenly in respect of some special schools. I will ask my officials to assess this and determine how we might address it.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 14, line 31, to delete “made.” and substitute the following:

“made; ‘waiting list’ shall be construed in accordance with section 62(7)(i).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 14, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

“61. (1) Section 7(3)(c) of the Act of 2000 is deleted.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 75; Staon, 0.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 15, line 20, to delete “and”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 15, to delete lines 21 to 29.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 not moved.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 15, line 21, after “school”, to insert “not aided by the Department of Education and Skills”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 70; Staon, 0.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Catherine Martin and Kathleen Funchion; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 15, line 21, after "section 7(3)(c)" to insert "(amended by section 10(a)(i) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 15, to delete lines 27 to 29 and substitute the following:

“others,

(c) a school to which section 7(3)(ca) (inserted by section 10(a)(ii) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) of the Act of 2000 applies, whose objective is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, the admission statement of the school shall include a statement that the school does not discriminate in relation to the admission of students where it refuses to admit as a student a person who is not of a particular religious denomination and it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school,

(d) a school to which section 7(3)(cb) (inserted by section 10(a)(ii) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) of the Act of 2000 applies, the admission statement of the school shall include a statement that the school does not discriminate in relation to the admission of students where it admits as a student a person in accordance with section 7A (inserted by section 10(b) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) of the Act of 2000,".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 45, 57, 58, 60, 75 to 80, inclusive, 90 and 91 are related. Amendments Nos. 57, 60 and 78 to 80, inclusive, are consequential on amendment No. 75. Amendment No. 58 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 57. Amendments Nos. 76 and 77 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 75. Amendment No. 77 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 76. Amendments Nos. 45, 57, 58, 60, 75 to 80, inclusive, 90 and 91 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 15, line 29, to delete "school." and substitute the following:

"school, and

(c) a school which teaches through the medium of Irish, and which gives priority in its admission policy to students who speak Irish as a home language, the admission statement of the school shall include a statement that the school does not discriminate in relation to the admission of students where it admits a student who speaks Irish as a home language in preference to others whose home language is not Irish.".

I and colleagues here, Deputies Funchion and Thomas Byrne, have been discussing amendment No. 75 with which, as the Minister will be aware, we have problems because we do not believe the Minister's amendment protects the child who is fluent and where Irish is the home language. We are willing, if the Minister would withdraw his amendment No. 75, to withdraw our amendments that deal with this until we have an opportunity to come together on a cross-party basis with relevant stakeholders and maybe Department officials.

I concur with Deputy Catherine Martin. It is our understanding that if we were to try to include amendments Nos. 75 to 80, inclusive, they would contradict each other and some of them would fall.

I would have liked more time on the amendments to this section. I have spoken to the Irish language groups that are obviously the experts in this area and it is important for the children who come from an Irish-speaking background.

We need to promote the language more. I am somebody who does not have fluent Gaeilge but I ensure that my sons go to a Gaelscoil. That is important to me. There are children in that school who come from families who speak Irish at home and it is important that they have the opportunity to learn through the medium of Irish and are not unfairly discriminated against.

There is agreement between Deputies Thomas Byrne, Catherine Martin, me and others in this regard. We do not want a situation where we must vote down amendment No. 75. We ask the Minister to withdraw his amendment and we will withdraw ours, following which we can have more debate and discussion on this in conjunction with the relevant Irish language groups and we can come back to it in the Seanad.

I thank my colleagues for supporting the proposal that I put to them last night and today. None of us should be in thrall to any lobby group on any issue and I am not speaking here on behalf of any particular group. I wish to get this exactly right.

The lobby groups in this case have said to us that they see difficulties in the drafting of the Minister's amendment that might have unexpected consequences. The consequences they outlined to us relate to a small number of schools, the principal of one of which I met yesterday, which a high number of native Irish speakers attend. It would be possible under the Minister's proposal that there would be so many children who would fulfil this criteria that some children, whose families speak Irish exclusively at home, could lose out. There is one school on the south side of this city where this is certainly a real worry.

We do not want to make Gaelscoileanna exclusive but it is reasonable that somebody who speaks Irish in the home would deserve priority. Frankly, that is easy to judge. A ten-minute interview would not be needed. It would probably be known straight away on meeting the family and hearing them talking to each other. One or two sentences would usually be enough. While the Minister's amendment is well intentioned and serves a great good that we try to make this as inclusive as possible, it could have an unintended effect of excluding certain Irish-speakers.

Táim anseo agus táim ag tacú leis seo, go háirithe le mo leasú féin, Uimh. 77, mar go gclúdaíonn an leasú sin na meánscoileanna agus na gaelcholáistí, rud atá tábhachtach freisin, chomh maith leis na bunscoileanna.

Níl mise anseo chun aon jab a dhéanamh ar son aon ghrúpa áirithe. Tá muidne go léir anseo chun jab a dhéanamh ar son na bpáistí atá sna scoileanna seo agus atá ag iarraidh freastail ar na scoileanna seo agus a bhfuil Gaeilge acu, agus go háirithe acu siúd atá Gaeilge acu sa bhaile. Tá sé sin an-tábhachtach gur féidir le scoileanna, más mian leo, tús áite a thabhairt do na páistí a bhfuil Gaeilge acu sa bhaile, agus Gaeilge líofa á labhairt acu sa bhaile ó lá go lá. Táim ag déanamh achainí ar an Aire gan dul ar aghaidh lena leasú féin, agus má dhéanann an tAire é sin, ní rachaimidne ar aghaidh lenár leasuithe agus is féidir linn cainteanna a bheith againn idir na hoifigigh, na grúpaí, agus muintir an fhreasúra anseo, chun go mbeidh leasú níos fearr, agus leasú gur féidir le gach duine aontú leis, agus gur féidir leis an Aire é sin a chur faoi bhráid an tSeanaid agus go mbeadh gach duine sásta leis. Ní dhéanfaí liathróid pholaitíochta as an ábhar tábhachtach seo dá bharr.

An t-aon rud atá muidne ag iarraidh a dhéanamh anseo ná go mbeadh an dlí ceart againn, an dlí is cothroime agus an dlí is cruinne againn. Níl aon dabht ach gurb í sin aidhm an Aire freisin. Mura bhfuil an tAire ag iarraidh aontú leis an togra a bhfuil mise ag cur os comhair na Dála, bheadh mise ag rá go mbeidh mise ag vótáil in aghaidh leasú Uimh. 75 agus ar son mo leasú féin, go háirithe leasú Uimh. 77. Measaim gurb é an rud is fearr ná go seasfaimid go léir siar agus go ndéanfaimid machnamh ar an ábhar seo roimh dul go dtí an Seanad leis, chun an jab is fearr a dhéanamh.

Níl mé ag déanamh aon cháineadh ar an Aire, ar na hoifigigh, ná ar an Roinn maidir leis seo, ach measaim go bhfuil pointe déanta ag grúpaí atá bainteach leis seo, agus go háirithe go bhfuil pointe an-tábhachtach déanta an ag bpríomh-Oide, i scoil i dtoghcheantar, Deputy Boyd Barrett. The principal of the school in Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett's constituency has made a very good point that there are some children who would go to that school who are fluent in Irish at home and who could possibly lose out because of this provision. That point is so important that it deserves further consideration.

I support the call made by my colleagues because of the simple fact that it is in the interests of children who might be disenfranchised by this provision to agree to what has been requested by the Deputies and hope the Minister can do so. I know of many schools in my constituency that teach all subjects completely through Irish. It is welcomed throughout the country and in my county such schools are very popular. In my humble opinion, it is something that should always be supported in every way because there is a demand for it. Many years ago I attended summer Irish colleges which were great places to go to. The bean an tí does great work in promoting and sustaining the Irish language. I hope the Minister will be able to accede to the request made by my colleagues.

I support Teachta Catherine Martin, too, on the amendment, but we have to be very careful. There is a large number of Gaelscoileanna. While there are areas of the country that are still Gaeltacht areas, there are others that are not but there are people living in them who are interested in having their children educated through the medium of Irish. Therefore, we have to be very careful in how we balance the provision. We have Galescoil Chluain Meala, Gaelscoil Charraig Na Siuire, Gaelscoil Thiobraid Arann and Gaelscoil Aonach Urmhumhan. There has been a lot of interest in and work done during the years in trying to find sites on which to build and seeking approval for different stages of construction and renovation projects, most of which started with little. They were beag ar fad. Some started in a room in a private house and then expanded and mushroomed. Some questioned whether it was elitist that people in some areas wanted their children to go to a Gaelscoil, not for the teanga or culture but to be in smaller classes. People chose with their feet. It is important that we acknowledge the role played by and the interest shown by the people involved and what they want to do in these schools.

It is a reasonable proposal. I had not really tuned into this particular debate, but it is a reasonable request to make if the fear - if I understand it correctly - is that fluent speakers will not be able to gain access to Irish speaking schools. As I am concerned by anything that smacks of exclusion or elitism, I do not want to support anything like it. It is a reasonable request that all those who have tabled amendments on this issue pull back to see if some compromise which addresses all concerns can be achieved in order that there can be an all-party consensus when the Bill goes to the Seanad. That is a reasonable request, if I understand the issue correctly.

I will take time to explain what is at stake. The backdrop to the provision is that on Committee Stage we discussed this issue. A number of Opposition Deputies were keen for us to introduce a provision to allow children with a level of fluency preferential access to Gaelscoileanna and ensure that it would be an acceptable basis and not breach the Equal Status Act. It was on that basis that I consulted, obtained legal advice and drew up an amendment. I will set it out before we make a decision on how to proceed.

The amendment provides that Gaelscoileanna or Gaelcholáistí can give priority if they are satisfied that a proposed entrant has achieved a reasonable level of age-related fluency and that that level of fluency will regress if the child does not gain access to a Gaelscoil or Gaelcholáiste, as the case may be. We do not seek to and do not differentiate in the amendment between how that level of fluency was acquired. We do not give naíonraí feeder school status. Therefore, we hinge it on a level of fluency established by the child, not on the child having the money to go to a naíonra. We do not want to give feeder school status to particular preschools because we are not doing so elsewhere. We also do not provide that there be an interview with the parents and do not say the school will have entry tests. We say instead that it is up to the parent to choose how to demonstrate that the child has achieved fluency. We also provide that where children have reached a level of fluency that will regress if they do not gain access to a Gaelscoil or Gaelcholáiste, they will not be ranked by fluency. It is establishing a level of fluency that will give them access.

I can understand what has been put forward in the amendments tabled by the Opposition. The proposal is that from within the group of children who have achieved a level of fluency, additional priority, above and beyond all those children who have a level of fluency, be given to a child who normally speaks to one of his or her parents in Irish in the home and who displays a minimum level of Irish associated with speaking Irish to one parent.

I do not have a profound objection to accepting amendments Nos. 76 and 77, as well as my own, amendment No. 75. There are some quibbles with the way they are drafted in terms of how one establishes what is normal communication between one parent and a child. A school can establish at some level that a child or a parent has a level of fluency, but it is harder to demonstrate that the parent normally speaks Irish to the child in the home. At second level one would be establishing a priority for a child from a feeder school, to which I have no profound objection.

The thinking behind our approach is that the State has an obligation to support the promotion of the language, but we do not want to prefer a group of children who acquired their language proficiency in talking to a parent, a grandparent or a brother or as the result of a big effort made by the family to immerse a child in the Irish language, even if the parent did not have the opportunity to speak it. We do not seek to distinguish them and that is the thinking behind our provision. I do not have a clear-cut view on whether it is satisfactory, legally, to give priority to someone who is defined as having spoken Irish to one of his or her parents in the home over someone who has the same level of fluency but who acquired it in a different way. That is an issue that needs consideration if the Deputies are convinced that the amendment I have developed is not sufficient.

We can do this in one of two ways. We could accept amendments Nos. 76 and 77, as well my own, amendment No. 75. Deputy Thomas Byrne proposes to give preference to someone who speaks Irish as their language in the home over and above a child who acquires it otherwise. He also proposes that a post-primary school accept evidence from a primary school principal that a child speaks Irish in order to carry on at second level. If I were to accept the Deputies' amendments, I would want to have them suitably scrubbed by legal advisers before we went with them to the Seanad where it might be necessary to amend them which would require us to come back here. After the discussion we had on Committee Stage, my officials and the Office of the Attorney General tried faithfully to get what had been sought. I am not opposed to going the extra distance-----

The Minister can only accept one of the amendments.

I see. In that event, I am content. I do not want to lose the principle as it is acceptable. I also do not want to send forward legislation that has not been adequately scrutinised or, if we lose our amendments and the Deputies' are accepted, to have to bring it back here. As there was a collective effort on Committee Stage to deal with this issue, I am quite happy to try to find a resolution. However, I wanted to explain why we went the way we did. Our obligation is to support the promotion of the language. Is it right to pick one group of children who have one parent to whom they normally speak Irish? We need to decide if it is right to make such a distinction and if it is legally robust and would not represent a form of discrimination. We need to examine the issue, but I am content to withdraw my amendment and resubmit in the Seanad. In the intervening period I will ask the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to examine the amendments that have been tabled, particularly amendments Nos. 76 and 77 which are the most detailed.

I thank the Minister for agreeing to do so. Táim ag súil le bheith ag obair le chéile chun Gaeilge líofa a chothú agus a chaomhnú.

I also thank the Minister. Part of the problem is the fact that the Government is not geared up for the way the new politics is working. We are not doing this simply to get one over on the Minister. The Government tends to operate by taking advice on amendments from the Attorney General or the parliamentary counsel. They are then published, but we get a very limited opportunity to react afterwards. We have attempted to do so in an honest way.

I have been trying to get the entrance policy of my school for comparison purposes, but I have not been able to do so. We want to allow schools to continue what they have been doing. The Minister may say section 29 applies, but I have not come across cases where this has caused a problem. We do not want to cause problems and I agree fully with Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett that we do not want this to be used as an instrument of exclusion. That is the last thing I want to see happen.

The Minister's amendment is quite appropriate at second level. I do not see what the rationale is for prioritising those who are fluent at home if they have been to a Gaelscoil. At primary level, however, it is not just a question of access, it is also one of language planning. Will the Minister tell us whether the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has given any opinion on this matter? My colleague, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, makes the point strongly that it is not simply about school admissions or Gaelscoileanna. It is also about language planning and supporting families who speak Irish in the home. That is our objective on this side of the House. We want to encourage those children to keep it up and their efforts should be recognised. They should not be in danger of losing a school place.

Measaim go bhfuil sé go maith go bhfuil an cinneadh glactha na leasuithe seo a tharraingt siar, toisc nach bhfuil aontas idir an Rialtas agus na hurlabhraithe. Bheadh sé níos fearr dá mbeadh an t-aontas sin ann, agus measaim gur léiriú é go bhfuil níos mó ama ag teastáil. Is trua nach bhful sé os ár gcomhair anois, mar go dtabharfadh sé léiriú gur féidir le gach duine obair le chéile. Nílimid tar éis obair le chéile sa Stát seo maidir leis an nGaeilge thar na cianta. Ní hé go mbeadh daoine ag iarraidh céim chun tosaigh a thabhairt do Ghaeilgeoirí amháin agus gur go díreach i gcomhair Gaeilgeoirí amháin iad na gaelscoileanna. Is aitheantas é ar an bhfadhb atá ann faoi láthair nach bhfuil go leor spásanna i ngaelscoileanna timpeall na tíre chun déileáil leis an éileamh atá ann. An polasaí atá agam féin thar na blianta ná go ndeachaigh mé go dtí an Stát chun níos mó a dhéanamh, ní hamháin chun an t-éileamh a shásamh ach an t-éileamh a chruthú, chun go mbeadh i bhfad níos mó borrtha maidir le Gaelscoileanna. Rinneadh cinneadh roinnt blianta ó shin maidir leis an ratio laistigh de Ghaelscoileanna, rud a rinneadh athrú. An tIar-Theachta Ruairí Quinn a bhí ina Aire ag an am. Thóg sé an ratio suas go dtí an ratio céanna a bhí ann do scoileanna Béarla.

Dá réir, chothaigh sé sin fadhbanna do ghaelscoileanna a bhí ag iarraidh fás agus ag an am céanna rinne sé an cinneadh ar feadh tréimhse gan aon aitheantas a thabhairt do scoileanna nua. Tuigim ag an am go raibh an fhadhb maidir leis an ngeilleagar ann ach anois níl, agus ní cóir go mbeadh an fhadhb sin ann. Ba chóir go mbeimid ag díriú isteach ar an gcaoi is féidir linn an méid is mó daltaí a bheith i scoileanna Gaeilge, ní hamháin iad siúd a bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar chéad teanga acu, iad siúd atá ag freastal ar naíscoileanna Gaeilge ach iad siúd atá ag iarraidh na páistí a chur chuig na gaelscoileanna nach bhfuil an deis acu a bheith ag freastal ar naíscoileanna agus a leithéid.

Chomh maith leis sin, an príomh-rud atá feicthe againn thar na blianta ná nach bhfuil na háiseanna cuí acu. Níl na scoileanna, nó na ranganna, mór go leor agus níl na háiseanna eile ag gnáthpháistí Gaelscoileanna. Tá áiteanna nach bhfuil an trealamh ann, áiteanna nach bhfuil na leabhair scoile ann agus áiteanna nach bhfuil faoi láthair na múinteoirí ann fiú amháin, rud tábhachtach dá mbeadh fás as cuimse ag tarlú. Dá mbeadh an fás sin ag tarlú bheadh fadhb ann, mar atá ann cheana féin i roinnt ceantair, áit nach bhfuil múinteoirí ann leis na cáilíochtaí nó leis an líofacht maidir leis an nGaeilge chun a bheith ag múineadh i nGaelscoileanna.

Ní hé go bhfuilimid ag iarraidh raic a bheith ann idir an Freasúra agus an Aire nó idir na heagrais Ghaeilge timpeall na tíre. Ní hé sin atá i gceist sna leasuithe a bhí á gcur chun cinn anseo, a bhí ag teacht salach beagán ar an méid a bhí an tAire féin tar éis a bheith curtha chun cinn agus tairbhe éigin ag baint leo. An rud atá i gceist anois ná go mbeadh an deis is fearr ann do pháistí agus do thuismitheoirí agus go mbeadh sé cinnte gur féidir seasamh breise éigin a thabhairt dóibh siúd a bhfuil an Ghaeilge acu maidir le hiontráil i mbunscoileanna agus i meánscoileanna Gaeilge.

Má tá an t-éileamh chomh mór sin, is jab eile don Aire déileáil leis sin. Is é sin an chaoi is féidir le fás agus borradh a chur an athuair faoi Ghaelscoileanna atá ar eolas agamsa i gceantair timpeall na cathrach seo agus timpeall na tíre atá ar bís ag lorg aitheantas éigin agus cuidiú chun an t-éileamh atá sna ceantair sin a shásamh. Tá mé ag caint ní hamháin maidir le freastal ar bhunscoileanna ach, mar a dúirt mé cheana, ar ghaelchóláistí chomh maith. Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an tAire éisteacht don mhéid atá le rá ag na hurlabhraithe oideachais ar an taobh seo den Teach agus do na heagrais Ghaeilge agus idir seo agus tráth na díospóireachta a bheidh sa Seanad. Tá súil agam freisin go mbeidh an tAire in ann teacht ar leasuithe le go mbeimid le chéile, agus a bheidh in ann na héilimh atá ag na heagrais sin a shásamh agus ábalta cuidiú a thabhairt dóibh siúd atá ag iarraidh dul chuig na Gaelscoileanna timpeall na cathrach agus na tíre ach go háirithe.

I want to make two brief points. First, I welcome the fact that the Minister has listened and taken on board our suggestion. That is very helpful and, hopefully, we will able to get some resolution when we discuss it as a group again. Second, I would definitely not support anything that is in any way elitist particularly around the Irish language because I am always conscious of the fact that many people did not get the opportunity to learn the language in the way they would have liked and they have worked very hard to get their children into Gaelscoileanna so that their children and future generations can learn the language. Many people who are not originally from this country send their children to Gaelscoileanna. It is great to see children of other nationalities speaking the Irish language. I would always favour that we would reach out and encourage people to speak the Irish language rather than being in any way elitist about it. Those are the two points I wanted to put on the record.

I am glad to see the Minister is doing his best to work with the Opposition to approach this issue in a common sense and cohesive way. As Teachta Byrne said, it is not all about school admission policies. It must be about nurturing our teanga freisin. I did not quite understand what the Minister meant when he mentioned that pupils would not be taken in - na daltaí ón naíonra. Tá naíonra i gCaisleán Nua agus tá naíonra freisin i gCathair Dhún Uisce agus an tUasal Kathleen Lynch an múinteoir atá ansin. Tá a lán daoine, there are a lot of different nationalities attending that naíonra in Cathair Dhún Uisce. I spoke to its principal at a open day somewhat later than this time last year before they broke for the school holidays. At the open day they had a concert and I was amazed to see the multicultural group of people they had who were singing as Gaeilge. The principal informed me it is much easier for the foreign nationals who are living in Cathair Dhún Uisce to pick up Irish than it is for them to pick up English. She told me Irish is a simple language to learn. The Minister might clarify the position regarding the naionraí.

None of us wants the Irish language to be elitist but we need to have it nurtured and spoken in the home, albeit not in the workplace, but also spoken when people are out socially. It is important we keep it alive. My village was a breac-Ghaeltacht up to 1957. I am glad we have naíonra Caisleán Nua there now but we need to nurture the language. We do not want to lose our teanga completely.

The Minister's intervention and response is welcome and fitting for the subject in question. He has taken on board the views of the other Deputies. That is what governance and listening is all about. Taking on board viewpoints of others and trying to reach a sensible and objective conclusion will help and protect the interests of the most important people in this context, those who are availing of education in the schools.

Regarding the spoken word, a great many people learned Irish in schools that were not all-Irish schools where Irish was a curriculum subject. In later life they have tended to lose the language because, to use the motto, if you do not use it you lose it. Many students who have attended schools and colleges where all subjects were taught through Irish find the language has stayed with them and they are inclined to use it much more. That is reason many of those schools are very successful. It is also the reason many parents want their children to attend all-Irish schools if they live near them and can get a place in them. It is a sensible decision if it suits the families involved. This debate is very worthwhile. I thank the Minister for listening, understanding and reacting so far in a positive way.

It is great the Minister has agreed to come to a consensus view and accept the suggestion. I will have to have a considered discussion with my colleagues about this. I have learned a good deal from the discussion.

It is absolutely critical that we consider those people who make a significant effort to achieve fluency, including the many people who may not speak it in the home but are nonetheless very passionate about trying to achieve fluency and some of the new immigrant communities. It is absolutely wonderful that they are taking up the Irish language. We do not want to do anything that would discriminate against, inhibit or obstruct those communities from participating fully in Irish language education.

On the other hand, however, I see the logic of trying to see what we can do to ensure that people who speak the language at home with their parents would not regress in their fluency because they are not in an Irish language school. It is a tricky balance. The main point is that all Members are committed to trying to do the right things and not come up with any provisions that are exclusionary. If the will is there and if there is engagement with the relevant stakeholders then some arrangement can be agreed when the Bill goes to the Seanad.

I appeal for the support of the House in not delaying the Bill. There are a lot of good elements in the Bill that I would not like to see lost.

I reiterate what a number of Deputies have already said. We do not want to breach sound educational principles that are embedded in the Bill. We should not have tests of access for parents. That should not be how we decide a child's entry to school. We do not want discrimination creeping in under another name. We want legislation that is robust enough to withstand challenge. We do not want academic ability being the test of access. There are aspects we need to avoid while accommodating this legislation and, having listened to the Deputies' contributions, I believe the Deputies appreciate that this is not a slam-dunk situation. We are trying to balance elements that are reasonably finely poised and we need to be sensitive to the possibilities of getting it wrong.

As my colleagues have said, we are certainly not seeking that discrimination of any sort would creep into the school system. We want to protect the rights of those who have a reasonable level of fluency at home, but we also want to make sure we protect the educational rights of those who speak Irish as a home language, especially children with special educational needs who have Irish as a home language. I thank the Minister for agreeing to withdraw his amendment No. 75 for the moment. The opportunity to work together seems quite complicated but maybe we can get there and strike a happy balance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 15, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“(e) a school that, with the approval of the Minister, provides an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister, the admission statement of the school shall include a statement that the school may refuse to admit a student who does not have the specified category of special educational needs concerned, and

(f) a school that, in addition to the general admission of students has, with the approval of the Minister, established a class to provide an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister, the admission statement of the school shall include a statement that the school may refuse to admit to the class concerned a student who does not have the specified category of special educational needs concerned.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 16, lines 23 and 24, to delete “as soon as practicable” and substitute “, within the prescribed period,”.

This amendment provides for the board of management to publish its admission policy once it has been approved by the patron. The Bill currently provides for the board to do so as soon as practicable after the patron has approved the policy. As the Bill separately provides for the Minister to prescribe the period within which a board should publish its policy, this amendment provides instead for the board to publish the policy within the prescribed period.

In Ireland some 90% of primary schools are under Catholic patronage. Factors such as emigration and the increasingly secular population has led to demand for more diversity in school patronage. The 2012 report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector recommended a policy of divestment, which is the transfer of a school from a denominational patron to another patron. I have often indicated my support for such a policy. We are aware of the increasing demand for non-denominational schools.

Is Deputy McGrath sure about the relevance of his contribution to the amendment currently under consideration?

Is Deputy McGrath sure about the relevance of his contribution to the amendment currently under consideration?

Are we on amendment No. 37?

We are on amendment No. 47.

Is that amendment related to school patronage?

We have gone past amendment No. 37. Amendment No. 47 is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 16, to delete line 28 and substitute the following:

“(b) include an admission statement and set out—

(i) in the case of a school that, with the approval of the Minister, provides an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister, the category or categories or special educational needs concerned,

(ii) in the case of a school that, in addition to the general admission of students has, with the approval of the Minister, established a class to provide an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister, the category or categories or special educational needs concerned,”.

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 16, line 30, to delete "and" and substitute "including, where appropriate,".

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 16, line 32, to delete “or special class concerned”.

Amendment put.

Deputies

Votáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72, the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 16, to delete line 33.

Amendment No. 51 relates to a typographical error in the Bill. It deletes line 33 of page 11 where the word "or" was incorrectly inserted.

(Interruptions).
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 52 not moved.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 17, line 1, after “school” to insert “not aided by the Department of Education and Skills”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 65; Staon, 0.

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Catherine Martin and Kathleen Funchion; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 17, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“(v) in the case of a school that, with the approval of the Minister, provides an education exclusively for students with a category or categories of special educational needs specified by the Minister, where the student does not have the specified category of special educational needs concerned, or

(vi) in the case of a student seeking admission to a special class in the school, where the student does not have the category of special educational needs specified by the Minister in respect of that class,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 17, to delete lines 8 and 9 and substitute the following:

“(e) provide that the school shall not, when deciding on an application to the school, or when placing a student on a waiting list for admission to the school, consider or take into account any of the following:”.

The Bill currently sets out that where a school is oversubscribed it may not use certain selection criteria such as attendance at a preschool, payment of fees, academic ability, interviews etc. Amendment No. 55 clarifies that such matters cannot be taken into account in any case where a school is deciding on an application for admission, even where the school is not oversubscribed and in cases where a school is oversubscribed, they cannot be taken into account in deciding on an applicant’s place on a waiting list.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 17, lines 10 and 11, to delete “specified category or categories of”.

Amendment No. 56 is a proofing amendment. It deletes reference to “specified category or categories” in the provision that prohibits a school from giving priority based on attendance at a pre-school or pre-school service other than in the case of an early intervention class or early start pre-school. Otherwise, the wording might be open to the interpretation that schools could in fact prioritise certain types of other pre-schools. Deleting the wording in question ensures clarity that priority may be given only in the case of early intervention classes or early start pre-schools.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 17, line 18, to delete “subsection (8)” and substitute “subsections (8) and (9)”.

I thought the Minister had agreed to withdraw this amendment when we were discussing No. 45.

Apologies, the Deputy is correct. I will withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 58 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 59, 87 and 88 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 17, line 26, after “course” to insert “or to a course known as a further education and training course”.

Amendment No. 59 provides that in the case of admission to a further education and training course run by a recognised school, the school shall not be prohibited from holding interviews or meetings as part of the admission process to such a course. Amendments Nos. 87 and 88 provide that in the case of admission to a further education and training course run by a recognised school, the school shall not be prohibited from charging fees where this is applicable in relation to admission to such courses.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment Nos. 60 and 61 not moved.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 17, to delete lines 30 to 37 and substitute the following:

“(vii) the date and time on which an application for admission was received by the school, subject to subsection (11) and subject to the application being received at any time during the period specified for receiving applications set out in the annual admission notice of the school for the school year concerned or, where appropriate, at any time during the period as otherwise determined by the school in accordance with this Act or regulations made under this Act,”.

Amendment No. 62 substitutes a new subsection for subsection 62(7)(e)(vii) to ensure that there is clarity in the wording of this section where it provides that schools must not use selection criteria based on the date and time that an application was received. This prohibits schools from applying a first come, first served approach to admissions and ensures newcomers to an area are not disadvantaged. The adjusted wording to this provision makes clearer that schools are still allowed to require applications to be made within certain timelines as set out in the Bill but that applications received within those timelines may not be ranked according to the date or time of being received.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 63 not moved.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 18, to delete lines 5 to 12 and substitute the following:

“(h) provide that a decision on an application for admission shall be based on—

(i) the implementation of the school’s admission policy including, where applicable, the annual admission notice of the school, and

(ii) the information provided by the applicant in the application for admission received before the closing date set out in the annual admission notice of the school or, where appropriate, the date as otherwise determined by the school in accordance with this Act or regulations made under this Act,”.

The purpose of amendment No. 64 is to make clear that the school’s admission policy must provide that decisions on applications for admission must be based on the implementation of the school’s admission policy, the admission notice and the information provided by the applicant within the relevant timeline set out in the admission notice or the timeline as otherwise applicable to that application under the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 18, lines 14 and 15, to delete “the intake group” and substitute “admission to the school”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 18, to delete lines 29 to 34 and substitute the following:

“(i) whether or not he or she has accepted an offer of admission for another school or schools and, where the applicant has so accepted, he or she shall provide details of the offer or offers concerned, and

(ii) whether or not he or she has applied for and is awaiting confirmation of an offer of admission from another school or schools, and where the applicant has so applied, he or she shall provide details of the other school or schools concerned,”.

Amendment No. 66 is a proofing amendment to ensure consistency of wording between section 62(7)(j)(i) and 62(7)(j)(ii) and to make clear that the requirement on an applicant who is accepting an offer of admission in a school to provide that school with details of offers awaited from other schools, will apply only where the applicant has actually made any application or application to other schools.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 18, lines 37 to 39, to delete all words from and including “details” in line 37 down to and including line 39 and substitute the following:

“details of the student’s ranking against the selection criteria and details of the student’s place on the waiting list,”.

The Bill currently provides in Section 67(7)(k)) for an applicant to be provided with details as to why he or she has failed to meet the school’s selection criteria. Amendment No. 67 is a proofing amendment to improve and clarify the language of this provision so that it refers instead to “details of the student’s ranking against the selection criteria”.

This new wording more accurately describes what is required.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 18, to delete lines 42 and 43 and substitute the following:

"(i) it is established that information contained in the application is false or misleading in a material respect,".

This proofing amendment provides for more appropriate and workable language in the provision that allows a school to withdraw an offer of admission if the application contained false or misleading information. As it stands, the Bill allows a school to withdraw an offer if "it is established that the application is fraudulent or intentionally misleading". The new wording, as set out in this amendment, provides for an offer to be withdrawn where "it is established that the information contained in an application is false or misleading in a material respect". This adjusted language provides for a fairer and more workable provision in practice. A school will not have to establish fraud or that the application was intentionally misleading. However, if it is established that the information is false or misleading, it can withdraw an offer, but only if that information was false or misleading in a material respect.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 19, line 20, after "school" to insert the following:

"(which arrangements shall not result in a reduction in the school day in respect of the student concerned)".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 70 and 86 are being taken together.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 19, line 29, to delete "attendance" and substitute "enrolment".

These amendments substitutes the word "enrolment" for the word "attendance" in sections 62(7)(p)(ii) and 64(1)(b), both of which are concerned with prohibiting fees or charges as a "condition of admission or continued attendance" at a school. As students can have gaps in attendance from time to time, it is considered that "enrolment" is the more appropriate term to use in this context. This would prevent a school charging fees as a condition of the student continuing to be enrolled, including where the child is not currently attending for a particular reason such as illness. Therefore, the revised wording will refer to "admission or continued enrolment in a school" because this more accurately describes what is required.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 71 and 72 not moved.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 19, line 31, to delete "and criteria".

This proofing amendment removes a duplication in the section of the Bill that requires a school to set out its selection criteria in its policy. It deletes the reference to setting out selection criteria in section 62(7)(q) because this requirement is already set out in 62(7)(d).

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 74 to 81, inclusive, not moved.

This is new politics at its best.

We are all going to sit down before the Bill goes to the Seanad.

Amendments Nos. 82 to 85, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 82:

In page 20, line 34, to delete "the intake group of".

Amendments Nos. 82 to 85, inclusive, relate to the annual admission notices that must be prepared by schools. The collective purpose of these amendments is to clarify that an admission notice applies to the intake group and to any special class in a school, but does not apply to admission to other classes or groups. Amendment No. 82 deletes the reference to "the intake group" in section 63(1) in light of amendments to later provisions in this section which clarify that the admission notice applies to the intake group and to special classes. Amendment No. 83 clarifies that the admission notice must indicate the dates by which an applicant will be notified of the school's decision and the dates by which an applicant must accept any offer in the case of both the intake group and any special class. The existing provision does not make this clear. Amendment No. 84 clarifies the wording of this provision to clarify that the admission notice must separately specify the number of places in the intake group and in any special class and that must also separately provide details of any oversubscription in the intake group or the special class concerned in the previous school year. Amendment No. 85 provides that a reference to admission in this section means admission to the intake group or the special class.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 83:

In page 21, to delete lines 10 to 13 and substitute the following:

"(iii) in respect of an application for admission to an intake group or special class, the date by which the applicant shall be notified of the decision in relation to his or her application,

(iv) in respect of an application for admission to an intake group or special class, the date by which the applicant shall confirm acceptance of the offer of admission,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 84:

In page 21, to delete lines 14 to 25 and substitute the following:

"(c) in relation to the school year concerned, set out—

(i) the number of places being made available in the intake group,

(ii) in the case of a boarding school, the number of residential and the number of non-residential places being made available and

(iii) in the case of a school with a special class, the number of places being made available in the special class concerned;

(d) in the case of a school where the intake group or a special class in the school was oversubscribed in the school year prior to the school year in relation to which admission is being sought, a statement setting out the number of applications received and the number and order of offers made in that school year in respect of each of the school's selection criteria,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 85:

In page 21, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

"(5) In this section, a reference to admission to a school means a reference to admission to the intake group of the school or admission to a special class in the school.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 86:

In page 21, to delete line 39 and substitute the following:

"(b) the admission or continued enrolment of a student in the school.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 22, line 8, to delete "or".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 22, line 11, to delete "courses." and substitute the following:

"courses, or

(d) fees charged by schools that provide further education and training courses, in respect of such courses.".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 22, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

"(3) (a) In particular, the Minister shall, within 3 months of the commencement of this Act, make regulations governing the age-appropriate arrangements to be made for students who do not wish to attend religious instruction or classes.

(b) Such regulations shall have regard to the rights of students under the Constitution to attend a school in receipt of public funds without attending religious instruction or classes at that school.".

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 44; Staon, 23.

  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Browne, James.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Curran, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Catherine Martin and Aengus Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Joe McHugh and Tony McLoughlin.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 90 and 91 not moved.

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 23, lines 7 to 9, to delete all words from and including “number” in line 7 down to and including “school” in line 9 and substitute “school is oversubscribed”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 93 to 95, inclusive, and 97 to 102, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 93:

In page 23, to delete lines 32 to 34 and substitute the following:

“(vi) the manner in which and period during which a school shall notify an applicant as to the decision on his or her application;”.

Amendment No. 93 adjusts the current wording in the Bill that provides that regulations may be made regarding the manner and period during which an applicant will be informed that his or her application for admission has been accepted. The revised wording clarifies that this refers to the manner and period during which an applicant will be informed as to the decision on his or her application rather than whether the application has been accepted.

Amendment No. 94 inserts a provision in the regulations section to provide that regulations may be made regarding the manner in which, and periods during which, an applicant will confirm his or her acceptance of an offer of admission to a school and that these regulations may include, where an applicant accepts more than one offer of admission, the manner and periods during which the applicant must provide final confirmation of acceptance or non-acceptance to the schools in question.

Amendments Nos. 95, 98 and 99 to 102, inclusive, involve consequential re-numbering amendments arising from amendment No. 94. They also provide that regulations can set out both the arrangements and the procedures that apply regarding the compilation and operation of waiting lists; offers that become available after the completion of the admission process; applications received after the commencement of the school year; and applications to classes other than the intake group.

The purpose of amendment No. 97 is a proofing amendment to clarify that regulations may set conditions that applicants "shall" be required to adhere to, rather than conditions that applicants "may" be required to adhere to.

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 23, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:

"(viii) the manner in which and periods during which an applicant shall confirm his or her acceptance of an offer of admission which may, where an applicant has accepted more than one offer or where an applicant has applied for and is awaiting confirmation of an offer of admission from another school or schools, include the manner in which and periods during which an applicant shall provide final confirmation to the relevant schools of the offer that he or she wishes to accept and any offers that he or she does not wish to accept;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 95:

In page 23, line 37, to delete "(viii) conditions" and substitute "(ix) conditions".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 23, line 37, to delete "enrolment" and substitute "admission".

Amendment No. 96 is a drafting amendment that substitutes the word "admission" for the word "enrolment" in section 65(3)(d)(viii) to ensure consistency of language with the remainder of the Bill, which refers to the admission of students to schools rather than the enrolment of students to schools.

They really have the dictionary out in the Department. The Minister is substituting "admission" for "enrolment". Previously, the Minister substituted "attendance" for "enrolment" or vice versa. It is getting late in the night, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and we will not oppose it. It is surely altogether worthwhile.

Is amendment No. 96 agreed to?

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 23, line 38, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 98:

In page 23, line 40, to delete "(ix) the procedures” and substitute "(x) the procedures".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 24, line 1, to delete "(x) arrangements" and substitute "(xi) arrangements and procedures".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 24, line 3, to delete "(xi) arrangements” and substitute "(xii) arrangements and procedures".

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 101:

In page 24, line 6, to delete "(xii) arrangements" and substitute "(xiii) arrangements and procedures".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 102:

In page 24, line 9, to delete "(xiii) arrangements" and substitute "(xiv) arrangements and procedures".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 103 not moved.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 24, line 11, to delete "concerned." and substitute the following:

"concerned;

(e) age-appropriate guidelines for primary and post-primary schools, respectively, in relation to students who do not wish to attend religious instruction or classes.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 24, line 12, to delete "(4) In this section" and substitute "(5) In this section".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 106:

In page 25, line 5, after "an application" to insert "for admission".

Amendment No. 106 is a proofing amendment to provide for the insertion of the words "for admission" after "an application" in section 66(6)(a)(i) in order to clarify that this provision applies to applications for admission to the school. Amendment No. 107 updates section 66(6) to make clear that the information that may be shared by a school in respect of applications for admission can also include the dates on which applications were made, the dates on which offers were made and the dates on which offers were accepted.

Amendment put and declared carried.

I move amendment No. 107:

In page 25, to delete lines 9 to 12 and substitute the following:

"(b) A list provided by the board under paragraph (a) may include all or any of the following details:

(i) the date on which an application for admission was received by the school,

(ii) the date on which an offer of admission was made by the school,

(iii) the date on which an offer of admission was accepted by an applicant,

(iv) a student’s personal details including his or her name, address, date of birth and personal public service number (within the meaning of section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005).".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 108 in the name of Deputy Catherine Martin is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.

Amendment No. 108 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 109 and 112 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 109:

In page 25, line 35, to delete "(g) the ability" and substitute "(f) the ability".

Amendments Nos. 109 and 112 are both proofing amendments to correct numbering errors in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 110:

In page 25, line 35, after "to" where it firstly occurs to insert "make all reasonable efforts to".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 111 in the name of Deputy Catherine Martin is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.

Amendment No. 111 not moved.

I move amendment No. 112:

In page 26, line 16, to delete "(e) the school" and substitute "(d) the school".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 116 to 119, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 26, line 19, to delete "prescribed date" and substitute "date determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 116 to 119, inclusive, are proofing amendments within the section of the Bill that provides for a school to be designated by the NCSE or the Child and Family Agency. These amendments replace the phrase "period determined in procedures" with the phrase "prescribed period" in the provisions concerning the timelines within which appeals under this section may be made by a school or by a parent and the timelines by which such appeals must be decided by an appeals committee. The Bill already separately provides for the timelines in relation to such appeals to be determined in procedures rather than by regulations and these amendments are necessary to ensure consistency with that approach.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 114:

In page 26, line 22, to delete "prescribed period" and substitute "period determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 115:

In page 26, line 27, to delete "there has been non-compliance" and substitute "the Agency or the Council has failed to comply".

As the amendment is not discussed with any other amendment, does the Minister want to comment on it?

I beg the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's pardon.

Amendment No. 115 is a proofing amendment to clarify that an appeals committee is required to cancel a designation where it is satisfied that there has been non-compliance by the NCSE or the Child and Family Agency with the requirements of the relevant section in relation to that designation.

The wording as it currently stands does not specify, as was originally intended, that this means non-compliance by the council or agency. The amendment is necessary to clarify this matter.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 116:

In page 26, line 34, to delete "prescribed period" and substitute "period determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 117:

In page 26, line 37, to delete "prescribed period" and substitute "period determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 118:

In page 26, line 38, to delete "prescribed period" and substitute "period determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 119:

In page 27, line 2, to delete "prescribed period" and substitute "period determined in procedures under subsection (19)".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 120 in the name of Deputy Catherine Martin is out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Revenue.

Amendment No. 120 not moved.

Amendments Nos 121, 125, 132 and 133 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 121:

In page 28, to delete line 37 and substitute "29D, 29E, 66, 67(1) or 67(3),".

Amendment No. 121 amends the section of the Bill which provides for the patron to issue a direction to the board of a school where the board is not admitting students in accordance with the Bill or is not complying with specified provisions in the Bill. It extends the range of non-compliance matters about which a patron can issue such a direction to include failure to comply with a direction by the Minister under section 66, which provides for schools to co-operate in relation to their admission processes, or a designation by the council or agency under section 67.

Amendment No. 125 amends the section of the Bill which provides for the Minister to issue a direction to the board of a school where the board is not admitting students in accordance with the Bill or is not complying with specified provisions in the Bill. It extends the range of non-compliance matters about which the Minister can issue such a direction to include failure to comply with a direction by the Minister under section 66 which provides for schools to co-operate in relation to their admission processes, or a designation by the council or agency under section 67.

Amendment No. 132 enables an "authorised person" appointed by the Minister also to ascertain whether a board has complied with a direction by the Minister under section 66, or a designation by the council or agency under section 67.

These amendments expand the relevant provisions to take account explicitly of and deal with any failure by schools to comply with directions under these important provisions of the Bill.

Amendment No. 133 is a minor proofing amendment to correct the incorrect use of the present tense in this provision. It changes the wording from the school "is not so complying" to the school "has not so complied" in line with the general language of this section. Even Homer nods.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 122:

In page 29, lines 38 and 39, to delete all words from and including “comply” in line 38 down to and including line 39 and substitute “carry out the remedial action set out in the direction.”.

Amendment No. 122 is a proofing amendment to section 68 to clarify that the role of the independent person appointed by the patron is to carry out the remedial action set out by the patron's direction to the board rather than comply with that direction. This is necessary as it is technically not correct to require the independent person to comply with the direction that was not issued to him or her in the first place.

Amendment No. 123 is also a proofing amendment in section 68 to also clarify that it is the role of the independent person appointed by the patron to carry out the remedial action set out in the direction rather than comply with that direction. It is necessary as it is technically not correct to require an independent person to comply with that direction that was not issued to him or her in the first place.

Amendment Nos. 135 and 136 are similar to amendments Nos. 122 and 123 but instead amend section 70 to again clarify the role of the independent person with regard to him or her carrying out the remedial action.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 123:

In page 30, lines 9 and 10, to delete all words from and including “comply” in line 9 down to and including line 10 and substitute the following:

“carry out the remedial action set out in the direction under this section within such period as the patron, with the consent of the Minister, may direct.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 124:

In page 30, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(15) In this section and section 69 a reference to an admission policy includes a reference to an admission notice.”.

Amendment No. 124 inserts a new subsection (15) in section 68 to provide that in that section and in section 69, a reference to an admission policy includes a reference to an annual admission notice. Sections 68 and 69 in the amended Act will provide that a patron or the Minister, respectively, may issue a direction to a board where a board has failed to comply with the Bill's requirements with regard to the school's admission policy such as preparing, publishing and implementing that policy in accordance with the Bill. This amendment provides that any references to an admission policy in these two sections shall be taken to include reference to the school's admission notice thereby enabling the patron or Minister to also issue a direction in respect of any non-compliance with the Bill's requirements in respect of a school's admission notice.

The Minister is setting out what powers he will have if schools do not comply with the law. It emphasises the point I made earlier that it is essential that schools are given help and resources to be able to do this because we are now looking at a big job that boards of management in schools will have to do to comply with this legislation, most of which will never have one issue with it at all. The Bill will hardly have any impact on the vast majority of schools but there is still a lot of work to do to comply with it. I urge the Minister to make clear to schools what assistance, advice and resource he and ETBs will be giving to schools in order to comply.

It is fraught with danger because if the boards of management do not have the resources it will be an issue. We must remember that the vast majority are voluntary boards made up of volunteers from all kinds of backgrounds. It is a big stick to beat them with without giving them the resources. We have to give them resources. They do not have resources and we know what an onerous job it is. This will make it much more onerous and difficult. They are trying to keep the buildings standing. They are trying to apply for emergency funding for summer works and everything else and there is no certainty around that either. It is a thankless job and this will make it much more so. It is typical of what is happening right across the voluntary sector with all the threats people face with compliance. I accept we have to have compliance but there have been serious problems and people are flying away from voluntary service. I am not happy with that.

What we have here is a situation where people have been doing voluntary work, particularly in recent years when schools were finding it more and more difficult. It was boards of management that actively fundraised and did so much work in keeping their schools going. We have all been involved in helping and assisting schools in our areas in putting together money and helping them with applications for emergency works where roofs were leaking. The great work that has been done by boards of management, parents, teachers and people involved in the religious sector, which was touched on earlier tonight, has kept the doors of our schools open. The one fear I have, which has already been mentioned, is that a lot of what has been proposed can create further red tape. Red tape is the bane of everybody's life at the moment because it is not about what work one actually does but how one complies with the work one is undertaking. We have seen in other sectors that 30% to 35% of contracts can go on health and safety. While we are all very interested in health and safety, we seem to be losing the run of ourselves. I am worried about the red tape that might be involved in this and what it would mean for compliance. I have a concern that it would mean people would need to be book-keepers and accountants to comply with all the regulations and the red tape that is being put in front of them. It is no harm to put on the record the great work that has been done by boards of management and all of the people who worked and who are working voluntarily and doing their best to keep their schools open. We often have situations in rural Ireland where the boards of management are resorting to actively campaigning to bring new families into areas to ensure the schools are able to keep their doors opened. For example, in a beautiful part of County Kerry, Lauragh, they are actively campaigning to make sure they have enough students to keep their school open. We had the same situation over the years in places like the Black Valley where excellent teaching is being carried out but where it is a struggle sometimes to keep student numbers up. It is a big campaign by boards of management. Not only do they have to help in financing the school, running the budget and making sure that everything checks and balances but at the same time they must campaign and actively canvass to try to have new young families comes to the area so they will put their children into those schools and keep the schools open for the next generations. It is good to compliment those people for their voluntary efforts and for the great work they are doing.

It was touched on earlier but the contribution that has been made by the people in involved in religion, including the priests, in their communities and the excellent service they have given should never be ignored. The contribution they have made to Irish education should never be ignored, left out or forgotten about because they certainly played a big part in keeping schools open at a time when many of them might have been closed due to centralisation and other budgetary constraints. If not for the voluntary fundraising that went on when Government failed and was not able to fundraise, many of the schools would not have been able to progress, expand or modernise in the way they have. I compliment them all on their great work.

I know Deputies have seven minutes but in section 69, the reference to admission policy includes the reference to the admission notice so by no stretch of the imagination did the Deputy's contribution keep within that.

I spoke earlier on other amendments.

This one is about the admission notice.

I always talk from experience. I have been on a board of management for a number of years. I worry about another layer. I work for people who are community voluntary people who give their time for free to their community. They go to long meetings at night for the betterment of their schools. We are continually putting layers of difficulties in front of them instead of trying to work with them. I am afraid we are starting to make it very laborious. What is happening is it is getting more and more difficult to get people to sit on boards of management and parents' associations and teachers' associations.

They have to do a great deal of fundraising, and that effort is required because of a shortfall in the capitation grant, which they have to make up somewhere.

On a point of order, what has this got to do with the admission policy?

I did not interrupt the Deputy. I am speaking from experience.

Deputy Collins is repeating what he said earlier. He is talking nonsense and he does not even know what amendment he is talking to. We are dealing with admissions policy. This is irrelevant.

It is very relevant.

I ask the Deputy to adhere to amendment No. 124. on admission policy.

I had the decency not to interrupt somebody when they are speaking. There needs to be a bit of courtesy.

Then speak to the amendment, rather than waffling on.

This is another layer of work for boards of management and it will be a huge difficulty for them. They are experiencing major difficulties and I am opposed to imposing another layer of work on them. Other Members will interrupt me because they probably do not have the experience of working on a board of management. I know the amount of time and effort that goes into people trying to keep school numbers up and their doors open. They need to be commended and not given extra work. Another recent addition to the workload of schools was the child protection provisions and, while these are important, we are making things very laborious for boards of management. I ask the Minister to step back and reconsider this. We have to think of boards of management because it is becoming more difficult for them.

I assure Deputies that the Department will support schools in implementing this admission policy and I do not agree with Deputy Collins that it is unnecessary or unwise. We are trying to introduce transparency into admissions to respect citizens and give them fair access. A lot of work has been done by many Members of the House to achieve that and it would be foolish to tear up the work by agreeing with the Deputy on it.

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

It is a copy and paste job.

(Interruptions).

The Minister, myself and a few Members have been here all night. I ask all those who are interjecting to refrain from doing so.

On a point of order-----

There is no point of order.

To what Standing Order is the Deputy referring?

I am not referring to Standing Orders. A point of order was raised a few minutes ago when Deputy Collins was speaking and I am making the point that we have been speaking to the amendments. If the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, was here he would know. Where is he? He has hardly gone to the Lebanon.

That is not a point of order. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, does not have to be here.

Keep it going lads.

(Interruptions).

I ask the Members to refrain from interjecting. Some of us have been here all evening.

We are anxious to make progress.

I move amendment No. 125:

In page 30, to delete line 30 and substitute “29D, 29E, 66, 67(1) or 67(3),”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 126:

In page 31, to delete lines 13 to 15 and substitute the following:

“(8) When preparing a report an authorised person shall, having regard to the opinion of the Minister stated in the notice under subsection (2) and any representations made to the Minister by the patron or the board pursuant to that notice, do one or more of the following—”.

The purpose of amendment 126 is make clear that an authorised person appointed by the Minister to prepare a report in relation to a board’s non-compliance with the Bill’s requirements must, in preparing that report, take into account both the notice issued by the Minister to the board and patron in relation to such non-compliance and any representations received from the board or patron in relation to that notice.

The wording also clarifies that the authorised person is not required to report on all of the potential non-compliance matters set out in this section. Rather the authorised person shall in his or her report deal only with those matters that are relevant to the school in question. The current wording would require the authorised person to examine each matter of non-compliance listed even where the problem with admission was clearly confined to a particular aspect or aspects of admission in the school.

Amendments Nos 127, 128, 130 and 131 are consequential re-numbering amendments arising from amendment No, 126.

In addition to re-numbering, amendment No. 129 is also a proofing amendment to change the word ‘examine’ to “ascertain” to bring the wording of this provision in line with the wording of the other provisions in this subsection.

The Minister has moved amendment No. 126 and amendments Nos. 126 to 131, inclusive are related. Is amendment No. 126 agreed?

It is not agreed.

Amendment put.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 72 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 127:

127. In page 31, line 16, to delete “(b) ascertain” and substitute “(a) ascertain”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 128:

128. In page 31, line 21, to delete “(c) ascertain” and substitute “(b) ascertain”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 129:

129. In page 31, line 26, to delete “(d) examine” and substitute “(c) ascertain”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 130:

130. In page 31, line 31, to delete “(e) ascertain” and substitute “(d) ascertain”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 131:

131. In page 31, line 35, to delete “(f) ascertain” and substitute “(e) ascertain”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 132:

132. In page 31, line 36, to delete “section 29D or 29E” and substitute “section 29D, 29E, 66, 67(1) or 67(3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 133:

133. In page 31, line 37, to delete “is not so complying” and substitute “has not so complied”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 134:

134. In page 32, to delete line 28 and substitute “Minister’s opinion.”.

Amendment No. 134 deletes the reference to section 72C in relation to the board's failure to comply with the direction, and replaces it with "Minister's opinion". Deleting this wording ensures clarity that the board may make representations with regard to the Minister's opinion that the board has failed to comply with the direction under section 69, as stated in the notice under section A.

So it is bringing clarity.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 135:

In page 33, to delete line 17 and substitute “carry out the remedial action set out in the direction under section 69.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 136:

In page 33, lines 24 and 25, to delete all words from and including “comply” in line 24 down to and including line 25 and substitute the following:

“carry out the remedial action set out in the direction under section 69 within such period as the patron, with the consent of the Minister, may direct.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 137:

In page 34, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Equal Status Act 2000

10. The Equal Status Act 2000 is amended--

(a) in section 7(3)--

(i) by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (c):

“(c) where the establishment is a school (other than a recognised primary school) providing primary or post-primary education to students and the objective of the school is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, it admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others,”,

(ii) by the insertion of the following paragraphs after paragraph (c):

“(ca) where the establishment is a school providing primary or postprimary education to students and the objective of the school is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, it refuses to admit as a student a person who is not of a particular religious denomination and it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school,

(cb) where the establishment is a recognised primary school and it admits as a student a person in accordance with section 7A (inserted by section 10(b) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018).”,

and

(iii) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (6) (inserted by section 15(c) of the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015):

“(6) In this section--

‘member state of the European Economic Area’ means a state that is a contracting party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area signed at Oporto on 2 May 1992, as adjusted by all subsequent amendments to that Agreement;

‘recognised primary school’ means a primary school--

(a) designated by the Minister for Education and Skills under subsection (1) of section 10 of the Education Act 1998 to be a school recognised for the purposes of that Act, or

(b) deemed to be a school recognised in accordance with the said section 10.”,

and

(b) by the insertion of the following section after section 7:

“Recognised primary schools

7A. (1) When making an application for admission to a recognised primary school, an applicant may provide--

(a) a statement confirming that the student in respect of whom the application relates is a member of a minority religion and that the applicant wishes the student to be educated in a school that provides a programme of religious instruction or religious education which is of the same religious ethos as, or a similar religious ethos to, the religious ethos of the minority religion of the student concerned, and

(b) any evidence that the applicant wishes to include to support the statement that the student in respect of whom the application relates is a member of a minority religion.

(2) A recognised primary school may, following an application in accordance with subsection (1) and in accordance with this section, give priority to the admission of a student where the school is satisfied that--

(a) the student concerned is a member of a minority religion, and

(b) the school provides a programme of religious instruction or religious education which is of the same religious ethos as, or a similar religious ethos to, the religious ethos of the minority religion of the student concerned.

(3) In satisfying itself in accordance with subsection (2)(a) a recognised primary school shall take into account only--

(a) the statement that the applicant has provided in accordance with subsection (1)(a), and

(b) any evidence that the applicant has provided in accordance with subsection (1)(b).

(4) (a) Subject to paragraph (b), a recognised primary school may not for the purpose of admission to the school concerned rank, in order of preference, by virtue of the particular religious denomination of a student who has satisfied the school in accordance with subsection (2) as against students of other religious denominations who have satisfied the school concerned in accordance with that subsection.

(b) Nothing in paragraph (a) shall preclude a recognised primary school from applying the selection criteria set out in the school’s admission policy to students who have satisfied the school in accordance with subsection (2), where the number of such students is greater than the number of places available.

(5) In this section--

‘Act of 1998’ means the Education Act 1998;

‘admission policy’ has the same meaning as it has in section 2 (amended by section 2 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) of the Act of 1998;

‘applicant’ has the same meaning as it has in Part X (inserted by section 8 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018) of the Act of 1998;

‘minority religion’ means a religion other than a religion whose membership comprises in excess of 10 per cent of the total population of the State based on the population as ascertained by the Central Statistics Office in the most recent census report published by that office setting out the final result of a census of population of the State (whether or not that is the most recent such census of population);

‘recognised primary school’ has the same meaning as it has in section 7;

‘student’ has the same meaning as it has in Part X of the Act of 1998.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 138 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 138 not moved.

Amendment No. 139 is in the name of Deputies Shortall and Catherine Murphy.

Amendment No. 139 not moved.

Amendment No. 140 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 140 not moved.

Amendment No. 141 arises out of recommittal.

I move amendment No. 141:

In page 34, lines 16, to delete “section 9 and paragraphs (b) and (c) of section 10” and substitute “sections 9, 10 and paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of section 10”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 142:

In page 34, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

“(3) The Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2015 and section 10 may be cited together as the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2018.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 143:

In page 34, line 18, to delete “This Act” and substitute “Subject to subsection (4), this Act”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 144:

In page 34, after line 21, to insert the following:

“(4) Section 10 shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister for Education and Skills may, after consultation with the Minister for Justice and Equality, appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister and my colleagues on the committee for getting this Bill through the House. It has taken a number of years in this Dáil, but it also took years before that. It is major legislation. Last summer when the Taoiseach took over, Fianna Fáil, and in particular my party leader, said that we would facilitate its passage. We believed it to be a good, nice, easy win, given that a great deal of work had been done previously, but it has taken longer than expected. Of the five Bills that my leader proposed at the time, this is only the second that has passed. Both were education Bills, with the other being the Technological Universities Bill 2015.

We welcome this Bill's passage. It is radical legislation in some ways but, in others, it will not affect how many schools operate. It will give clarity to schools and children and result in a fairer education system without being an attack on the ethos of schools, which I value.

The Minister has at last found a good use for the Seanad, which he campaigned against. We will consider the provisions relating to Gaelscoileanna in the Seanad. I welcome the Minister's compromise in that regard. I look forward to working with him, other colleagues and the various interest groups to ensure that any amendment made is right, in everyone's best interests and does not have unforeseen consequences.

I thank all Members, both of the education committee and the House, for their co-operation on the Bill. It is good legislation. Ireland is changing and we need to change with it. Citizens' expectations of the education system have changed. This Bill will go some distance towards ensuring that we keep up with those changes. No doubt, they will continue in the years ahead.

Question put and declared carried.

That is timely, as it is now 11.15 p.m. I remind Members that we commence tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.15 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 31 May 2018.