Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016: Committee Stage

I ask everybody to switch off mobile phones as they cause interference with the recording equipment in the committee rooms. This meeting has been convened to consider Committee Stage of the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016. I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills and his officials to the meeting. There are 180 amendments to deal with, so I would appreciate if we were expedient. Everybody will have the opportunity to speak when he or she so wishes but I ask that we try to curtail that.

Is there a list of the amendments that have been ruled out of order?

It is on the grouping list.

SECTION 1

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, to delete line 19 and substitute the following:

"In this Act—

"Act of 1998" means the Education Act 1998;

"Act of 2000" means the Equal Status Act 2000;

"The Council" means the National Council of Special Education.".

This amendment provides that under this section, we would make reference to the Equal Status Act 2000 as well as the Education Act 1998, which is in the Bill, as put forward by the Government. Everybody knows why I have put forward this amendment to make reference to the Equal Status Act. It is because the Equal Status Act contains the infamous section 7(3)(c), which, incredibly and disgracefully, gives a derogation to religious schools to discriminate.

The Equal Status Act is supposed to eliminate discrimination and ensure equality, yet that subsection gives a derogation to schools to discriminate against the children of all people, which is shocking. Amendments related to my amendment have been ruled out of order. I find it extraordinary that an amendment relating to admission to schools has been ruled out of order simply because it relates to another Act. That subsection of the Equal Status Act is the key to facilitating the ongoing discrimination against children in the vast majority of schools. This intolerable provision has to be dealt with. To discriminate against anybody is bad but to discriminate against children is outrageous. A total of 72% of parents believe the law should be amended in order that baptism would no longer be a requirement for school admission, while 24% say they would not have baptised their children if they had not needed to do so to gain entry to schools. It is incredible that people are baptising their children purely to gain admission to schools. More than 90% of schools are Catholic and children who are not of that faith are segregated, excluded, isolated and made feel different because they do not share the dominant faith, yet they do not have the choice in many cases to attend a multi-denominational or a non-denominational school. They are, therefore, forced into this invidious position. Any reasonable person would say this is not acceptable. Whatever reasons successive Governments had for kowtowing to the Catholic Church primarily and allowing them to dominate schools and pursue this discrimination, times have changed. Even people who are of the Catholic faith recognise the inequity and injustice.

As the Minister will be aware, another reason has emerged in the last while; as if the substantial discrimination against kids was not enough, those who run Catholic schools are now sick and tired of the Catholic Church's domination. That has emerged in the recent period because of religious denominations selling off facilities and degrading the quality of schools and their facilities to pay off their debts or whatever else. There is nothing for the Minister to be afraid of anymore because even the people running schools who may have long subscribed to their values and ethos are fed up with the church's domination of schools. There is nothing to fear politically. The discrimination is partially due to the political establishment being in hock to a particular religious viewpoint, but, more recently, it probably has just been caused by political fear of standing up to the Catholic Church because of the consequences that might flow from it. However, there is no need to fear anymore. On a moral, reasonable level, we should remove the baptism barrier under this legislation. Even on a purely pragmatic, expedient, political basis, there is simply no reason to fail to do it anymore. The Government should get on with it and do it. It should even go beyond it and separate church and State completely in the entire education system and other areas.

I welcome the Minister and his officials. I look forward to the passage of the Bill, but a number of major issues have not been dealt with. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett mentioned the provisions of the Equal Status Act. I would be grateful if the Minister outlined his position on it and his intended approach in that regard because no amendments have been tabled. Clearly, it is the ghost at the banquet and the issue that is central to school admissions, but it is not dealt with at all. Many are waiting to see what will happen. In particular, in the past week many school patrons who have a legitimate interest in the legislation have been having an uncertain time because they do not know what the position will be. A consultation process is ongoing. This is as good an opportunity as any for the Minister to outline his position

Second, the amendment also relates to the definition of the "National Council for Special Education", NCSE. Some time ago I stated in the House that Fianna Fáil would not be prepared to facilitate passage of the Bill if a provision, which has widespread support among Opposition parties, was not inserted in that regard, but it has been ruled out of order in our amendments. It relates to giving the NCSE the power to mandate schools to establish special classes where it designates there is a need for it. That remains our position and I look forward to a constructive debate with the Minister on the issue. That has to happen and I understand he has given good consideration to the views that have been expressed on all sides of the political divide. We would like that provision to be included in the legislation. The NCSE would never use that power, but it would help a number of recalcitrant schools, particularly at second level, to provide the proper facilities for children for whom special classes may well be the answer. I do not wish to hold up the debate because otherwise we will be here until all hours.

I strongly support the points made by the two previous speakers. It is unthinkable we would debate a schools admission Bill and not address section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. That is the primary means by which children are discriminated against in the school system and the notion of taking the Bill without addressing that section is just laughable. I tabled an amendment to provide for the amendment of section 7(3)(c), but it has been ruled out of order. I would like to challenge that ruling, which I do not accept. I have been in touch with the secretariat and was told that it had been ruled out order under Standing Order 154, but that does not stand up. The Standing Order states: "It shall be an instruction to all committees to which Bills may be committed that they have power to make such amendments therein as they shall think fit, provided that such amendments be relevant to the provisions of the Bill and are not in conflict with the principle of the Bill as read a second time". Amendment No. 181 in my name would meet that requirement. I do not know the basis on which, with others, it has been ruled out of order, but I am challenging the ruling because my strong view is that my amendment would be in order.

The decision has been made and clarified. The amendment proposed to amend the Equal Status Act rather than any provision of the Bill. It must be ruled out of order as it is outside the scope and not relevant to the provisions of the Bill. I will not delay the meeting, but I am happy to discuss the matter with the Deputy after the meeting.

There is an opportunity to rethink and resubmit on Report Stage as well. I shall not delay the meeting further by dealing either with this amendment that has been ruled out of order or, indeed, any of the other amendments. A number of the amendments have been ruled out of order by the Bills Office and I suggest that we proceed.

Can I finish my contribution?

I beg the Deputy's pardon. I thought she had finished.

I shall not hold up the meeting either.

That is fine.

Under no circumstances can the section 7(3)(c) amendment be deemed irrelevant. I wish to advise that I shall officially challenge the decision and return to it on Report Stage. The ruling is unacceptable and, therefore, I completely support Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment that references the Equal Status Act 2000. His amendment is a good way to get around the obstacles that have been put in our way.

It is extremely disappointing and unacceptable that we cannot deal with section 7(3)(c). Seven Deputies have tabled amendments in order to deal with this significant issue. Does the Minister support the work of the Oireachtas Select Committee on Education and Skills in dealing with this matter?

The Deputy must address her questions through the Chair.

Has the Minister spoken to the Minister for Justice and Equality? Does the Minister for Justice and Equality intend to address the matter?

We are dealing with amendment No. 1. We cannot stray from discussing the amendment because over 180 amendments have been tabled.

Yes. I just wanted to ensure that my viewpoint was clear and on the record. All I want to do is make an overall comment on the amendments being withdrawn and particularly, as Deputy Shortall outlined, the need for the reference to the Equal Status Act.

Many of the points have been made.

I wish to make a final point.

We are not going to get into this.

I do not intend to do so. For the record, I am entitled to express my views. Has the Minister for Education and Skills or his Department been in contact with the Bills Office? The decision to rule the amendments out of order seems to have happened all of a sudden.

Do other members wish to speak?

I wish to reiterate what all of the members have said. Through the Chair, I believe that section 7(3) of the Act is directly related to admissions to the schools. The provision is fundamentally tied to it. The baptism barrier is a huge issue in admission policies as it allows discrimination across the board. It makes me wonder the following. Why have we discussed the Labour Party's Equal Status (Amendment) Bill for more than a year? Perhaps our discussions have been a complete waste of time and it should have been discussed by the Oireachtas Select Committee on Justice and Equality. It is bizarre if we have been misguided in that way and the legislation will be delayed.

A huge issue of discrimination, along with the baptism barrier, is discrimination on the grounds of special educational needs. That is why I echo what Deputy Byrne has said. I am massively disappointed that the amendment that gives the National Council for Special Education the power to compel schools to open autistic units has been ruled out order.

We have referenced issues in the committee report. I remind Deputies that they are free to present a Bill to amend the Act to achieve that aim. That option is available.

Please explain.

Any Deputy is free to present a different Bill from the other Act that we have mentioned. Today we are discussing the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill. The matter is very clearly outlined on page 3 of the green coloured Bill in front of us. I remind Deputies that we cannot stray into discussing any other area.

Is the Chairman advising that Deputies can write a Bill that refers to the special needs topic?

No, on the topic of equal status.

I call on the Minister to respond.

Perhaps I can be helpful. I intend to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage that deals with the issue that Deputy Byrne and other Deputies have raised. It would provide that the National Council for Special Education could advise the Minister on the requirement to open a special class in schools. I will bring forward a Report Stage amendment on that specific topic.

I shall bring forward Report Stage amendments on some other topics that I will mention for the sake of speeding up the committee. While I am providing in primary legislation most of the provisions on prohibitive selective criteria, I will bring forward an amendment to provide that the Minister may still regulate on any criteria additional to those specified in primary legislation.

I will bring forward amendments to clarify that practices such as mandatory interviews, meetings, open days and testing of parents are prohibited in all cases, including where a school is not oversubscribed. I shall table an amendment that provides for the replacement of a section 29 appeals committee member. In other words, a member of an appeals committee could be replaced to allow continuity. It is just an efficiency.

I will consider a concern that has been raised by a number of Deputies. I refer to the ability of Irish language schools to prioritise children from Irish speaking homes. I will reflect on how that option can be achieved in a fair way. To clarify, I will bring forward amendments on Report Stage and there may be some additional tidying up amendments.

On the substance of amendment No. 1, everyone probably recognises that the Bill already provides for a definition of the Equal Status Bill in section 7. The definition of the NCSE has been provided in the appropriate section, which I think is section 66.

I wish to be helpful on the wider issue. The issue of religion in school admission is not currently in this Bill. Previously I have indicated that I intend to act on this matter but on a separate track. I have had consultations on the matter, as has the committee, and I know that the Labour Party is preparing a Bill. I have always indicated that I think it is unfair that preference can be given by a denominational school to a child who lives far away over and above a child of no denomination, no religion background or a different one who lives close to the school. I believe that parents should not feel obliged to have their child baptised.

If today's Bill is passed then religion will not be used in the admissions for 80% of the schools, namely those that are not oversubscribed and no child may be turned away. Religion cannot be used as a ground. It is in respect of the 20% of other schools that the issue needs to be addressed. Following the consultations and discussions, I would prefer to deal with this matter by removing religion as a criterion for admission to oversubscribed schools except in three limited circumstances - first, where it would otherwise be possible to maintain the ethos of the school; second, where the school is established by a minority religion in order to ensure that students of that religion can find a place in a school of that ethos; and third, where the school is established by a minority religion in order to admit a student of that religion who resides in a community consistently served by that school. This is a version of one of the fourth options put forward to deal with this issue that we discussed before. The reason I have put forward this provision is because I believe it is a fair way to provide options for parents of children of no denomination or, indeed, of a different one from their local school in order to get reasonable access to a school without unfairly encroaching on the rights of other parents who want to have their children educated in a particular ethos. This is a fair and proportionate way of using the religious aspect. It will mean that religion is only very rarely used as part of a school's admission criteria in the future.

At the same time the Bill recognises elsewhere other strengths of a school community. For example, the school decides its admissions policy. It can give priority to students from the local area, the siblings of existing pupils or the children and grandchildren of past pupils. There can still be a strong ethos around the school, which I support.

The provision protects minority religions. Many sides expressed that concern when we debated this matter in the House. At the same time the provision respects the Catholic community. Ninety per cent of schools are now Catholic. The provision ensures that a child can get reasonable access to a school of their denomination under the existing provisions where 90% of the children are accommodated.

I looked seriously at the catchment area.

Deputies from a number of parties were keen on that approach, but I believed it was not as good as the one I was taking because, although it would be an improvement, it would still leave children from non-denominational families at a considerable disadvantage in their local area. It would also not be as good for many technical reasons. There are no catchment areas. If we were to wait for various denominations to come forward with catchment areas, we could be waiting a very long time. There would need to be boundary commissions to deal with disputes over schools sharing catchment areas and so on, but that is a debate for another day.

This is a difficult constitutional issue. There are provisions in the Constitution on religion, education and equality of treatment and we must steer a proposal such as this or any other advanced by members through them. I will be consulting the Attorney General to make sure I can draft a robust amendment along the lines proposed to bring back to the committee in due course. It was not intended to be the subject of today's debate. We have had a separate track and separate consultations on it. I hope the committee will accept my good faith in this matter. Not everyone will agree with my proposal, but I ask people to consider it in order that when we do have a debate on the substantive issue, we can, I hope, reach some agreement on it.

I am afraid that is not good enough. Do not get me wrong: people have a right to their religion and if they wish to instruct their children on a particular religious view in their own time, privately or some other way, they are entitled to do so, but the idea that publicly funded schools could discriminate in any shape or form on the basis of religion, or any other basis, is just not acceptable. That is what equality and equal status mean. That is what equal admission to schools means. Equality means no discrimination. It is an unambiguous concept which does not need to be qualified. The reason it is being qualified by the Government in its proposals which represent some improvement is we have outsourced our responsibility in the area of education to religious bodies. Therefore, we are forced into trying to find compromises with them, but we should not have to and I do not accept it. Equality is equality and equal status is equal status. Eliminating discrimination should occur across the board or it is nothing. Therefore, I will press the amendment.

With regard to the rest of the Bill, the removal of some of the soft barriers is an improvement. I am not disputing that but to have a Bill about admission to schools that does not deal comprehensively with the issue of ensuring equality of access, on religious grounds, is not acceptable. I forgot to mention in my introduction that I also have an amendment on the issue of special needs, special needs units and the obligations of schools in that regard, but it, too, has been ruled out of order. That just does not make sense to me. What I am describing are barriers to admission. Barriers that are discriminatory or create a playing field that is not level are not acceptable. Therefore, I will press the amendment.

It is clear that the Deputy is passing the amendment. Does the Minister wish to comment further on it?

Technically, the amendments are not necessary because equal status legislation already contains a definition. The NCSE is already defined in the relevant section. I clarify once again that I will be bringing forward a provision on Report Stage to allow the NCSE recommend that a school provide a unit. I will ultimately have power to compel in that regard. It will be exercised by the Minister, not the NCSE.

My party will accept the Minister's proposals when they are fleshed out in detail. I welcome use of the word "compel" because I was slightly concerned about the language used earlier. When it is written down and the proposal on the Equal Status Act is also written down, we will certainly give them absolute consideration. I am prepared to take the Minister at face value today, but I will certainly wait until Report Stage to deal with the issues in question. The equal status issues and the baptism barrier ought to be dealt with in relatively short order because we just cannot keep talking about them. We need action on them. I certainly look forward to addressing the issue of special needs on Report Stage.

To what timescale is the Minister working on the proposals?

I will be working as quickly as I can. It is only a month since we completed the work of the forum on the issue. I have now formulated what I believe is the best way forward. Obviously, I must have legislation drafted that will satisfy the Attorney General. That will be tricky. I recognise that Deputy Joan Burton who has just left has a Bill that will be passed on Second Stage at the end of this month. It will be open to the committee to consider it. I seek its tolerance in order that I can bring forward my amendment in a robust fashion to ensure we can have a proposal to put to the Attorney General that is sufficiently robust legally to deal with the issue. I do not intend to delay unnecessarily in bringing it forward. We have put in place a process and I want to see it brought to a conclusion.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 1 agreed to.
Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

Amendment No. 2 is related to amendments Nos. 4, 56, 84 and 181 and they will all be discussed together but voted on separately. This is an opportunity to address any issue relating to any one of them.

I move amendment No. 2:

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

"Amendment of section 15 of Act of 1998

5. 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 prior to the last lesson of any school day.".".

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 181 which concern the timing or place of religious instruction or faith formation during the school day. A very significant number of parents nowadays do not subscribe to the belief system of the patron of the school their children are attending. We know that these children and their parents have a constitutional right to withdraw from that religious instruction, but I believe we need to go further than this. We need to provide for the spirit of the constitutional protection. As it is exercised within schools, it is quite divisive for children. Certain children are excluded from the activities of the rest of their class. This highlights difference between children. I do not believe we should be doing this within the education system. It also causes many organisational difficulties for schools.

At particular times of the year or in particular classes where a considerable amount of time is spent on preparation for the sacraments, it is especially unfair to children who do not subscribe to the faith formation activity in the school.

It is wholly inappropriate that religious instruction classes will be held during the school day. There is a strong argument for moving them out of the school completely in the context of a publicly funded school. This plays into the wider issue, which we discussed earlier, in respect of the rights of parents for their children to attend their local State-funded school and that it should be free of any religious influence - certainly free of denominational instruction - during the regular school day.

My three amendments provide for the timing of classes in religious instruction outside of the normal school day. At a minimum, they should be moved to the last class slot in the day. Ideally, they should be held after the normal school day and at school finishing time. That is the only fair way of ensuring the integrity of the school day remains intact and that children are not made to feel excluded in any way because their parents have chosen for them not to attend faith formation classes. We need to take this step now. Ideally, it should be outside the regular school day. At a minimum, we should be ensuring schools move faith formation to the last class in the day to allow parents the option of collecting their children and taking them home. It would remove the awkward situation in which children are placed as a result of religious instruction taking place and they having to move out of the classroom with arrangements put in place for alternative supervision during those periods.

I support this amendment.

We should perhaps have philosophy classes instead. The idea there would be instruction in a particular religious denomination or viewpoint during school time inevitably creates a discriminatory atmosphere for, as well as isolation and segregation of those who might not share the school’s religious view or have no religious view. It is wrong. It is not the job of the State to finance that. I would fight to the death for somebody's right to freedom of religious expression. However, it is not our job to allow public moneys or the law to uphold a situation where particular religious views are pushed in school at young people. We are long past the time when that should continue to be the case. That is not to say there should not be a general discussion about religious, philosophical or humanist ideas. There should be but not specific religious education and instruction of a particular viewpoint.

I regret I am not in a position to support this amendment. Under the Constitution, children have a right to attend school without attending religious instruction, as well as having the right to opt out. Every school is obliged to honour this.

The approach we are taking on this issue in the Bill is that we are requiring a denominational school to make absolutely clear what provisions it will make for children who do not want to attend the religious programme of that school. It should be made clear from the outset in the admissions policy before a child is enrolled how this will be dealt with. It has always been a matter for the individual school to make these practical arrangements. The best way forward to deal with this in a sensible and flexible way is for each school community to look at this. Progress has been made in this area since the forum on patronage and pluralism reported. There have been efforts to provide good practice in schools generally, and in Catholic schools in particular.

I noted later amendments stated the provision should not, as far as practical, be unduly burdensome for parents. That is a correct sentiment. I will have to look to amending the legislation to accommodate this on Report Stage.

The amendments preventing any faith formation taking place during the school day or requiring it only to take place at the end of the school day are likely to raise constitutional issues about the rights of religions. The way forward in this area is to improve practice and to use the forthcoming approach of having a parents and students charter to develop that. We should also give parents the right, if they are not satisfied that a reasonable accommodation is being made to pursue that, to go to the Ombudsman for Children with their concerns. The approach we are taking with this Bill and with the prospective parents and students charter is the right way to go. It respects the different school communities and their right to organise themselves in the right way. We recognise there are schools with a particular ethos and parents who want to provide for their children to be educated in those schools. This is the way of trying to accommodate, as best we can, the different needs of parents where their children are enrolled.

However, I cannot accept the amendments put forward by Deputies Shortall and Catherine Murphy.

I am fully in favour of Deputy Shortall's proposal. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has raised the issue for the Minister’s attention that section 30(2)(e) of the Education Act 1998 provides that the Minister “shall not require any student to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student”.

My amendments Nos. 56 and 84 deal with the opt-out for students who do not wish to attend religious instruction. Many schools with a religious ethos do not have alternatives for children. We have scenarios where children will not attend school when communion and confirmation are being prepared for. There are students in secondary school who were told to sit at the back of the class, given a study class or are told to go to the library when religious instruction takes place. There are no guidelines in place, however, for the schools or students. These two amendments would require the Minister to provide definite clarity and guidelines to schools on how they should put in place alternatives for children who do not wish to attend religious instruction and require a timeline for same.

Schools make all sorts of different provision. What we want is to make a progressive improvement. I do not believe we can make a one-size-fits-all regulation when they all face different situations. Some schools allow children go to the library or resource rooms under supervision. Some pupils go to a classroom where they can participate in other lessons. Some schools are able to stagger religious classes to facilitate pupils moving from a class to class. Some parents choose to collect the children for the periods of religious instruction and do other activities. I do not believe we can have a regulation which provides a one-size-fits-all approach to this.

The right approach is the one I outlined to Deputy Shortall in that this is an issue for the school community to develop. We will have a parents and students charter which will set out what is fair provision in general terms.

There will be a provision to enable parents who are not happy with the way in which the school is providing for their child to take the issue further. We also provide in the Bill that the school will be obliged to set out the level of provision from the outset in order that when parents enrol their children they will know what approach the school takes. The package is fair and reasonable in achieving improved provision in this area. That is the way to go. It is not the case that we on Marlborough Street decide for 4,000 schools and that there is a central regulation that sums up how it should be done. That is not the tenor of the approach of the education system.

I cannot accept the Minister's rationale on this amendment. Other members have spoken about the need for a general education programme in schools on world religions, belief systems and philosophy. Such a programme would be very worthwhile. I also feel very strongly that we need to provide a moral and ethical education for all children in all State-funded schools, an ethical education based on civic morality. The State is remiss in outsourcing responsibility to provide an education based on civic morality to different religious groupings. There is an onus on the Government and the Minister for Education and Skills to ensure proper instruction on moral and civic matters and I would like to see it developed, as it is long overdue. However, the Minister is proposing to continue is a situation where increasing numbers of children are being separated from their peers in the classroom. That is not good practice. He is also talking about a situation where in many cases children are being removed from the classroom and sent to another room or the principal's office to fill in time while their peers are receiving religious instruction. That is not acceptable. He is talking about a situation where children are being excluded from their peer group on a daily basis. We should not allow that to happen in State-funded schools. The provision of religious instruction or faith formation should be discrete. Ideally, lessons should be held outside school hours or, at the very least, iat the end of the school day in order that parents would have the option of taking their children home.

The Minister did not respond to my proposal in amendment No. 181. It relates to the rule book covering this issue. It is Rule 69 in the rule book of 1965 about which I am particularly concerned. For the benefit of members, it is important to point out what that rule provides for. It states the religious denomination of each pupil must be entered in the school register and the roll book. I do not know why that should be the case in a State-funded school. Why is it the religion of a child or his or her parents anyone's business? Why should it be kept on the register and in the roll book? Rule 69 goes on to state "this information should be ascertained from the parent (the father, if possible)". I do not know why that should be the case. I am referring to the 1965 rule book, but we are saying it is the father, or the guardian of the pupil, where necessary, who should be asked to state the child's religion. The reference to "the father, if possible" indicates how archaic the rule is and the need to change it. It was drafted at a time when the diversity now evident in Ireland was not envisaged. It is utterly out of date and needs to be removed.

The section allows for religious instruction to be given during the school day. I propose that the teaching of religion be taken out of the school day and that we move in agreement to make that change in the amendment. What the amendment states is that "religious instruction shall take place as a discrete lesson at the end of the school day and shall not take place at any other time during the school day, nor shall it imbue or permeate education at any other time during the school day. This provision exists 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. Further, this provision exists to give effect to subsections (2) and (3)". My belief is that, as parliamentarians, we, the Minister especially, in his role, should be taking steps to ensure we afford equal respect and dignity to all pupils, irrespective of their background. If the Minister allows the current situation to continue, he is patently not doing so and disrespecting those children who are being removed from their peer group every day. In the eyes of most people, that is not acceptable practice. It is both discriminatory and divisive and unacceptable in this day and age. I appeal strongly to the Minister to at least consider amendment No. 181.

Children are sensitive and vulnerable. Making them feel different by pulling them out of a class is tantamount to abuse. There is no other way to put it. If a child is taken out and treated differently from the rest, separated from his or her peers and put wherever else, without guidelines being provided as to how that should be done, it is a form of abuse. Without guidelines, it is left open to being even worse. I hope and believe most of the staff and principals in schools are very decent and compassionate to all children. If we are honest, however, when a particular ethos is at play and prioritised and this behaviour is considered acceptable, it can be the case that the child who does not fit in is looked down on, frowned upon or seen as lesser. The system is open to that potential possibility which no doubt has manifested itself in children who have opted out being singled out. Whatever way one cuts it, I cannot see how it is not totally unfair to sensitive, vulnerable young children and how it will not have a significant effect on them. Anyone who has children knows how sensitive they are. They ask questions about obvious contradictions and conflicts in the treatment of one person or thing against another. It hits children really hard in how they look at and feel about the world and their place in it. It is just wrong. I again note, to quote from the survey of these matters commissioned by EQUATE, that 71% of parents agree that we should introduce a subject in school on all religions and ethical systems, while 18% neither agree nor disagree and only 12% disagree. Only 12% believe we should hold on to the idea that a particular ethos should prevail and that, as a consequence, those who do not subscribe to it should be separated. Most see the sense in it. We know that a majority in the country have some religious views.

People with religious views understand that this has to change. Any fair and reasonable person would say that is the case. Let us not be behind the curve of where people in Irish society are at now and the intelligence and sensitivity they are displaying, instead of upholding what is the fundamentally and unfair and potentially abusive treatment of children who are the minority and are stigmatised, isolated and separated in this way.

I call on the Minister to be a little bit braver than he has shown himself to be. There is no doubt that for most teachers, parents and students, singling one child or a number of children out for removal from a general classroom at particular times of the day is not appropriate. While that it may not affect many children, there is no doubt that children very often feel that kind of separation very deeply. It marks them out as being the other.

In Dublin West, as well as in many areas of Dublin Bay North, most of our schools have between 30 and 40 different nationalities. Some schools have up to 80 different nationalities. It is almost certainly the case that within that cohort there are wide variations of religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds and parents who have come from different parts of the world. The population statistics in the last census are very striking. I am not sure whether the Minister has taken that into account in the Bill.

Some 30% of the population in Dublin West were not born in Ireland and-or their parents were not born in Ireland. For different reasons, different groups of people from different countries and backgrounds have settled in small towns around the country. The statistics show that Ireland has changed utterly over the past 25 years in terms of the diversity of its population. It is very bad educational practice to pick some children out and tell them to go to the back of a room, the principal's office or elsewhere. Children are being segregated from the group.

There is a very strong precedence for this in Irish education, as the Minister will know if he has read any of the works by various people on the history of education and its relationship to institutions. Around Ireland, there was a widespread practice whereby children from institutions, such as a local orphanage, were made to sit in a group in a special place in the classroom so that they were marked off from the other children. That is part of our legacy from a hidden Ireland. People were in no doubt that those children were to be regarded as different socially and, in some cases, to be effectively shunned. I am not suggesting that is the intention of the Minister, but he is following in the tradition of enormous insensitivity to children's experiences.

There is an emerging consensus. A distinguished educationalist, Professor Kathleen Lynch, has written extensively about this issue. For the past 30 or 40 years, she has been an adviser to Educate Together and has set out the curriculum around ethical, humanist and social values and understanding the world of the family, neighbourhood, town, country, region, world and the great religions of the world.

A lot of work has been done in the area. In fairness to many of the major faiths, their religious curricula also reflect a wider appreciation that we live in a diverse and globalised world and, therefore, different religions are globalised. The numbers may vary from place to place. The Minister needs to think this through and not go for a convenient and tidy solution. He also needs to bear in mind that young teachers coming to work in places like Dublin West are keen to be positive and make every child welcome. Boards of management are the same. It may take time, but we need to recognise what has happened and what parents want.

I frequently meet parents, as I am sure the Minister does, who are very distressed if their child is picked out and sent elsewhere. The Minister might say that if the parents knew a child was going to particular school that was of one or another denomination, what should they expect? They expect their precious child to be treated as equal to everybody else. That may surprise the Minister and people in the Department of Education and Skills, but the world has changed.

As I said, there are very distinguished people in the world of education who have written extensively about this issue. We have a lot of documentation on teachers' experiences and their unhappiness with being forced to segregate children on particular occasions. School principals go to enormous lengths to try to mitigate the negative impact of these differences.

I strongly suggest to the Minister that he rethink the proposal and offer his support. The language of the recent Fine Gael leadership contest suggested a strong respect for diversity. That is not evident in the Bill. It is very narrow and obscurantist. It harks back to an older Ireland.

We need to bear in mind that we have a significant population of young children in areas of growth. There is enormous diversity, which is confirmed by the census figures. That has been the case since about 2000 when very large numbers of new people came to live in Ireland within a relatively short period of time, and they now comprise a significant proportion of our population.

I appeal to the Minister to reconsider providing guidelines. There should be minimum standards in regard to the nature of the exemption for students. It is not fair on students who are being excluded, whether they are being put to the back of the classroom or sent to a library. It is not fair on the students and teachers in the class who want to study religion because teachers are being asked to manage classes and teach religion, along with dealing with seven others who are not doing the subject. That leads to discipline issues.

Students coming into schools in September will see from the timetable that religion is scheduled for 2.40 p.m. on a Tuesday, but a student who does not do religion will ask what he or she should do, and his or her tutor will not know because the school has no idea what is happening. If those not studying religion are not included in the timetable provisions, will a teacher be available to supervise those students who are not sitting at the back of a classroom? Are those students unsupervised, which is wrong? Are they with an SNA, which is not fair on him or her?

It is a domino effect. I ask the Minister to set down minimum guidelines to at least ensure that those who are not studying religion are doing something of educational benefit during the time involved.

We have to consider the children in the class who are willingly doing religion and ensure their learning experience is not impacted. With everything that is happening in society, particularly in the past year and a half, we should be promoting an inclusive approach. Instead, we have those who do religion and those who do not in the same classroom. That is wrong on many levels. I appeal to the Minister to put in place minimum standards to ensure that every child gets the best value out of their education.

The amendments are interesting and they certainly raise issues. I am not supportive of amendment No. 2. However, there is no question that arguments can be made for it. My worry is that the ethos of the school becomes affected. I do not know how we distinguish between religious instruction, faith formation and the ethos of a school because they are intertwined in some ways.

Deputy Martin's amendment No. 56, which is grouped with this one, is reasonable and it would be very helpful if the Minister were able to reflect on it. I would be inclined to support it.

I agree we have to protect the rights of those who do not wish to attend religious instruction. My own children do not attend a Catholic school. Religious instruction takes place after school hours and seems to work quite well. It is entirely voluntarily, both on the part of the children and the teachers who do it. They work extra hours, but they are under no obligation to do so. They have no agreement with the school to do so, but they do it. As it happens, there is quite a large take-up, but that is a matter of individual choice.

This is something that works in practice. I would be reluctant to rush it through in this legislation. Catholic schools are entitled to be Catholic schools. That is a statement it is necessary to make. We either have faith schools or we do not have faith schools and if we want to go down the road of abolishing them, that is not a road I want to go down. I worry that amendment No. 2, in terms of putting religious instruction in faith schools into law, has the potential to effectively remove the ethos. From my reading of it, there would be no religious issue at all during the school day, for example, First Communion or whatever, or no talk of it. It would be kept completely separate. I am not sure that is reasonable for a faith school and it is a decision we will have to make.

If we are to take this debate to its logical conclusions, we should say that we will fund a State system and not have faith schools. I am sure that is Deputy Boyd Barrett's objective, and he is entitled to it. It works very well in the United States where there is no difficulty with it. Catholic schools work side by side and charitable donations allow poor children to attend those schools, so it seems to work reasonably well. On the other hand, if we say we will be like the United Kingdom and other countries and allow faith schools, they have to be allowed to be faith schools.

This is a much bigger debate than simply the wording of amendment No. 2. Deputy Martin's amendment is reasonable in terms of making some kind of regulation. However, personally I am not aware of all these stories of how children feel, and I have not seen the evidence of that. I am sure there are many examples, but I have not seen them and it is certainly something I would like to see before we start making decisions about it.

I concur with what Deputy Martin highlighted. There is a need for guidelines. Class size is a huge issue for teachers and if children are opting out, some guidelines have to be put in place. I call on the Minister to try to address that issue.

I absolutely recognise change. The census is very clear. The proportion of Catholics is down six points from 84% in 2011 to 78% in 2016. The proportion of those with no religion is up from 6% to 10%. Among parents between 20 and 40 who have children going to school, the non-religious proportion is 60% higher than that 10%. We are talking about one in five or even more across the country who are of no religion or non-Christian religions. I recognise that we need to change in the face of that and I want to see more diverse schools being opened. I want to see the transfer of patronage from existing Catholic schools to other patrons, but I believe also that it is good that parents want to send their children to schools of their own faith. That is something parents are entitled to want and I respect and value schools of different ethos. The strength of our system is that we have schools of different ethos. Deputy Boyd Barrett does not believe that there should be a different characteristic spirit and ethos in our schools.

To be fair, my experience is that schools of all denominations strive to be open and inclusive. As Deputy Burton said, many of them have children from many different religions and countries and they work hard to be inclusive and open for them. That is my experience generally.

There is a constitutional obligation that these schools must respect the right of parents to withdraw their children. We are providing that this must be stated openly as to the arrangements they will put in place to provide that for the children who want to opt out. I support that and want to see that evolve through the parents and children's charter, and that we would see that improve over time. Good practice guidelines have been developed by both groups of both denominational schools and otherwise. The question is whether we start imposing regulations and saying it must be this or that. We then get down to the practical issues. For example, what provision has been made in one-room schools? Are we providing that they must have a separate place and so on? The difficulty I have with regulations is that every school is different. There are 4,000 different schools and to come up with a one size fits all system that is fair and reasonable to the different situations in which schools find themselves would be an extraordinarily difficult proposal.

I recognise Deputy Byrne's point, and he has an amendment to the effect that these arrangements should not be unduly onerous, which is correct. There should be a test of reasonableness for schools as to how they provide, but if we come along with regulations and tell schools these are the regulations they must have there is a risk that many schools would say they need the Minister to provide them with extra rooms, for which I do not have the budgets. Practical issues arise.

Developing a system where we change and evolve, putting pressures on the system and testing its reasonableness in the system such as the right to go to an Ombudsman if one is unhappy with the way this provision is being made is the way we evolve from a system which has enormous strengths. Every day, I go into schools, many of which are denominational, and they do not fit into what some Deputies are portraying as the way in which children from other denominations are treated within them. They are treated with dignity and huge respect for their diversity. That is the dominant approach of schools that are denominational. I am not saying it is perfect in every instance. That is why I believe there should be a charter and a right of appeal to have that tested. However, to go down the road Deputies seem to favour of a legislative framework being imposed on 4,000 schools of a different ethos and many approaches does not fit with the evolutionary change we need to see to respond to the greater diversity of the population coming to our schools. It risks portraying many denominational schools in a very black light that does not reflect the reality. Many parents of other denominations choose denominational schools because they value the ethos they believe they will find in those schools, even though they are not of their own denomination. That is the reality.

I am trying to evolve with what I fully recognise is a changing situation. I will ask my Department to examine this rule 69 which, to be honest, I knew nothing about. My notes inform me that rule 68 was removed.

I am happy to have that identified with a view to removing it, as from what the Deputy has said it does not sound appropriate. What I am trying to do is respond across the frontier of our education system to the changing environment but I do not want to impose impractical obligations on schools that makes it more difficult for them to do the outstanding work that is being done in most cases. The communities around the schools have a commitment to their school. My approach is to try to strike a balance. I think our approach is evolutionary; it is not to impose a model that we have decided on. I do not think that is fair to those who have invested their time and effort into creating outstanding institutions across the country. However, we must create the pressure for change and articulate obligations, such as what we are introducing in the Bill, so that we continue that progress.

While I will not accept this group of amendments, I will reflect on the points made by Deputies Thomas Byrne and Catherine Martin. My instinct is that setting up regulations is difficult when one has to accommodate 4,000 different situations. I would like to see a test of the reasonableness of the efforts so that schools are continually trying to improve the way they accommodate people. That is the approach that the famous American Disabilities Act took. It did not require immediate action but it operated in the expectation that people would evolve over time. That is the approach that can be embedded in a parents and students charter and can be tested as it evolves over time.

With due respect, I think the Minister is over-complicating this issue. There is nothing onerous or complex about moving religious instruction to the end of the school day. That facilitates children at many levels. There has been many arguments put forward today on reasons of fairness and respect for children who may not share the religious beliefs of the patron of the school they are attending and many reasons why it makes practical sense to do what is proposed in the three amendments, which is to move religious instruction to the last class of the day. That makes sense. We have given the Minister the reasons but he has not given us any reason as to why he should not do that. For that reason I am pressing the amendment.

To pick up on Deputy Shortall's point, in the consultation that was held in Croke Park, the principal of Stratford College, which has a Jewish ethos, stated that they have arranged it that religious classes are held very early in the day and the rest of the day is for general academic subjects. I think one has to bear in mind that some schools have already worked out the particular practices that suit the student and parent body. It would be a very positive to allow students to take religious instruction in the first half hour and the children who do not wish to join the religious instruction classes could skip that class. It takes the burden off the teachers and the school principal. For instance in many multidenominational schools the practice in regard to preparation for Holy Communion, as Deputy Thomas Byrne referenced, is to arrange for the instruction in preparation for the Holy Communion class after the school day has been completed. By and large that has been working very well. I can understand that Deputy Byrne states that he is not aware of any of these instances but I am making the case that in parts of Ireland, particularly in the north and west side of Dublin, the level of diversity is unlike the experience in any other part of the country. I accept the point that Deputy Byrne made. Of course the parents, who are parishioners in the local parish, value their local school and they also do that in areas that are diverse, but the level of diversity must be dealt with in a fair and reasonable way.

Is amendment No. 2. agreed? No.

Question put and declared lost.
Section 5 agreed to.
Section 6 agreed to.

We now come to amendment No. 3, a new section in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos, 3, 73 and 182 to 184, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

NEW SECTIONS

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“Appeals

7. (1) The Act of 1998 is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 29:

"Appeals

29. (1) Where a board or a person acting on behalf of a board—

(a) permanently excludes a student from a school,

(b) suspends a student from attendance at a school for a period or periods totalling not less than 20 school days in a school year, or

(c) refuses to admit a student to a school, where the decision to refuse admission is due to—

(i) the school, or a special class in the school, being oversubscribed, or

(ii) a reason other than the school, or a special class in the school, being oversubscribed,

the parent of the student, or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student, may, within such period as may be determined in procedures under section 29B, and following the conclusion of any review under section 29C or any appeal procedures provided by the school in accordance with this Act, appeal a decision in accordance with this section and sections 29A to 29F.

(2) In this section and sections 29A to 29F—

‘board’ includes a committee established under section 44(1) or 44(7) of the Education and Training Boards Act 2013;

‘oversubscribed’ has the same meaning as it has in Part X (inserted by section 7 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2017);

‘student’ includes a person in relation to whom an application for admission to a school has been made and that person or his or her parents may appeal against a decision to refuse to admit him or her in the same manner as a student or his or her parents may appeal a decision under this section.”.

(2) The Act of 1998 is amended by the insertion of the following sections after section 29:

“Establishment of appeals panels and appeals committees

29A. (1) The Minister shall, from time to time, establish one or more panels of suitable persons (in this section referred to as an ‘appeals panel’) to consider appeals under section 29.

(2) A member of an appeals panel—

(a) shall be appointed to the panel for such period as the Minister may determine,

(b) shall be paid such fees and expenses as the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, may from time to time determine,

(c) may at any time be removed from the panel by the Minister for stated reasons, and

(d) shall be independent and impartial in carrying out his or her functions.

(3) Where the Minister receives a notice of appeal under section 29, he or she shall establish a committee of 3 members of an appeals panel to consider the appeal concerned (in this section and sections 29B to 29F referred to as an ‘appeals committee’).

(4) The Minister shall nominate one member of an appeals committee to be the chairperson of the committee for the purposes of the appeal concerned and, in the case of an equal division of votes, the chairperson shall have a second or casting vote.

(5) The Minister may furnish such support of an administrative nature to an appeals committee as the Minister considers necessary to enable the appeals committee to perform its functions.

(6) An appeals committee shall act in accordance with procedures determined under section 29B.

Procedures in relation to appeals

29B. (1) The Minister may, from time to time, having regard to the principles of inclusion, equality of access to and participation in education, efficiency, effectiveness, clarity and fairness for applicants and schools and following consultation with bodies representative of patrons, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations and recognised trade unions and staff associations representing teachers, determine procedures for the purpose of sections 29 to 29F and such procedures may provide for all or any of the following:

(a) the period within which an appeals committee shall determine an appeal and, in that regard, the Minister may—

(i) determine different periods during which an appeal under paragraph (a), (b) or (c)(ii) of section 29(1) shall be heard and determined, and an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i) shall be determined, and

(ii) determine periods during the year which shall not be included for the purposes of the calculation of a period under subparagraph (i);

(b) the manner by which an appeals committee shall determine an appeal, including in the case of an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii), procedures regarding the holding of an oral hearing and the examination by the appeals committee of parties to the appeal;

(c) the form and manner in which the Child and Family Agency and the National Council for Special Education may make submissions at an oral hearing in an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii);

(d) the form and manner in which an appeal shall be brought, including the period during which an appeal shall be brought;

(e) in the case of an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii)—

(i) the fixing and notification of the date, time and location of an oral hearing, and

(ii) the circumstances in which an adjournment of an oral hearing may be granted;

(f) that an appeals committee may by notice in writing require an applicant, board, or other relevant person or body to furnish to the committee the information specified in the notice within the period specified in that notice;

(g) the period during which and manner by which an appeals committee shall notify the Minister of its decision and the reasons for its decision;

(h) information which shall be submitted to an appeals committee by an applicant when making an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i) or

(ii) which shall include—

(i) a copy of the application for admission,

(ii) a copy of the decision to refuse admission,

(iii) where a request has been made under section 29C, a copy of that request and a copy of any statement received from the board under subsection (5) of that section, and

(iv) the grounds of the appeal;

(i) information which shall be submitted by a board to an appeals committee where an appeal has been made under section 29(1)(c)(i) or (ii) which shall include the school’s admission policy and the school’s annual admission notice;

(j) such other consequential or ancillary matter as the Minister

considers appropriate.

(2) An appeals committee, an applicant and a board shall comply with

procedures determined by the Minister under this section.

Review by board of decision to refuse admission

29C. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and prior to making an appeal under section 29(1)(c), an applicant—

(a) shall, in the case of an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i), and

(b) may, in the case of an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(ii), within such period as may be determined by the Minister, request in writing a review by the board of the decision to refuse admission.

(2) A request under subsection (1) shall—

(a) be based on the implementation by the school of its admission policy and the content of its annual admission notice, and

(b) set out the grounds of the request.

(3) Where, following a request under subsection (1)—

(a) the request for a review has not been made within the period determined by the Minister, or

(b) where the request results from the refusal to admit a student to the school because the school, or a special class in the school, was oversubscribed and—

(i) the applicant is relying on information that was not made available in the application for admission, or

(ii) the board considers that the grounds relied upon in the application for review did not have a material effect on the outcome of the application for admission,

the board shall notify the applicant that it is not in a position to review the decision to refuse admission and the reasons therefore.

(4) Subject to subsection (3), a board shall, following a request under subsection (1), within such period as may be determined by the Minister, review its decision to refuse admission having regard to the grounds set out in the request for review.

(5) Following a review under subsection (4) the board shall issue the applicant with—

(a) a statement confirming that there was no failure or error in making the decision to refuse admission, or

(b) a statement confirming—

(i) that a failure or error occurred in making the decision to refuse admission, and

(ii) whether or not such failure or error had a material effect on the outcome of the application.

(6) Where a board issues a statement under subsection (5)(b) and the failure or error concerned had a material effect on the outcome of the application for admission, the board shall rectify that failure or error by—

(a) admitting the student to the school or special class concerned, or

(b) adjusting the ranking of the student on the waiting list.

(7) In this section and section 29E ‘waiting list’ means the waiting list provided for in the admission policy of the school concerned.

Appeals under section 29(1)(a), (b) and (c)(ii)

29D. (1) An appeals committee shall, in accordance with procedures

determined by the Minister under section 29B, hold an oral hearing for

the purposes of an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii).

(2) For the purposes of an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii)—

(a) oral hearings shall be conducted with the minimum of formality consistent with giving all parties a fair hearing, and

(b) an appeals committee may, where it is of the opinion that reaching agreement on the matters the subject of the appeal is practicable in +the circumstances, provide such assistance to the parties to reach agreement as the committee considers appropriate.

(3) For the purposes of an oral hearing under this section—

(a) the Child and Family Agency, or

(b) in the case of a child with special educational needs, the National Council for Special Education, may make such submissions, if any, to an appeals committee as it or they consider or considers appropriate.

(4) In hearing and determining an appeal under section 29 against a decision to which subsection (1)(a) or (b) of that section relates an appeals committee shall have regard to—

(a) the nature, scale and persistence of any behaviour alleged to have given rise to, or contributed to, the decision made by or on behalf of the board and whether or not such behaviour is confined to specific classes in the school concerned,

(b) the merit of any explanation offered by the student in relation to his or her behaviour,

(c) the reasonableness of any efforts made by the school to enable the student to participate in and benefit from education and whether or not all reasonable efforts have been fully exhausted and any response by the student to any efforts made by the school to enable the student to participate in and benefit from education,

(d) the educational interests of the student concerned and the desirability of enabling him or her to participate in and benefit from education with his or her peers,

(e) the educational interests of, and the effective provision of education for, other students of the school and the maintenance of a classroom and school environment which is supportive of learning amongst all students in the school and ensures continuity of instruction provided to students,

(f) any evidence that the behaviour of the student has impacted on the safety, health and welfare of teachers, staff or other students of the school,

(g) the school’s code of behaviour under section 23 of the Act of 2000 and other relevant policies of the school, and

(i) in the case of the code of behaviour, whether it complies with section 23 of the Act of 2000 and any guidelines issued under subsection (3) of that section, and

(ii) in the case of any other relevant policies, the extent to which each of them is implemented and is in compliance with—

(I) any enactment that imposes duties on schools or their boards,

(II) any relevant guidelines or policies of the Minister,

(h) the duties on schools or their boards imposed by or under any enactment,

(i) any guidelines issued by the Child and Family Agency under section 22(7) of the Act of 2000,

(j) in the case of an appeal brought by a parent or a student, any submissions made by the National Council for Special Education or the Child and Family Agency, and

(k) such other matters as the appeals committee considers relevant.

(5) Nothing in subsection (4) affects the obligation of an appeals committee to allow an appeal under section 29(1)(a) if the parent of the student or the student, as the case may be, shows that subsection (1) or (4) of section 24 of the Act of 2000 has not been complied with in relation to that exclusion.

(6) Following an oral hearing under this section an appeals committee

shall—

(a) come to its conclusion having examined and considered the evidence and materials made available to it, and

(b) make a preliminary decision in relation to the appeal.

(7) An appeals committee shall, by notice in writing, notify the Minister, the applicant, the board and, where the Child and Family Agency or the National Council for Special Education made submissions at the oral hearing, the Agency or the Council of its preliminary decision under subsection (6), the reasons for its preliminary decision and, where it proposes to allow an appeal, its proposed direction to the board.

(8) An applicant, the board, and where the Child and Family Agency or the National Council for Special Education made submissions at the oral hearing in accordance with procedures under section 29B, the Agency or the Council may, make observations to the appeals committee in relation to its preliminary decision and any proposed direction.

(9) An appeals committee shall, having considered any observations made under subsection (8), make its final decision.

(10) Subject to subsection (9), an appeals committee shall, in its final decision—

(a) allow the appeal, or

(b) disallow the appeal.

(11) An appeals committee, in its final decision, shall—

(a) where it allows an appeal under section 29(1)(a), include a direction to the board to readmit the student and remove the expulsion from the record of the student,

(b) where it allows an appeal under section 29(1)(b), include a direction to the board to readmit the student and remove the suspension from the record of the student, and

(c) where it allows an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(ii), include a

direction to the board to admit the student.

(12) An appeals committee shall, by notice in writing, inform the Minister of its final decision and the reasons for its final decision and, where it allows an appeal, shall forward to the Minister a copy of any direction included in its final decision.

(13) The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after he or she receives a notice under subsection (12), forward to the applicant, the board and, where the Child and Family Agency or the National Council for Special Education made submissions at the oral hearing, the Agency or the Council—

(a) a copy of the final decision of the appeals committee and the reasons for its decision, and

(b) where the appeals committee has allowed an appeal, a copy of the direction included in the final decision of the appeals committee.

(14) A board shall comply with a direction under subsection (11).

(15) In this section, ‘Act of 2000’ means the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

Appeals under section 29(1)(c)(i)

29E. (1) An appeals committee shall, in accordance with procedures determined by the Minister under section 29B, examine and determine an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i) without an oral hearing and, when doing so, shall rely on the same evidence and materials as were available to and relied upon by the board when it made its decision to refuse admission.

(2) Following the determination of an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i), an appeals committee shall make a decision to—

(a) allow the appeal, or

(b) disallow the appeal.

(3) Where an appeals committee allows an appeal under section 29(1)(c)

(i) its decision shall include a direction to the board to—

(a) admit the student, or

(b) adjust the ranking of the student on the waiting list.

(4) An appeals committee shall—

(a) by notice in writing, inform the Minister of a decision under subsection (2), and the reasons for the decision, and

(b) where it allows an appeal, forward to the Minister a copy of the direction issued under subsection (3).

(5) The Minister shall, as soon as practicable after he or she receives a

notice under subsection (4) forward to the applicant and the board—

(a) a copy of the decision of the appeals committee under subsection (2) and the reasons for its decision, and

(b) where the appeals committee has allowed an appeal, a copy of the

direction of the appeals committee under subsection (3).

(6) A board shall comply with a direction under subsection (3).

Miscellaneous provisions in relation to appeals under section 29

29F. (1) An appeals committee shall refuse to hear or determine, or refuse to continue to hear or determine, an appeal under section 29 where—

(a) it is of the opinion that the appeal is vexatious, frivolous, an abuse of process or without substance or foundation,

(b) in relation to an appeal under section 29(1)(a), (b) or (c)(ii) it is satisfied, having regard to the grounds of the appeal and any attempts to facilitate agreement between the parties and any subsequent steps taken by the parties that, in the particular circumstances, the appeal should not be considered or further considered,

(c) an appeal has not been made within the period specified in procedures under section 29B,

(d) an applicant has failed to provide information requested in accordance with procedures under section 29B,

(e) in relation to an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i) or (ii), the grounds for an appeal relate to section 3 or 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000, or

(f) in relation to an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i)—

(i) an appeals committee is of the opinion that the grounds relied upon by the applicant did not have a material effect on the outcome of the application for admission,

(ii) an appeal is based on information that was not made available in the application for admission, or

(iii) the applicant did not request a review by the board of the decision to refuse admission.

(2) Subject to subsection (1), where an issue relating to a decision to refuse a student admission to a school or permanently exclude a student from a school would be capable of being the subject of—

(a) an appeal under section 29, and

(b) a designation under section 67 (inserted by section 7 of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2017),

then an appeal under section 29 and a designation under section 67 may not, in respect of the same student, be made at the same time.

(3) Where an appeal under section 29 has been unsuccessful in respect of a student, nothing in subsection (2) shall preclude a designation being made under section 67 in respect of the same student.

(4) An appeals committee may draw such inferences as it considers appropriate as a result of any failure of a party to an appeal to provide any information required or requested in accordance with procedures under section 29B.

(5) (a) A direction under section 29D(11) or 29E(3) in relation to an appeal under section 29(1)(c)(i) or (ii) shall not provide that the provisions of a school’s admission policy be amended or disregarded.

(b) Nothing in paragraph (a) shall be construed as precluding an appeals committee, where it considers it appropriate to do so, from commenting in the reasons for its decision on the lack of clarity of a school’s admission policy.”.

(3) The amendments effected by subsections (1) and (2) shall not apply to an appeal to the Secretary General under section 29 of the Act of 1998 made before the commencement of this section and section 29 shall continue to apply in relation to such appeals as if the amendments concerned had not been made.”.

This group of amendments involve the replacement of section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to make the entire appeals process fit for purpose and less cumbersome for parents. It is based on the experience of the Department, which has dealt with more than 5,000 appeals and these are improvements that will make the system work better for both parents and schools. There is a number of amendments. An amendment removes a section that never was activated, it was a class of cases that could be brought by appeal, which has never been used. It was a general power for the Minister to add new categories to which section 29 should be applied. We have been advised by the Attorney General that it should be removed and we think it is better to deal with this through a students' charter rather than adding to provisions in section 29.

The second set of amendments is to distinguish between two separate types of appeals. One are appeals where a school is not over-subscribed, and where an appeal against expulsion, suspension or refusal occurs in such a situation, there will be an oral hearing. The appeals will be dealt with fully de novo, so the appeals committee will come to its own conclusion, having examined and considered the evidence and materials available to it. We are providing for a fast track for this process as it does not have to go to the board of management of the school first. We are providing for a preliminary decision and the opportunity to appeal before it is confirmed.

This is trying to deal with the situation in a different way. It is different from the second category, so we are distinguishing between under-subscribed and over-subscribed schools. In an over-subscribed school, where there is a refusal to admit a pupil, the appeals will be on the record. That means the appeal committee will rely on the same evidence and materials as were available to be relied upon by the board of management when it made its decision to refuse admission. In that case we will require that the board has reviewed the refusal first before it can go to the appeal, unlike the case of a non over-subscribed school. It is only if the grounds offered in the appeal would materially affect the decision that the appeal will be heard. There is additional hoops to ensure that the appeal process is not being used unnecessarily. A third element of the group of amendments is that the new section 29 removes the requirement for parents of students in an Education and Training Board's schools to appeal in the first instance to an ETB committee, before taking a section 29 appeal. That was in the old legislation, but it is a loop that is unnecessary and is being removed.

There are some other elements. The new section 29 includes a number of provisions to improve the day-to-day operation of the process. These include removing the requirement for an inspector to be on every appeals committee and setting out the number of days of suspension before an appeal can be made. The number of days of suspension is being set at 20 days. This has been agreed with parents' groups and is based on practice that has evolved. We are removing the current mandatory requirement for appeals to be heard within 30 days from date of receipt and instead we are providing that procedures set out the timeframes for making and determining appeals and for providing notification of the outcome of any such appeals and that different periods can be provided for different categories of appeal. Again, the intention is that none would go beyond 30 days but it would allow for different periods of time and that they would be set by regulation.

There is a provision that an appeals committee may refuse to determine an appeal in certain circumstances. One is if it is vexatious, frivolous or an abuse of process while another is where the appeals committee has attempted to have a facilitation, there have been attempts to facilitate parties or subsequent steps have been taken by the parties and, in particular circumstances, the committee feels the appeal should not be considered further, that is, where there has been an effort to try to find a solution, that has been exhausted and there is no point in a further appeal and it cannot be proceeded with. If an appeal has not been made within the timeframe determined, for example, and if it is late, it can be refused.

There is a provision whereby the appeals committee can rule that a child must be admitted but it is not within its remit to recommend a change in the admissions policy of the school. However, it can comment on the lack of clarity of the school's admission policy. Section 29 is not trying the admissions policy of the school itself. The admissions policy must comply with this Bill.

The other significant element here is the introduction of compellability so that where an appeal has been allowed, the school must admit the student, readmit the student or adjust the ranking of the student on the waiting list. Those are the sort of provisions that are being set out in this amending section.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"Amendment of section 30 of Act of 1998

7. 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 relating to or arising from the characteristic ethos of the school will take place as a discrete lesson at the end of the school day, and

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

education at any other time during the school day.".".

Amendment put and declared lost.

On a point of clarification, Deputy Shortall is not a member of the committee and has no vote. Can she call a vote?

Yes. We checked that out.

I am not encouraging Deputy Shortall but I was wondering.

We checked that out.

Could Deputy Catherine Martin have called a vote even though she did not put it forward?

Normally, it is the member proposing the amendment. If a member proposing an amendment is not here, the amendment falls.

Could I, Deputy Catherine Martin or Deputy Shortall or her equivalent have called a vote there?

SECTION 7

Amendments Nos. 5 to 9, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

" 'annual admission notice’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 63;".

These amendments all relate to definitions, including definitions of annual admission notice, board, special class, the intake group, oversubscribed and so on.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

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

" 'board’ includes a committee established under section 44(1) or 44(7) of the Education and Training Boards Act 2013;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 5, to delete line 16 and substitute the following:

"year in a school, which in the case of a school with an early intervention class or an early start pre-school class specified in a list published by the Minister from time to time, does not include such class;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 5, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

" 'oversubscribed’ means—

(a) in relation to a school, that the number of students seeking admission to the school is greater than the number of places being made available by the school, and

(b) in relation to 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 special class concerned;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

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

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 10 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 83 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 6, line 4, after "concerned" to insert the following:

"except where the admission policy states that it is the school's explicit policy to give preference to children from the Traveller community in admissions".

I will not delay matters too long. The amendments in different circumstances allow the Minister to require schools either individually or collectively to apply positive discrimination in the admissions policies for groups that have specific difficulty in finding a school place. The two groups we have identified in these amendments, and there may be others, are children from Traveller families and children from homeless households. If I feel there is support for it, I will pursue it. If not, I will withdraw the amendments.

Amendment No. 83 is grouped with amendments Nos. 11 and 12. Amendment No. 83 involves our catchment area proposals. In respect of what I am going to do with regard to catchment areas, I have had no time to examine the Minister's proposal on the so-called baptism barrier in any detail. I am prepared for the time being to not proceed with my catchment area proposal in this legislation until we study the Minister's proposal fully. I should very clearly say that the catchment area proposal is Fianna Fáil's preferred approach and we are not entirely convinced of the Minister's reasons for not doing it but I am willing to look at what the Minister is proposing and to examine it. I think it will require the committee to examine it with stakeholders as well because it is not a proposal that has received examination so far. The fact that I am not pursuing my catchment area proposals today does not mean that they are not Fianna Fáil policy. It certainly is Fianna Fáil policy and one we want to pursue.

Is the Deputy reserving the right to speak on Report Stage?

We will bring them back on Report Stage having discussed the matter with the Minister and our colleagues.

Do any other members wish to speak?

Are we dealing with amendment No. 11?

We are dealing with amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 83.

Just so I understand, this is to say that it is okay for a school to give preference to Traveller children? Is that the logic behind it?

Is Deputy Thomas Byrne withdrawing-----

In so far as it relates to-----

We are discussing it but we are not voting on it yet.

I think it is related to homeless children.

Amendment No. 83.

We will go back to amendment No. 83.

Amendment No. 83 is about the catchment area for the purposes of school admissions, so I do not know why it is grouped here but I have made my point about it.

Does Deputy Catherine Martin wish to come in on that?

Just for clarification, is amendment No. 83 being withdrawn?

Amendment No. 82 is the one that should be grouped, not amendment No. 83.

My apologies. It is amendment No. 82 that is in this grouping.

Amendment No. 82 enables the Minister to require schools to apply positive discrimination in their admissions policy. For example, it follows on from the previous one so it inserts the same-----

Okay. That is fine.

Sorry. So it should not have been amendment No. 83-----

Does Deputy Martin want to come in on that?

No, that is fine. I was just checking about amendment No. 83.

At the break, could somebody place amendment No. 83 in the right grouping? It might not come up until then.

Yes. We need to check that. We will do that. Does the Minister wish to respond to Deputy Byrne?

Yes. Basically, what we are providing for here is that every school must have in its admission policy a statement that relates back to the equality legislation so that it has to provide that it will not discriminate on grounds of gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation and so on. That includes the Traveller community grounding of a student. It provides that the school must have a statement that states that it does not discriminate on the grounds of someone being a Traveller. There is nothing in the Bill that stops a school giving priority to the Traveller community. Therefore, it is our view that the Deputy's amendment is not necessary. A school is perfectly entitled to give priority to a Traveller if that is what the school chooses to do. There is nothing in the Bill that stops that.

In the case of homelessness, it is slightly different in that homelessness is not a category in the equality legislation at the moment, but again there is nothing to stop a school providing in this area. The equality legislation does not contain any ground relating to the housing status of a person. However, amendment No. 12 appears to require a school to state that it does not discriminate under equality legislation on that ground. Having regard to amendment No. 83, I do not think the amendment as worded is necessarily what the Deputy is trying to achieve. With regard to providing for regulations that set out that schools be required to prioritise children from homeless families, I am not aware of any calls for such an approach but I can confirm that I am willing to look at this matter. If it is clear that such an approach is needed, I will consider it.

Does Deputy Byrne wish to press the amendment?

Considering what the Minister has said, I withdraw it and will perhaps re-present it on Report Stage. Indeed, the Chair has a Bill on adding socioeconomic status as a grounds for discrimination.

If that legislation was passed, it would certainly cover the homeless situation.

I should just add that under this legislation Tusla would have the power to designate that a school must accept a child should the child be refused.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 12 not moved.

Amendment No. 13 is in the Minister's name. Amendments Nos. 13, 18, 19, 22, 37, 41 and 42 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, line 12, to delete “and”.

Amendments Nos. 13 and 18 facilitate the addition of sub-paragraph (c) and (d) by deleting "and" between sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) and removing a full stop at the end of sub-paragraph (b) and replacing it with a comma.

Amendment No. 19 introduces two new sub-paragraphs which provide that the admission statement of a special school or special class shall include a statement that the school may refuse to admit a student who does not have the specified category or categories of special education need that the school or class has been approved by the Minister to cater for.

Are amendments Nos. 37 and 41 being taken in this grouping?

Yes, as well as amendment No. 42.

The purpose of amendments Nos. 37 and 41 is to provide that a special school or class in a school does not have to admit a student who does not have the specified category or categories of special education need that the school or class has been approved by the Minister to cater for. This means that special schools or classes will not be required to admit students who do not have the category or categories of special education need for which the school caters. Essentially, these are to allow a school that has, for example, a special ASD unit to not admit a child who is not on the ASD spectrum to that class.

With regard to that, is it specific to the unit or is just a case of the school catering for a specific special education need and stopping any other?

The school "may" refuse. It will not be deemed to be in breach of the legislation if a school refuses a child who does not fit into the school's special need category. If a school has a class for six children with special education needs and there is a child seeking access who does not have a special education need, the school can say that it is not taking on the child in its special education need class because that has been reserved for children who require it. Otherwise, we would find ourselves in a situation in which, if a school had half-full special education provision, a child with no need would be put into that class because the school could not say that it was not making that place available to the child. It is to allow the school to refuse in those circumstances. Of course, were any such refusal unreasonable, it could be appealed under section 29. If a child had a special need and was being unreasonably refused, the parents could appeal. This amendment prevents children that could go into an ordinary class from saying that the special education school must give the child that place. I think it is a reasonable provision.

Where in the admission policy will it state what needs are catered for and what needs are not catered for?

The school is obliged to accept all comers. That is the general rule unless a school is over-subscribed, at which point it applies its admission policy. What this provision states is that if a child applies and there is a space in a special needs class and the child applying does not have a need for such a class, the school will not be deemed to be in breach of this Act by not making provision for the child in its special class.

If it is oversubscribed?

No, if there is a vacant space. If there are six places in the class, four are filled and there are two children who want to gain access-----

Two children from the main stream.

Yes, two children from the main stream. In that case, the school may say that it is not admitting main stream children to its special education class.

It is because it is reserved for special education needs. Okay.

I thank the Minister for the clarification. Did Deputy Byrne indicate?

Yes. Could this lead to indirect discrimination against children with special needs or certain categories of them?

No. For example, in the case of a school for the deaf, it is designed so that places can be preserved for children who are deaf.

Okay. Could it be used by a school to say that certain children's needs are a bit too complex for the school?

Definitely not?

It is a case of "may". If this provision was used unreasonably, a section 29 appeal could be lodged. This is to try to make sure that where we are making special provision and are putting in special facilities for children who have certain categories of need, be it children who are deaf or whatever, it is reasonable to say that that provision will only apply where the child presenting fits into that category and is a deaf child. That is all it is providing for. The school would not be deemed to be in breach of the Act in that case.

Are there any other questions from any of the members? Deputy Byrne is seeking another clarification.

I have concerns about this. I wonder if category of need is defined. It struck us when we read it. We have had representations asking us to table amendments similar to this. We took a look at them and thought that we could not propose them. They looked to us like something one would not want to propose. On that basis, this amendment does not look something I want to support either. Yes, in the case of a school for the deaf, that is what it does and we need to allow for that. However, I would not like to see certain people on certain parts of the autism spectrum being unable to go to a particular school because they are too hard to deal with. There are many such examples.

I do not think-----

We know this happens all the time in any event but I would not like to put it into legislation.

Special education need is defined by the same meaning as is held within the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act. What we are trying to do is provide for a situation in which, if a special school or special class has been provided for and is seeking to cater to a particular type of need, 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 education need concerned.

The purpose of this measure is to allow the Department to make special provision for certain categories. If we believe that the autism spectrum disorder, ASD, category has a particular need or that a different type of special class should be provided - we make provision for in that not all special classes are ASD units - we can have that differential type of provision in order that we can tailor our intervention to the individual needs of the child. All we were trying to provide for here is that if we have made such a tailored provision, it is reasonable to reserve those places for the children who have that need. Otherwise, it would be very difficult for us to plan the spectrum of provision for different types of special need.

The Minister will be familiar with the special units in most large primary schools, at both junior and senior level, and which are extending into secondary schools. I find the Minister's statement quite confusing because at primary level in a large primary school we are talking about two special units of six pupils in each class. By and large, there is a significant over-subscription by parents of qualifying children for those classes. I am not sure what the Minister is trying to achieve here. This is a process which has been ongoing. I am talking about very large schools that in total comprise 750,000 pupils at primary level and the number would be a little more at secondary level. Again, I am referring to the experience in Dublin West which may not be the experience in the rest of the country where schools may be much smaller. What is the Minister trying to tell us? We are trying to mainstream children with disabilities into the special units where that is appropriate given whatever level of support they may need, but what the Minister has said does not sound great. What is it that he is proposing to do? Is Tusla going to make the decision or is the school-----

Let me clarify it.

Normally there is a great deal of discussion generally involving the principal of the school and it may well be that the psychologist may be involved but many of the children who are accepted in this situation range from having moderate to severe needs whereas children who might have very mild needs may just get the occasional intervention. Parents deserve clarity as to how the students who will be successful in applying for these quite scarce places will be selected, particularly for children who are on the autism spectrum, which in many schools is the majority of the children who end up in the special class units.

I will allow Deputy Martin in before the Minister replies and he can respond to both Deputies.

There are two matters to be clarified. First, did the Minister say it is not only the autism units? Second, if a special needs class was dealing with three specific needs, would that lead to a school deciding, for example, that a child who has all those needs but also has, for example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, and an emotion behaviour disorder, would not be suitable in terms of the needs provided for in the class and, therefore, the school will not take in the pupil?

Perhaps I can clarify that. A special class is defined in the legislation. A special class means a class that has been established by a school, with the approval of the Minister, to provide an education exclusively for students with a specified category or categories of special educational need. The admissions policy of the school must state that it has special classes and it is specified what they provide for, and there is an admissions process. If we did not have these provisions, the default position of the Act would be that any mainstream child making an application could insist that they be admitted with respect to these special provisions.

The purpose of this measure is to protect the special provision for children who have special needs. That is not to say that if we set up a unit, a school can discriminate and say it does not want to take in a child with this special need or that other special need. It is to protect those special provisions from being occupied at the insistence by a child with just mainstream needs. It is solely to protect the provision for the purposes for which it was intended and that is made clear by the school in its admissions policy. This has been requested by the special needs bodies. They are seeking to protect the integrity of their provision for the children who have such needs.

It is just the ring fencing of the provision in classes.

The big problem here is the soft barriers. Some of the soft barriers are erected in schools by the professions who are advising the Minister, but not by all of them. A huge number of them do outstanding work. The soft barriers are not imposed by me. I certainly do not want to impose them by legislation and they are not directly imposed by the Minister either. If we are allowing categories now to be preferred, surely that legislates for soft barriers. I am open to be convinced that I am wrong, but I am not convinced of that at the moment.

It is only, for example, if a special unit has been provided for deaf children-----

The problem is with respect to the ASD. That is the issue.

If a child's provision is in a spectrum, then any child in that spectrum has to be admitted. The Minister defines the special unit. When a special unit is created it is created for a certain category of need. It is equipped to meet the needs of those children. It is staffed with people with the experience to deliver to those particular children. If it is a deaf unit, it will have different categories of staff and all the rest of it. All this measure is doing is protecting the integrity of the provision that is being made, namely, that it will be for children who meet those categories. This is not designed to find a way of denying access. It is to protect the provision of those places for children for whom it is the appropriate setting. In view of the concern, I will ask for a note to provide that assurance but I am assured by my officials that is the purpose of this measure. That is the way it has been drafted. It has been done specifically at the request of groups who want to see that the special provision is provided to the appropriate children.

I call Deputy Burton who wants to come in on that point and I will then call Deputy Boyd Barrett.

It would be helpful to have that note and also to have some indications in it of the types of issues we are talking about. When I became Minister for Social Protection in 2011, I found in regard to applications for the domiciliary care allowance where children were on the spectrum but particularly where children had behavioural disorders, that they had not been provided for in terms of accessing the allowance. We had to completely overhaul the system, close it down for a period and create a new system. That resulted automatically each year in an extra couple of thousand children and families accessing it.

My recollection is that the Department of Education and Skills traditionally does not particularly recognise behavioural disorders. The test on the social protection side is broadly does the child require care and attention that is very different from the norm. Also, in that case, quite a number of parents, if they are parenting full-time, would go on to qualify for carer's allowance, but in terms of the school provisions, the approach of the Department of Education and Skills, from my experience, is far more restrictive. Does this measure cater for children who have been accepted in terms of the domiciliary care allowance? It may well be that they will be accepted into mainstream classes in the school because, for instance, they have a physical disability which can be addressed and catered for within the mainstream.

What I am specifically interested in is the child with severe behavioural disorders. In my experience, the Department of Education and Skills will not always recognise the issue. While it has moved a long way in recognising spectrum disorders such as autism and asperger's syndrome, I am not sure the same applies in the case of behavioural disorders. I would like the Minister to enlighten us on that point.

Deputy Joan Burton raises the wider issue of how children with special needs are admitted and what provision is made for them. Over 60% of children with special needs are accommodated in mainstream classes. In terms of policy, the NCSE advises on what is the most appropriate setting for them. As I said, almost two thirds of children with special needs are in mainstream classes which are deemed to be the most appropriate settings. Where it is established that the needs of a child are such that a special unit is required, that provision is made. We have doubled the number of places in that regard in the space of five years. There are now 1,200 special units in schools and the level of provision is growing rapidly on foot of NCSE identifying a need.

As indicated by Deputy Thomas Byrne and others, the Department now has the power to compel a school, after a process, to provide a special unit where it is deemed by the NCSE to be necessary for children in the area. The NCSE, not the Department, advises on the best accommodation for a child, with or without a domiciliary care allowance. What we are seeking to do, in the context of the amendment, is to ensure that if special provision is made, it will be used for the purpose for which it is intended. The Deputies have raised the legitimate concern that a child presenting with additional complications could be refused on this ground. I will withdraw the amendment and ask my officials to re-examine the provision with a view to reintroducing the amendment on Report Stage when I will have a satisfactory explanation for the Deputies.

Can the behavioural disorders issue be addressed?

Will the Deputy, please, speak through the Chair?

I want to know if the Department is providing for it or if it is developing an approach towards it.

I understand the logic behind the Government's amendment, but I also see the legitimacy of the concerns expressed about behavioural disorders and the failure to acknowledge or recognise them. I am curious to know why the Minister believes the amendment is necessary.

The motivation is-----

Perhaps the Minister might allow me to finish. I find it a bit odd that he has been prompted to do this. It suggests children with mainstream needs are clamouring to get into special units for children within specific categories of special need, which I find a little hard to comprehend. What prompted the Minister to introduce the amendment? Is there a major issue-----

On a literal interpretation of the Act they would be given a right of access.

Order, please. I will allow a question from Deputy Nolan before I call on the Minister to respond.

I have not finished.

My apologies.

I am curious to know what prompted the Minister to introduce the amendment. It is the case that all legislation is open to all sorts of interpretation. It is not possible to frame legislation that would address all possible bizarre interpretations, but the Minister must have concrete evidence of the experience of parents in trying to get children with mainstream needs into special units such that he was prompted to introduce the amendment? I do not see the point of it unless it is a phenomenon. Is it?

I understand the Minister proposes to withdraw the amendment, but I seek clarity on the following matter. On the refusal of admission to children who do not have special needs, as specified, how is the matter to be determined? For example, will it be determined on the basis of a diagnosis? When I questioned the Minister on the resource allocation, his response was that there was a move away from diagnosis. How does this fit in with the resource allocation model?

The amendment seeks to amend the statement that a school in its admission policy must not discriminate on a particular set of grounds, including the disability of a student. Taken literally, this means that a school cannot discriminate based on the disability, or lack of, of a child presenting. The default position, if the amendment is not made, is that if a school has a special class reserved for children with particular needs, it cannot protect the places for children with these needs. That would be a very strange provision. Essentially, a school protecting a special education place for a child with special educational needs would be acting in a discriminatory manner. I do not think any one of us would want to see that position being provided for in legislation. I am not saying it is a phenomenon. We are providing that the admissions statement must set out these principles. In terms of what it might mean, it is a possible unintended consequence. Following on from the concerns expressed by schools providing special classes, the decision was taken to correct the position by way of amendment. We need to ensure there is reasonable protection where special provision is made for the purposes intended. There is no ulterior motive involved. People have raised a concern that a child presenting who is on the spectrum provided for and has a lot of other needs might be denied a place on the basis that some of them are not included in the list. That is not the intention and I will ask my officials to ensure the matter is addressed on Report Stage. In the meantime I can provide a note for Deputies to provide the necessary assurance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 14 to 16 ,inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, to delete lines 13 to 21 and substitute the following:

"(b) a school to which section 7(3)(c) 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 admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others if it is oversubscribed from within its own catchment area and, in the case of a refusal, it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.".

As I am not happy with the wording of the amendment - it is not as I drafted it - I will withdraw it. Its purpose is to prohibit schools from discriminating when they are not oversubscribed. The Minister said they could not discriminate on religious grounds if they were not oversubscribed. I would like him to confirm this. The amendment is an attempt to tie the issue to the catchment area proposal, but, as I said, I am not satisfied with it as presented. It is not as I drafted it and as it does not read right, I will withdraw it. It relates to the catchment area proposal, my position on which I am reserving until Report Stage.

The Bill, if enacted, will provide that a school that is not oversubscribed cannot discriminate on religious grounds in order to refuse admission.

Where is that stated in the Bill?

It is on page 7, section 62(6)(c). It provides that a school shall enroll each student seeking admission to the school with certain exceptions.

Where is it again? I cannot quite see it.

It is on page 7.

Section 62(6)(c).

How does that marry with section 61(2)(b), which allows a school to reject someone on the basis of religion if it proves the refusal is necessary to maintain the ethos of the school? Is that simply a case of oversubscription? I am not reading it like that.

This is exactly what I was coming to.

The Deputy is right. This is why I want the Minister to clarify it. If a school is not oversubscribed we do not need a rule. We need a rule that there is no discrimination and we do not need any exception.

Do any other members have questions or comments?

A school can only refuse where it is essential to maintain its ethos. It would have to establish it was essential to retain the ethos and it is not an option where a school just decides it does not want a child of a particular religion. Its only defence would be where it was essential to refuse to maintain the ethos, or if refuses to admit a student who is not of that denomination and, in the case of a refusal, it is proved the refusal was essential to maintain the ethos of the school. We are coming back with new provisions.

If a school is not oversubscribed I certainly would not favour any exceptions. In my view, if a school is undersubscribed this is not necessary. I do not think anybody has asked for it. If a school is undersubscribed and there are spare places and spare capacity in the school what the Minister is outlining is that the school can refuse people if it is essential to maintain the ethos of the school.

Before the Minister comes back in I will let Deputy Boyd Barrett in on this point.

There is a bit of a problem. How do we define what is maintaining the ethos of a school, or how does a school make the case it is necessary to discriminate to protect the ethos of the school? It is not clear to me whether it is clear in the legislation. I do not think it is from reading it. If a school is undersubscribed it is clearly and explicitly prohibited from discriminating. A school could say in a particular year that it has only ten Catholics because there are a lot of Muslem people and non-religious people so to maintain the proportion, as it would see it, of Catholic students it would start refusing people even though the school is not oversubscribed. It seems this would be allowed because the section does not explicitly state that if a school is not fully subscribed section 61(2)(b) does not apply. The Bill does not say that.

It seems to me the reason for having the exception from the Equal Status Act, and I would support it in certain circumstances, is to ensure coreligionists can attend the school of their choice, so Catholics can go to a Catholic school in so far as they can and members of the Church of Ireland can go to a Church of Ireland school and their places are not taken up by somebody not of their religion. Where a school is undersubscribed this reasoning has no place. The ethos of a school is already protected elsewhere, in the Education Act. The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, CPMSA, made the case first that there are very few cases of oversubscription where the baptism barrier comes in, but there are examples of it in my constituency. Even it would state there are no cases where a school is undersubscribed that somebody should be refused on the basis of religion. I do not see how anybody would support that as long, of course, as the ethos is protected, which I understand it is anyway. I do not think the ethos is protected by keeping the number of students low so they do not pollute it in some way. That strikes me as completely unnecessary.

This is potentially an excessively wide section, which will defeat the aim of many here which is to ensure people can go to their local school in particular, notwithstanding the fact they may not be of the religion of that local school, if the school has a religious ethos but is publicly funded. We tabled amendment No. 23 which, surprisingly to me and I may get an explanation later from the officials, has been ruled out of order. We reference catchment in the amendment because it is the essential point. The point about all of this discussion is if in the catchment area there is very large demand for places and there is a school of religious denomination, of course that school of religious denomination is entitled to serve the ethos of its religionists in so far as it is required to maintain the ethos of the school. This is set out in the Constitution. However, this does not mean the school can have such a wide catchment area that the children living across the road from the school can be denied a place while children from very far and wide are accepted for a place. This is what the baptism barrier is about and it is the point the Minister is seeking to duck. It is a balance between preserving and ensuring the ethos of a school and allowing children in a locality, who may not be of that ethos, to access the school in reasonable numbers without preventing the school from preserving its ethos. Both of these are addressed in the Constitution. This is what the Labour Party legislation, which the Minister decided to deep-freeze for a year, set out to achieve. I do not understand, given all of the various amendments which have been accepted, why amendment No. 23 has been ruled out of order. The Minister's section does not mention catchment. Without catchment it is ridiculous, because catchment is what it is about. This is absurd.

At the beginning of the meeting we had a brief discussion on the amendments ruled out of order.

I appreciate that.

I will not have another discussion on it now, but we will be happy to discuss it with the Deputy afterwards. I will ask Deputy Martin to come in on amendment No. 16 because it is in this group and I will then ask the Minister to respond.

Putting forward amendment No. 16 was the only way I could see of getting round the restriction of not being able to open up the Equal Status Act. I saw in it some way of tackling the baptism barrier. The amendment states: "In page 6, line 13, after “school” to insert “not aided by the Department of Education and Skills”. I am of the opinion that this would mean schools which are State-funded could not then discriminate. Is the Minister suggesting this would only apply to the private schools? To clarify, we are talking about schools not aided by the Department of Education and Skills. If we are that specific, we can then tackle the baptism barrier to some extent.

The point Deputy Thomas Byrne raised was whether there is a conflict between the admissions policy set out here and the other section. Until we amend and come back here with amendments to the equal status legislation, and I have indicated it is my intention to provide amendments, that equal status legislation exists and this Bill is just reflecting what it provides, namely, if a school refuses to admit a student who is not of that denomination, the school must prove that its refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school. If that is tested, it would be heard by the Workplace Relations Commission because it now deals with equality cases. That is the existing provision that goes back to the 2000 Act.

We have all indicated there is an eagerness in this committee to change that and I have indicated I will be coming back with proposed changes. However, until that occurs, this legislation obviously has to reflect the equal status provisions, and that is what it is doing here, and it is not doing any more than that. I fully recognise that we need to revisit the Equal Status Act but I believe we need to do so in a way that is constitutionally robust. We need to bring forward proposals that have been approved by the Attorney General and that respect the constitutional right of the religious to organise their affairs and so on. What we are providing for in section 62, which is what Deputy Byrne raised, is simply the existing provision. That is the provision as it now prevails.

What you are saying-----

Through the Chair, please. The Deputy should indicate.

I did. It does not make a lot of legal sense. The Minister has ruled out the Labour Party's amendment No. 23, which precisely-----

I do not rule out anything.

To be fair, the Minister did not rule out any amendment. It is the Bills Office.

It was ruled out. It precisely addresses the issue. Let us be honest. If we are all concerned about the baptism barrier, let us talk about how it operates. It operates in the context of catchments. What we are trying to do is provide a balance which provides, as the Constitution requires, for the ethos of the school but which does not mean that children who are not of that ethos in the area can have no access to that school because children in a wider area can jump over them in the queue. That is what the baptism barrier is.

To clarify, my amendment No. 16, by inserting “not aided by the Department of Education and Skills”, is making the best of a bad situation but at least it would ensure that State-funded schools could not discriminate on the grounds of religion. It would make it very specific to privately-funded schools so, at least, the taxpayer would not be paying for discrimination. I ask members to support it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, to delete lines 13 to 21.

Amendment No. 15 has not been ruled out of order, so I will move on to the substantial issue in a moment. I am making another point to the Minister which he has not really satisfactorily answered, namely, even from its own point of view and its stated objectives, the legislation is defective. The Minister stated that discrimination on religious grounds-----

Is the Deputy referring purely to amendment No. 15?

Not at all. I just said I am not going to do that.

We had the opportunity on Second Stage in the House to deal with general comments. We are dealing with very specific amendments, to be fair. There are 181 amendments and we are only on amendment No. 15 at this point.

I was being totally specific. You have just allowed another member to talk about a totally different amendment. I just said I am not going to talk about amendment No. 15 because we will be talking about it in a minute. I am talking about the amendment-----

Do you think it is all right to say you are not going to talk about amendment No. 15 and then-----

We are not on amendment No. 15. We are on amendment No. 14.

We have moved on from amendment No. 14, which was withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 were grouped together. Amendment No. 14 has already been withdrawn.

That is why I withdrew it.

Then I will talk on amendment No. 15, although I had been dealing with amendment No. 14. My initial comments were about amendment No. 14 before I moved on to amendment No. 15.

Because we sought clarification after it was withdrawn, I was being very lenient.

We have not got an answer from the Minister on the point about the defectiveness of the legislation itself, on its own terms. Setting aside amendment No. 15, which I will come to in a moment, the legislation is not clear in its execution of its own intent. That is the very specific point I am making. That is what we are dealing with. The Minister stated that the legislation would not allow for discrimination on religious grounds where there was not oversubscription. I do not believe there should be any discrimination and I will come onto that point shortly. However, even if that is the Minister's intent, the legislation does not make it clear. It leaves the door open for discrimination in cases where there is not oversubscription because it does not spell it out clearly. I think the drafters need to look at it because it leaves this open.

On amendment No. 15, which I did not realise we had moved on to, this is where I disagree with Deputy Burton. The Labour Party approach to this is a fudge between allowing some discrimination to continue but minimising it somewhat with the issue of catchment. However, there is the problem of how to define a catchment. As Deputy Burton rightly pointed out, one can expand the concept of catchment to anywhere so how is catchment to be defined? It is problematic to define it in any sort of meaningful or legal way. Therefore, I think the only way to deal with the issue is to delete the offending discrimination which is contained in section 61(2)(b), which echoes the wording of the infamous section 7(3)(c).

It is worth stating the irrationality of the wording of section 61(2)(b), which reads: "a statement that the school does not discriminate in relation to the admission of students where it admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others or it refuses to admit". What the legislation is saying is that it is not discrimination to discriminate. It is just bonkers. It is so Irish, it is unbelievable. It is not discrimination to prefer one group over another on a religious basis. That is the definition of discrimination. Nowhere else could do this, except some sort of tin-pot dictatorship. It is Orwellian wording - freedom is slavery; war is peace; discrimination is not discrimination. That is what we are proposing to put into law.

That is what we are proposing to put in law. It is already in the Equal Status Act and now we are going to repeat it in the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016, which purports to be reforming the problems in equal admission to school but is actually restating an Orwellian form of discrimination and trying to claim it is not discrimination or is somehow acceptable. It is totally wrong.

I restate that it is unnecessary to do this, never mind that it is actually wrong to do this to children of all people. I have made that point already, but who is the Minister doing this for? I presume he has read the survey of Equate, which is campaigning on this issue. The survey, which was done scientifically by a proper surveying organisation, shows that 71% or an overwhelming majority of parents, whether religious, non-religious or of minority religions, state the law should be changed so that baptism can no longer be a requirement for school admission in State-funded schools. Another 12% state that they do not care. Only 16% want to retain the status quo that the Minister is retaining. In this legislation, the Minister is pandering to 16% over the vast majority. Why is he doing this? I do not understand it.

The Minister has continued to refer to constitutional issues. I really want to get to the bottom of this, and I should have asked earlier, but at one point the Taoiseach and the Minister claimed the Government had legal advice about the constitutional difficulties involved in removing this discriminatory element of the law. I have asked repeatedly if we can see the legal advice the Government received, but we have never seen it. I do not believe the Minister has legal advice. That was spoof from the Taoiseach. In my opinion, it was "the man with two pints" talk. We have heard it only as a spurious justification for maintaining an utterly discriminatory law directed disgracefully against children. Could the Minister answer that point? How can he justify it? Why does he feel the need to do it when he is pandering to a tiny minority of the population? Where is the famous legal advice about the constitutional problem that might be involved in removing this discrimination from the legislation?

Does Deputy Catherine Martin wish to comment further because we will be dealing with the amendments after the Minister has spoken?

The position, as we discussed earlier, is that we are not changing the Equal Status Act here. There is a desire by the committee to consider changes to the Equal Status Act and we indicated that we will revert to that issue. If we make changes to the Equal Status Act, there will have to be consequential changes to this Bill. I fully recognise that point. Some of these provisions, which are taken entirely from that Act, will have to be repealed or changed, in particular, this provision in relation to section 7(3)(c).

Changing this here, however, does not change the Equal Status Act one whit. That will remain on the Statute Book. The only way in which we can amend it is by making provisions in respect of that Act and we will have to do that on a fresh occasion in a fresh debate. All of the issues the Deputies are raising can be considered at that stage.

Deputy Catherine Martin's amendment is trying, by the back door, to change the Equal Status Act by confining this exception to private schools or whatever schools, but the same-----

(Interruptions).

Please do not interrupt the Minister.

The same situation prevails, that we are not debating amendments here to the Equal Status Act. Whatever changes we make here do not change the Equal Status Act. Under the Equal Status Act, one has the right, if challenged, to go to the WRC and to prove that a refusal he or she has made is essential to maintain the ethos of the school. I understand that has not been tested and schools have not been using this ground of refusal as a way of keeping non-co-religionists out. There has not been a case of this brought to the WRC and it is an unused section. However, until it is changed, we have to respect it and our provision on education admission policy has to respect the existing provisions of the Equal Status Act. Obviously, if we come back and change that, there will be consequential changes through this legislation, but that is the debate for another occasion.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 6, line 13, after "school" to insert "not aided by the Department of Education and Skills".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 5.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ryan, Brendan.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
Amendment declared lost.

We will now move on to amendment No. 17, which has been ruled-----

Is now a good opportunity to take a break?

I was going to continue on for another ten minutes, unless members wish to break now for 30 minutes. I am in members' hands.

I would like to break.

I propose we break until 7.40 p.m. It is now 7.10 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 7.10 p.m. and resumed at 7.45 p.m.

We have a quorum so we will resume in public session. Amendment No. 17 has been moved out of order.

Amendment No. 17 not moved.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 6, line 21, to delete "school." and substitute "school,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(c) a school that, with the approval of the Minister, provides an education exclusively for students with a specified category or categories of special educational needs, 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

(d) 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 specified category or categories of special educational needs, 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.".

Is this associated with the one we are saying we will revert to on Report Stage?

We will withdraw it, pending its reintroduction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 20, 21, 43, 55, 64, 65, 125 and 145 are related and will be discussed together.

Do these amendments relate to Irish?

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“(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 has Irish as a home language in preference to others whose home language is not Irish.”

This is a very important issue. An bhfuil cead agam Gaeilge a labhairt? I have no translation.

Tá. Absolutely.

I just think that we should speak Irish when we are talking about the language. Ba mhaith linn sna leasaithe seo athraithe a dhéanamh ar an bpolasaí maidir le daltaí agus teaghlaigh a bhfuil Gaeilge acu sa bhaile agus an ceart a thabhairt do scoileanna tús áite a thabhairt do na daoine sin, más mian leo. Faoi láthair, tá cuid de na Gaelscoileanna ag tabhairt tús áite do pháistí a thagann ó teaghlaigh a bhfuil Gaeilge á úsáid acu. Tá sé i gceist ag an Aire stop a chuir le sin agus nílim sásta tacaíocht a thabairt dó. Chuala mé an méid a bhí le rá ag an Aire roimhe seo agus beidh suim agam éisteacht go géar le sin. Má tá an t-Aire chun athraithe a dhéanamh nó a chur in iúil dúinn bhéinn sásta fanacht go dtí an chéad Stáitse eile.

I mean this as no disrespect to anyone but it is fundamental for me to speak Irish on this issue.

That is fine.

Amendment No. 20 is in my name also, and I tabled amendment No. 55. These amendments require that in the case of Irish medium schools that are oversubscribed, these schools would have the right to assign priority to children who speak Irish as a home language or who are transferring from primary to secondary Gaelscoileanna.

Can I ask the Minister to respond?

As the Bill stands, Irish medium schools are not prohibited from prioritising children from Irish-speaking homes. An amendment which provides that such schools do not discriminate within the meaning of the Equal Status Act is not appropriate. There is no provision in that Act and any amendment that proposes to amend the definition of discrimination within that Act would have to be made within the Act itself. The difficulty with the school making a statement that it is not discrimination would not change the parent Act. The parent Act does not deal with language as a grounds for discrimination. Under this Bill, Irish medium schools are not prohibited from prioritising children from Irish-speaking homes. None of the amendments I am bringing forward today will prohibit schools from doing so.

I am aware, however, that there are concerns that some provisions in the Bill could have a bearing on the manner or mechanism by which a school would ascertain that a student is from an Irish-speaking home. Some schools, for example, meet or undertake an assessment of the student, in some cases the parents or in some cases both students and parents to ascertain whether Irish is in fact the language spoken at home. In the context of this Bill, such an approach raises a number of issues. The overall reach and approach of this Bill is to prohibit priority based on the academic ability, skill or aptitude of the student or parent. It is consistent with long-standing education policy that the academic capacity, aptitude or skills of a child or his or her parents should never have a bearing on whether a child is admitted to a school. It is for that reason that entrance tests were explicitly banned back in 1993 by the then Minister for Education, Niamh Bhreathnach.

I assure the committee that the Government and I wish to support and promote the Irish language and Irish medium schools as far as possible. I am, therefore, open to supporting such schools to prioritise children from Irish-speaking homes, where the schools are oversubscribed. There are, however, complexities involved with ensuring that any mechanism through which they do so is fair and does not serve to exclude children of lesser academic ability or those with special educational needs. Such a mechanism must also take due account of the general desirability that public policy and law should ensure that no child is excluded from a school based on his or her family or socioeconomic background.

Furthermore, both policy and legal questions arise in defining what an Irish-speaking home is. Does it apply where one parent is a fluent speaker but the other parent is not? Does Irish have to be the exclusive language of the house? Are bilingual families covered? How can that be provided for in law? These are complex issues, both legally and in terms of policy. Nonetheless, I can assure the committee that I intend to reflect further on how the objective can be achieved in a fair, inclusive and transparent manner so as to ensure that I can bring forward an appropriate amendment which takes full account of these issues and has been legally proofed by the Attorney General. Subject to such considerations and to legal advice, I intend to do so on Report Stage. I am not disposed to accepting these amendments at this point.

Tá mé sásta fanacht go dtí an chéad Stáitse eile. Feicfimid ansin cad atá le cur ar fáil ag an Aire. Tá an t-Aire ceart nuair a deireann sé gur féidir le scoileanna tús áite a thabhairt do na páistí seo. Ní féidir leo a leithéid a dhéanamh ach trí agallamh, áfach. They can only do that through an interview. I am prepared to wait to see what the Minister proposes. I think that would be a reasonable approach. This is certainly an important issue to us and to all of the Opposition parties.

Is the Minister is proposing to accept the amendments? Will we hear more from him on Report Stage. Is that right?

I understand what the Deputies are trying to do, it is just the complexity of how one would do this while still maintaining the cardinal principle of not judging the parents and making their fluency or academic ability the criteria. How do we balance that? That has to considered further.

How stands amendment No. 20, Deputy Byrne?

I withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are in the name of Deputy Nolan. As she is not here, these amendments fall.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 not moved.

Amendment No. 23 in the name of Deputy Burton and Amendment No. 24 in the name of Deputy Byrne have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 25 to 35, inclusive, and amendment No. 58 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 6, line 28, to delete “Subject to this section, regulations under section 64,” and substitute “Subject to this Act, regulations under this Act”.

This amendment extends the provision to which a school admissions policy is subject. The Bill currently provides that a school admissions policy is subject to section 62 of the Bill and any regulations made under section 64 of the Bill. Amendment No. 25 broadens this to provisions of the Education Act and any regulations made under the same. The Bill does not currently specify how often a drafted admissions policy should be prepared. It could be interpreted that this be required every year. However, that is not the intention. Amendment No. 26 clarifies that the draft admissions policy should be prepared by the board not later than three months after the commencement of the relevant subsection or where a board proposes making any amendments to its admissions policy. This means that when a board proposes to make any amendments to its admissions policy it must carry out the consultation process as specified in section 62 (1) of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 6, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

“(2) (a) The first draft admission policy under subsection (1) shall be prepared by the board as soon as practicable and in any event not later than 3 months after the commencement of this subsection.

(b) Where a board proposes making any amendments to its admission policy the board shall prepare a revised draft admission policy and this section shall, with any necessary modifications, apply to that draft as if it were a draft admission policy under subsection (1).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 6, line 34, to delete “(2) The board” and substitute “(3) The board”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 6, line 36, to delete “(3) The patron” and substitute “(4) The patron”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 6, line 37, to delete “ subsection (2)” and substitute “subsection (3)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 6, line 41, to delete “(4) Where” and substitute “(5) Where”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 6, line 42, to delete “subsection (3)(b)” and substitute “subsection (4)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 7, line 4, to delete “(5) Where” and substitute “(6) Where”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 7, line 5, to delete “subsection (3)(a)” and substitute “subsection (4)(a)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 7, line 5, to delete “subsection (4)” and substitute “subsection (5)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 7, line 9, to delete “(6) An admission policy” and substitute “(7) An admission policy”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 36, 44 to 48, inclusive, 59 and 86 are related and may be discussed together. Amendments Nos. 45 to 48, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 44.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 7, to delete lines 12 to 19 and substitute the following:

“(c) 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, other than—

(i) where the school or special class concerned is oversubscribed, or

(ii) where the parent of a student, when required by the principal in accordance with section 23(4) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, fails to confirm in writing that the code of behaviour of the school is acceptable to him or her and that he or she shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure compliance with such code by the student,”.

This amendment provides for the use of the term "oversubscription" as it is now defined in accordance with amendment No. 8. This amendment also includes a reference to the admission policy of a school, providing that it shall admit each student seeking admission to a special class in the school, other than in the case of the circumstances set out in section 62(6)(c). The amendment also reflects more accurately the language used in section 23(4) of the Education (Welfare) Act which provides that a parent is only required to confirm his or her acceptance of the code of behaviour when requested to do so by the principal of the school.

Amendment No. 44 provides that the admission policy section of the Bill contains a list of the prohibited oversubscription selection criteria and any exemption from same. The following are the prohibited oversubscription selection criteria: a student's prior attendance at a preschool, with exemptions for early intervention and early start preschools; the payment of fees or contributions; a student's academic ability, skills or aptitude, except for the admission of students to a special school or special class where it is necessary in order to ascertain whether the student has the category of special educational needs for which the special school or special class has been established to cater; the occupation, financial status, academic ability, skills or aptitude of a student's parents; and a requirement that a student, or his or her parents, attend an interview, open day or other meeting as a condition of admission, other than in the case of admission to the residential element of a boarding school or to a course known as a post-leaving certificate course. The Bill is silent on a limitation on the power of a school to determine a priority for children of past pupils where it is oversubscribed either by setting a percentage or otherwise. It was previously considered that this matter could be dealt with in regulations but, following legal advice, it is clear the matter needs to be dealt with in primary legislation.

The amendment provides that a school may not provide priority based on a student's connection to it by virtue of a member of his or her family attending or h0aving previously attended the school, except where a sibling of the student is attending or has attended the school, or where a parent or grandparent of the student concerned has previously attended the school, provided the maximum number of places filled pursuant to the latter criterion does not exceed 25% of the available places as set out in the school's annual admission notice for the school year concerned.

The amendment also provides that a school may not provide priority based on the date on which an application for admission was received by the school, 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 the Bill or regulations made under it. An exemption from this provision is given where, prior to the coming into operation of the subsection, the school had confirmed in writing to the person who had made an application or expression of interest that the name of the child in respect of whom the application or expression of interest had been made had been placed on a list maintained by the school for the purpose of allocating school places in the year concerned. This exemption ceases to apply five years after commencement of the subsection.

The amendment also provides that a school shall compile a waiting list of students whose applications for the intake group were unsuccessful following application of the oversubscription selection criteria and this list shall remain valid for the intake year. Students will be placed on the list in accordance with the order of priority assigned to their applications after the school has applied its selection criteria and it must offer further school places that become available for and during the school year to those students on the waiting list, in accordance with the order of priority in which they had been placed on the list.

The amendment also seeks to address somewhat the concerns raised by a number of the education partners about the practice of parents applying to multiple schools. It provides that, in accepting an offer of admission, an applicant shall indicate if he or she has accepted an offer of admission from another school or schools or if the applicant is awaiting the outcome of the admission process in another school or schools. If so, he or she shall provide details of the offer or offers or the school or schools concerned. An offer of admission may not be made or may be withdrawn where the applicant does not comply with this provision.

The amendment amends the existing wording in the Bill which provides that an admission policy shall provide details of the school's policy on its arrangements for students who do not wish to attend religious instruction. This provision has been amended to provide that an admission policy shall provide details of the school's arrangements for any student where the parent of that student or, in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student himself or herself has requested that he or she attend the school without attending religious instruction.

Amendment No. 59 is a consequential amendment required to change the reference to the subparagraphs in section 62 which now run from (a) to (q).

Is amendment No. 86 included in this grouping?

It is my amendment. Would it be in order to speak to it at this stage?

Yes, absolutely.

The amendment aims to deal with the issue of priority being given to children of staff in enrolment policies. Most schools do not give such priority but some do. The effect of giving such priority, particularly in periods of high demand when it outstrips capacity, is that it can be and is given to children from outside the local area and can be at the expense of local children. I had direct experience of this in the past in my constituency. I wish to be clear that the amendment does not suggest there be a prohibition on children of staff members enrolling in a school in which their parents are teaching. I was a member of the Joint Committee on Education and Skills in the previous Dáil when former Deputy Joanna Tuffy was Chairman. We prepared a report ahead of the intention of the then Minister, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to introduce what the Minister is dealing with today. A recommendation was included in the report that the Minister consider it. It was Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's proposed Bill at that stage. I ask the Minister to consider accepting the amendment.

Deputies Thomas Byrne and Carol Nolan also have amendments in this grouping.

May I wait until the Minister-----

Does the Minister wish to respond to Deputy Brendan Ryan?

Yes. As the Deputy explained, the amendment would prohibit schools from prioritising the children of staff or board members. I believe it is a reasonable position that an oversubscribed school may give priority to children of staff members, where it so wishes. For example, from the perspective of facilitating those families, it is sensible that a teacher who works in a school distant from his or her home can have his or her children attend the school rather than having to make arrangements for them to attend elsewhere. I have not come across this as a widely prevalent practice. If it has been used, it does not appear to be having a big impact on admissions policy, but, obviously, the Deputy has evidence to the contrary.

If the Deputy has evidence to the contrary and he gives me the details of that I will consider the issue and come back on Report Stage to see if it would be appropriate to deal with it. The Deputy is trying to balance the reasonable expectation of teachers or other staff members who are contributing to that school community that they might get some priority over the concern of those living locally. I will consider it. The Deputy might give me the details of the experience he had and I will consider whether that is prevalent or something that should be provided for in these circumstances.

The reality is that this is a perk for teachers, but the Minister's response is that it is reasonable in respect of teachers who are travelling long distances to the area where they are teaching. If, say, the factory worker in the factory adjacent to the same school is travelling long distances to his or her place of work, it might be advantageous for him or her to say, "I would like to have my child in this local school to my employment". It is not reasonable that it is a perk for teachers only, but I will respond to what the Minister has asked me. I do not intend to press the amendment because I would like him to give some consideration to it. It has been a problem in the past and it has the potential to be a problem in the future. The idea that children from outside an area could come into an area and get priority over local children is not something that would be acceptable to me. I have spoken to many principals and they have said they would not have that and that they would never do it but in so far as some schools do it, I ask that it would be something that is not acceptable.

My amendments are self-explanatory. Amendment No. 45 seeks to expand what is already in the legislation to put more flesh on the bones, so to speak. It is obviously an issue of some interest in the committee tonight, and an important one.

I will not press the other amendment on catchment areas because I am willing to listen-----

Which one is that?

It is amendment No. 47. I think they are my two in that group. I fundamentally disagree with Deputy Ryan's amendment.

My amendment No. 46 is very similar to Deputy Byrne's amendment.

It is the same.

Yes, it is the very same. I wish to press it.

It is in direct contradiction to amendment No. 36, so it depends on how amendment No. 36 falls.

In amendment No. 44, section (9)(b), why did the Minister decide on one in four, or 25%, of children of past pupils?

Are there any other questions for the Minister?

What amendment is that?

Amendment No. 44, section (9)(b).

Yes, which the Minister outlined. Are there any other questions or comments for the Minister? In that case, I will call the Minister.

I take the point Deputy Byrne is making about arrangements for children who do not wish to participate in the religious programme. As we discussed earlier, many schools are in very different positions. There may be something in this space and I would be willing to come back and consider this on Report Stage. What we ought to be trying to do is not be prescriptive. We should not set regulations and say, "That is it". As Deputy Martin suggested, we should try to encourage a process of change through the parents and teachers charter, the requirement to state their policies and so on. There may be something in this space that we could do, and I would be happy to revert on that.

Amendment No. 46 is probably already encompassed by what we are doing.

There was a question on the reason for the 25% criteria. It was an attempt to try to strike a reasonable ground. A view was expressed that priority should not be given to children of past pupils on the grounds that everyone should be equal. On the other hand, it seems that continuity within the school and having the sort of association that grows up with various community activities that are built around the school and that parents are involved in and were involved in when they were students in the school, is favourable. There is a reasonable sense of continuity that we ought to promote, namely, that that school community is a reasonable concept. It was to try to identify a reasonable level at which this could be set that would be fair to both arguments and strike a reasonable balance so that we would set a ceiling. Prior to this there was no ceiling. This measure is introducing a ceiling where there was none previously and trying to set it at a level that would be reasonable. There is no science involved in it particularly, but is an effort to set something that is a reasonable balance of the two views of the world.

That is my main concern about it. There does not seem to be any objective research on this. As the Minister said, he is trying to strike a fair bargain between different views rather than coming up with evidence-based policy. It is not an issue of which I have direct experience from my constituents in certain areas. Is it as big a problem as is being made out? Has the Minister done the research that shows that this requires action and that it requires a cap of 25% or any cap? Can he justify it based on empirical evidence?

I seek clarification on the waiting list and the grandfather clause. I presume that means that one would go back five years from the passing of the Bill. Is that right?

No. People who are on a list now could get priority, but that priority would end five years after the Bill is passed.

For example, if a child in senior infants was sixth, would the list end before he or she would go to secondary school? Is that it?

Probably.

I thought the approach could be that it would be from whatever the date of the first publication of this legislation would be, but that might have the same effect.

It would be close enough.

In other words, a child in senior infants who is on a list now would probably not be subject to the list.

That is reasonable.

Has Deputy Byrne concluded?

Deputy Shortall has indicated she wants to speak.

I cannot understand why the Minister is proposing that 25% of places would be set aside. I do not know what the justification for that is. I heard him say that continuity is important and that we ought to protect the continuity. We can replace the word "continuity" with the word "elitism", and that is essentially what this is about - that elitism ought to be protected. I am horrified at the Minister proposing that 25% of places would be reserved. There is no justification whatsoever for that. This can only perpetuate inequality in education.

Our education system is very much a two-tier system and many of us would be of the view that there is a need to change the way in which the private school system is funded - that it is about maintaining elitism. The idea of reserving 25% of places for sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of people who have attended a school is nonsense. There cannot be any justification for that. It directly discriminates against people who, for example, have recently moved into the area. It directly discriminates against people who come here from abroad. It very much discriminates against, for example, people whose parents did not go to secondary school. I cannot understand how the Minister can possibly stand over a discriminatory arrangement like this that is about protecting elitism within the education system.

As there is absolutely no justification for it, I really appeal to the Minister to rethink this proposal.

One difficulty I have with this measure is that it is clearly not necessary in schools that do not already follow the practice. Will it encourage schools which do not have a quota to have one? Is there a way this could be stopped? The practice has gone on forever and I see no good reason to stop it, but neither do I see any good reason to start it. This issue may have been missed. If a ceiling of 25% is included in the legislation, it might end up becoming mandatory. It is an issue for certain schools that already follow the practice, but I certainly would not like to see it starting in other schools.

What happens when parents want brothers and sisters to go to the same school? Must a parent with three or four children bring them to three or four schools every morning on the way to work?

That is a fair question.

It is not about elitism.

I accept that.

That is a different point and, to be honest, a more legitimate debate. I refer to the difficulty of one-----

It is not more legitimate. People have different views.

Can we have order, please? We are trying to get through a number of amendments.

It is not a question of the Deputy's view being legitimate and mine illegitimate.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett has the floor. Does he wish to continue?

It is a more legitimate debate.

It is not. It is a different viewpoint. It is equally legitimate and the Deputy should respect it.

My view is that there is a real debate to be had on the extreme difficulty posed if two children and their mother or father or both must go to two schools at the same time because they could not both be enrolled in the same one. One can understand the very practical case for having two siblings attend the same school to make transport relatively easy and in order that parents do not have to endure the extreme trial of having to bring children to two schools at the same time of the morning which might be physically impossible in some cases, but that is totally different from retaining a 25% quota within a school for pupils whose parents or grandparents happened to go to it. There is no practical, logistical imperative in that regard. The measure is about maintaining some intergenerational family clique within a school. I imagine the practice is restricted almost entirely to fairly elite private schools.

In the Deputy's constituency.

Yes, but I am not afraid to lose votes if I believe something is right. The Deputy is absolutely right that I will get flak in my constituency over this, but sometimes one has to say something is right, regardless of whether one will get a bit of flak.

In rural areas also.

I do not see the case in rural areas. I totally understand the case to be made for having siblings attend the same school in rural or urban areas. I understand the difficulty even more in rural areas. Having to bring children to two villages or towns could be a real hassle. It is not necessary, however, for somebody in a rural or an urban area to go to the same school as his or her father, grandfather or grandmother. Why is that necessary? Why would one allow discrimination on that basis? If somebody can make a case for it, I will be interested in hearing it, but I do not really see how one could possibly justify it.

I referred to subsection (9)(b), which deals with the 25% quota. Deputy Tom Neville is referring to subsection (9)(a) which refers to siblings. I have absolutely no problem with it because it makes sense for siblings to be able to attend the same school, if only in managing a household, but I do have an issue with the 25% quota. I am still not convinced that it is evidence-based and believe it has been plucked from the air. Why stop at a parent and grandparent? Why not include a great-grandparent also? There could be circumstances in which the grandchild of someone who attended a school, who may be travelling 15 miles across the city to attend school, could have a greater right to attend it than a child who is living beside it. That one in four pupils could have this right just because he or she happens to be the grandson or granddaughter of a past pupil is bizarre, wrong and unfair. The measure is not about equality and equal access. Of course, I can see the argument about siblings and do not have an issue with it. The quota of 25% is way too high.

This is imposing a restriction where there was none before. It is actually reducing the extent to which schools can engage in the practice. They did not face a restriction before. The empirical evidence is that the higher ceilings have applied in schools in which it is the custom and practice. This measure is restricting some schools in giving priority to the children of past pupils. It is trying to introduce a ceiling.

On the question of why any child should be allowed, the argument is based on the fact that many schools have a tradition whereby past pupils want to send their children to them. They may have played for the same GAA club or have associations with the parish which they may want to keep for one reason or another. Schools have facilitated family continuity in terms of being part of the school community. They often draw members of boards of management and so on from these very involved families. The provision is trying to strike a balance. School communities are complex networks and many schools draw their support from past pupils. It is very understandable they would try to maintain a connection with past pupils. This is a way by which that connection has been maintained. It is reasonable to argue that there should be a limit set on the extent to which what I describe would become a practice. That is why I believe this is a reasonable solution. Bearing in mind Deputy Thomas Byrne's concern that schools that never followed the practice might introduce it, I will consider the issue and revert to him on Report Stage. Some continuity is reasonable and in accordance with existing practice in many schools. The proposal involves a reasonable restriction on the practice. As I stated, I will consider before Report Stage whether additional changes should be made to this provision.

I, too, will be seeking to amend the section on Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 7, line 22, to delete "or".

Amendment put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 38 to 40, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 7, to delete lines 23 to 27.

We do not believe that undersubscribed schools should be free to discriminate on the grounds of religion. This amendment deletes the proviso that they are allowed to refuse on the basis of maintaining the ethos. The ethos is protected under other provisions in the Education Act 1998.

This part of the Bill deals with admissions policies and sets out what a board can and cannot do when preparing an admissions policy. Included in this part of the Bill is a provision to allow a school the right to refuse admission where the child is not of the same denomination as that promoted by the school. This amendment would remove that right.

My amendment No. 39 is similar to my previous amendment No. 16, after "school" to insert "not aided by the Department of Education and Skills". It is an effort to ensure that State-funded schools are not funding discrimination.

I agree with Deputy Martin and my amendment No. 40 is similar to hers.

This is the debate we had earlier. While I can understand what the Deputies are seeking to do, amending these sections would not in any way change the Equal Status Act 2000 and would not have the effect that Deputies intend. I have, however, indicated that we will deal with the Equal Status Act 2000 and when we make whatever changes are agreed there will be consequential changes in this legislation. Changing this legislation does not alter the Equal Status Act 2000. For that reason I cannot support the amendments.

I do not want to elaborate the debate we have already had but is this not a terribly topsy turvy way to do things? We are writing legislation which we know we will have to change all the way through on one of the most substantive issues it develops. Would it not have made sense to run these things together?

The Deputy has made the point but I will return to the amendments. How stands the amendment?

I am happy not to press it on the basis of what the Minister has said. I might come back to it on Report Stage.

I will reserve my right until Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 7, line 23, after "school" to insert "not aided by the Department of Education and Skills".

I called a vote on amendment No. 16 but I am happy to revisit this on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 7, line 27, after "school" to insert "provided the majority of its building and annual running costs are not provided by public funds".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 7, between lines 27 and 28, 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 specified category or categories of special educational needs, 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 specified category of special educational needs concerned,".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 7, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

"(v) in the case of a school or unit which is established to provide solely for the education of students with a specific special educational need or medical condition, where the school or unit refuses to admit as a student a person who does not display the behavioural characteristics associated with the specific special educational need or medical condition for which the school or unit is established,".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 7, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

"(v) in the case of a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish, where the school refuses to admit as a student a person who does not have Irish as a home language in favour of a person who does, or

(vi) in the case of a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish, where the school refuses to admit as a student a person who does not have Irish as a home language and it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the linguistic ethos of the school,".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 1; Níl, 3.

  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
Amendment declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Thomas Byrne, Catherine Martin and Fiona O'Loughlin.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 7, to delete lines 28 to 39, and in page 8, to delete lines 1 to 17 and substitute the following:

"(d) set out the selection criteria which shall be applied where the school is oversubscribed,

(e) provide that the school shall not apply the following selection criteria where the school is oversubscribed:

(i) a student's prior attendance at a specified category or categories of pre-school or pre-school service, other than in relation to a student's prior attendance at—

(I) an early intervention class, or

(II) an early start pre-school,

specified in a list published by the Minister from time to time,

(ii) the payment of fees or contributions (howsoever described) to the school, other than in accordance with section 64;

(iii) subject to subsection (8), a student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude;

(iv) the occupation, financial status, academic ability, skills or aptitude of a student's parents;

(v) a requirement that a student, or his or her parents, attend an interview, open day or other meeting as a condition of admission, other than in the case of admission to the residential element of a boarding school or to a course known as a post leaving certificate course;

(vi) subject to subsection (9), a student's connection to the school by virtue of a member of his or her family attending or having previously attended the school,

(vii) 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 and subject to subsection (10), the date on which an application for admission was received by the school,

(f) set out the manner and sequence in which the selection criteria will be applied, including the arrangements that shall apply in cases where 2 or more students are tied for a place or places in the school,

(g) provide, where a school is oversubscribed, that any selection criteria that are not included in the admission policy of the school shall not be taken into account in determining whether or not a student is admitted to the school,

(h) provide, where a school is oversubscribed, that in making a decision on an application for admission, only the information provided in the application 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, may be taken into account in determining whether or not a student is admitted to the school,

(i) provide, where a school is oversubscribed, that the school shall compile a waiting list of students whose applications for the intake group were unsuccessful due to the school being oversubscribed, which shall remain valid for the school year in which admission is being sought subject to—

(i) the school placing students on the list in accordance with the order of priority assigned to the students’ applications, after the school has applied the selection criteria in accordance with its admission policy, and

(ii) the school offering any further school places that become available for and during the school year in relation to which admission is being sought to those students on the waiting list, in accordance with the order of priority in relation to which the students have been placed on the list,

(j) provide that, in accepting an offer of admission, an applicant shall indicate—

(i) if 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) if he or she has applied for and is awaiting confirmation of an offer of admission from another school or schools, he or she shall provide details of the other school or schools concerned,

(k) provide that where a student has not been offered admission, the reasons that he or she was not offered admission shall be provided in writing to the applicant including, where applicable, details of why the student failed to meet the selection criteria and details of the student’s position on the waiting list,

(l) provide that an offer of admission may not be made or may be withdrawn where—

(i) it is established that the application is fraudulent or intentionally misleading,

(ii) an applicant fails to confirm acceptance of an offer of admission on or before the 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,

(iii) the parent of a student, when required by the principal in accordance with section 23(4) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, fails to confirm in writing that the code of behaviour of the school is acceptable to him or her and that he or she shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure compliance with such code by the student, or

(iv) the applicant has not complied with paragraph (j),

(m) provide that an applicant may request the board to review a decision to refuse admission and that a decision to refuse admission may be appealed in accordance with section 29(1)(c)(i) or (ii),

(n) provide details of the school’s arrangements in respect of any student, where the parent of that student, or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious instruction at the school,

(o) be consistent with any agreement in relation to the provision of infrastructure or funding to the school made between the Minister and the school,

(p) include a declaration that the board or person acting on its behalf shall not, except in accordance with section 64, charge fees for or seek payment or contributions (howsoever described) as a condition of—

(i) an application for admission of a student to the school, or

(ii) the admission or continued attendance of a student in the school,

(q) set out procedures and criteria for the admission of students who are not already admitted to the school—

(i) to classes or years other than the school’s intake group, and

(ii) after the commencement of the school year in relation to which admission is sought including, where appropriate, in accordance with paragraph (i),

and

(r) contain such additional information as may be prescribed in regulations under section 65.

(8) Subsection (7)(e)(iii) shall not, insofar only as determining the student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude is necessary in order to ascertain whether or not the student has the category of special educational needs concerned, apply to the admission of students to—

(a) a school approved by the Minister to provide an education exclusively for students with a specified category or categories of special educational needs, or

(b) a special class.

(9) Subsection (7)(e)(vi) shall not apply to selection criteria based on a student’s connection to the school by virtue of—

(a) a sibling of the student concerned attending or having attended the school, or

(b) a parent or grandparent of the student concerned having previously attended the school, provided the maximum number of places filled pursuant to that criterion does not exceed 25 per cent of the available places as set out in the school’s annual admission notice for the school year concerned.

(10) (a) Notwithstanding subsection (7)(e)(vii), a school may apply a selection criterion based on the date on which an application for admission or an expression of interest in applying for admission was received by the school where, prior to the coming into operation of this subsection the school had confirmed, in writing, to the person who made the application or expression of interest that the name of the child in respect of whom the application or expression of interest had been made had been placed on a list maintained by the school for the purpose of allocating school places in the school year concerned.

(b) Paragraph (a) shall cease to have effect 5 years after it comes into operation.

(11) In this section 'code of behaviour' has the same meaning as it has in the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.".

It should be borne in mind that I will revert on Report Stage in respect of the past pupils provision in the light of the discussion that we had.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 45 to 48, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 49, 87, 151, 157 and 167 to 176, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 8, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

"Annual admission notice

63. (1) Subject to this Act and any regulations made under this Act, the board of a school shall, each year, prepare a notice (in this Part referred to as an 'annual admission notice') in respect of the admission of students to the intake group of the school for the school year concerned.

(2) The board shall, prior to accepting applications for admission to the school for the school year concerned, in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed period, publish the annual admission notice.

(3) An annual admission notice shall—

(a) provide details in relation to how to obtain—

(i) a copy of the school’s admission policy, and

(ii) an application form for admission to the school,

(b) subject to subsection (4) and any regulations under section 65, set out—

(i) the date on which the school shall commence accepting applications for admission to the school for the school year concerned,

(ii) the date on which the school shall cease accepting applications for admission to the school for the school year concerned, which date shall be at least 3 weeks after the date referred to in subparagraph (i),

(iii) the date by which an applicant shall be notified of the decision in relation to his or her application,

(iv) the date by which an applicant shall confirm his or her acceptance of an offer of admission,

(c) set out the number of places being made available in the intake group for the school year concerned including:

(i) in the case of a boarding school, the number of residential and the number of non-residential places; and

(ii) in the case of a school with a special class, the number of places in the special class concerned;

which numbers shall not be decreased after publication of the annual admission notice,

(d) in the case of a school which, in the previous school year was oversubscribed, a statement setting out the number of applications received and the number and order of offers made in the previous school year in respect of each of the school’s selection criteria,

(e) include such other information as may be prescribed in regulations under section 65.

(4) In relation to—

(a) a boarding school, different dates may be provided under subsection (3)(b) in respect of the residential and the non-residential places in the school concerned, and

(b) a school with a special class, different dates may be provided under subsection (3)(b) in respect of places in the special class concerned.".

Amendment No. 49 introduces a requirement that a board shall prepare and publish an annual admission notice before applications for admission can be accepted. This requirement is separate to the requirement to prepare and publish an admission policy, which should be done within three months of the commencement of the provision and thereafter whenever it is intended to make any changes to the admission policy. The annual admission notice sets out how the admission policy and application forms can be obtained and the dates for the admission process.

The number of places being offered in the intake group and, where a school has previously been oversubscribed, the number of applications received in the previous year and the number and order of offers made in the previous school year in respect of each of the school's oversubscription criteria will also be set out in the annual admission notice. The number of places being offered in the intake group, as set out in this notice, shall not be decreased. Different dates may be set out for the admission of students with special educational needs and to the residential element of boarding schools.

This amendment will provide greater clarity and transparency for both applicants and schools. The admission notice will provide a clear picture each year for applicants of the timeframe for transacting the admission process and of the number of places available.

Amendments Nos. 87, 151, 157 and 167 to 175, inclusive, are consequential numbering amendments from amendment No. 49.

It is a strong amendment. It brings clarity and I very much welcome it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 50 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 8, to delete lines 19 to 21 and substitute the following:

"64. (1) Subject to subsection (2), a board or person acting on a board's behalf shall not charge fees for, or seek payments or contributions (howsoever described) as a condition of—".

Amendment No. 50 ensures that a board can still receive voluntary contributions by replacing the term "in respect of an application for admission of a student to the school, or the enrolment or continued enrolment of a student in the school" in the existing language of the Bill to "as a condition of". Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 also further clarify the subsection by providing that the reference to "school" be replaced with "board", that the word "for" be inserted after "shall not charge fees" and that boarding schools can only charge fees in so far as those fees relate solely to the cost of providing residential boarding places.

I will not oppose the amendments but it relates fundamentally to the issue of school funding, the capitation and what schools are obliged to do with their money. It is all right for us to regulate what schools are allowed to do but it is incumbent on the Government to make sure they are funded properly and are able to do their business without recourse to parents. It should be front and centre of the legislative process. If we are going to stop schools doing one thing, we need to make sure the Government steps in, which it has failed to do in the past and has forced schools down other routes.

Do any other members wish to comment or ask a question?

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 51 has already been discussed.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 8, line 31, to delete “relate” and substitute “relate solely”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 52 to 54, inclusive, 57, 60 to 63, inclusive, 66 to 75, inclusive, 77 to 81, inclusive, and 85 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 8, line 37, to delete “64. (1) The” and substitute “65. (1) The”.

Amendment No. 52 is a consequential numbering amendment resulting from the introduction of a new subsection for the annual admission notice.

Amendment No. 54 has additional principles and policies to which the Minister shall have regard when making regulations.

Amendment No. 60 removes the enabling power for regulations to set out the prohibited oversubscription selection criteria as in accordance with amendment No. 44, these are now clearly set out in primary legislation in the admissions policy.

Amendment No. 66 removes the reference to regulations setting out procedures for the admission process and provides instead for regulations to set out requirements for the admission process.

Amendments Nos. 67, 68, 70 and 77 provide that, in addition to the requirements currently set out in the Bill, requirements may include the following: information that shall be contained in an annual admission notice and an application form; the manner in which and period during which a board shall publish an annual admission notice; the manner in which and period during which applications for admission may be made, which may include setting the earliest date on which a school may accept applications for admission and setting the closing date for applications; and the procedures that shall apply when an offer is withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 69, 71 to 75, inclusive, and 78 to 81, inclusive, are consequential number amendments resulting from the introduction of the additional requirements.

Deputy Nolan tabled amendment No. 53, which is included in this grouping of amendments. Will the Deputy comment on it at this point?

My amendment refers to the language that is used. We must substitute the word "may" with "must". It is stronger to say the Minister must introduce regulations.

Deputy Nolan also tabled amendment No. 57.

Our amendment would place an obligation on the Minister to introduce regulations and provide for the various matters set out in the legislation. It would remove ambiguity on whether the Minister will or will not regulate. It would remove ambiguity.

Deputy Byrne has tabled some amendments in this grouping. Does he wish to comment?

Is amendment No. 52 agreed to?

Will I comment on amendment No. 53?

We have discussed them all. Does the Minister want to come back in?

Yes. The approach to the Bill is to provide for the option of regulating where it is necessary and proportionate. This is in line with the principle of subsidiarity whereby decision-making is with the board and patron as far as possible. A fundamental feature of our school system is that the governance and management of a school is within the control of the board of management. As a general approach, this Bill seeks to maintain and support this position and to only interfere with the board’s authority to determine and manage the admission of pupils to its school where this is necessary. While regulations will undoubtedly be put in place for some aspects of admission and over time the aspects that require regulation may change, it is not necessarily the case that the Minister should regulate on all matters set out in this section. I am also cognisant of the need to ensure that regulations would not make the admission process overly complex or burdensome for either parents or schools. It is important to note that this section requires the Minister to consult with the various stakeholders specified before regulating. If the Minister was required to regulate in the manner suggested, then he or she may not be in a position to properly respond to the views expressed through that consultation particularly where there is a clear consensus that a particular aspect of admission does not require any regulatory intervention. Accordingly, it is preferable that this section gives the Minister flexibility to regulate when and where it is necessary to do so and on those specific matters or issues on which regulation is at any given time required. This is the more appropriate approach.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 53 is in the name of Deputy Nolan.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 8, line 37, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

Is amendment No. 53 agreed to?

Can I call a vote?

Yes, of course. On amendment No. 53, the question is that the amendment be made. Those in favour, say "Tá".

Those against say "Níl".

I think the question is lost.

May I raise a point of order before a vote is called?

Will the clerk clarify what appears on the record if the amendment is moved and no vote is called? The record shows that Deputy Nolan put it to a vote, does it not? It does not show a roll call?

I need to confer with the clerk on that.

It would save ten minutes.

It is only if a Deputy calls "Vótáil" that there is a vote.

If there is general agreement we can ask for the amendment to be agreed but if the proposer of the amendment wants to have a voice vote, that is when we ask members to indicate "Tá" or "Níl". The third option is-----

What is put on the record if it ends after the Tá or Níl?

It records that the amendment was put and decided and what the result is.

So it is on the record.

There is not a breakdown of the vote.

Yes, but it is on the record that the amendment was put and there was a vote.

Yes, absolutely. The amendment was put and declared lost before Deputy Byrne looked for clarification. Amendment No. 54 is in the name of the Minister and was already discussed-----

I called for a vote on amendment No. 53.

Is Deputy Nolan asking for a vótáil?

Yes. Vótáil.

I did not hear that.

I apologise. I should have spoken up.

I said the question was lost but Deputy Nolan has called for a vote.

We might outline what the alternative is.

As all members of the committee are not present, under Standing Orders we are obliged to wait eight minutes until full membership is present. I ask the clerk to ring the bell.

Deputy Thomas Byrne took the Chair.
Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 4.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 8, lines 37 and 38, to delete “the principles of inclusion and equality of access to and participation in education,” and substitute the following:

“the principles of inclusion and equality of access to and participation in education and the principles of efficiency, effectiveness, clarity and fairness for applicants and schools,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 9, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“(3) Nothing in this section shall prohibit—

(a) a primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish from giving priority in its admissions policy to students who speak Irish as a home language, or

(b) a post primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish from giving priority in its admissions policy to students who speak Irish as a home language or who has attended a primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 9, between lines 10 and 11, 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.”.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin resumed the Chair.
Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 3.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
Amendment declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Thomas Byrne and Fiona O'Loughlin.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 9, line 12, to delete “may provide for all or any of” and substitute “shall provide for”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 9, line 17, to delete “section 62(3)” and substitute “section 62(4)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 9, line 28, to delete “paragraphs (a) to (k) of section 62(6)” and substitute “paragraphs (a) to (q) of section 62(7)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 9, to delete lines 37 to 41, and in page 10 to delete lines 1 to 11.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 61 to 63, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 10, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(vii) nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish from giving priority in its admissions policy to students who speak Irish as a home language and from requiring that such a student and one of his or her parents or legal guardians should attend an assessment, the sole purpose of which would be to determine whether Irish is the primary language of communication between that parent and child;

(viii) nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a post primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish from giving priority in its admissions policy to a student who has previously been determined by a primary school in accordance with section 64(3)(d)(vii) to be a student with Irish as a home language;”.

Beidh an tAire ag teacht ar ais ar an ábhar seo agus, mar sin, tá mé sásta gan dul ar aghaidh leis an leasú anocht.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 10, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(vii) nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish from applying selection criteria based on—

(I) a student who has previously been determined by a primary school in accordance with this section to be a student with Irish as a home language,

(II) a student’s prior attendance at an Irish language immersion pre-school or pre-school service,

(III) an assessment, between a student and one of his or her parents or legal guardians, the sole purpose of which would be to determine whether Irish is the primary language of communication between that parent and child,

(IV) a meeting to assess the student’s and/or guardian’s acceptance of the linguistic ethos of the school;

(viii) nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a post-primary school which teaches through the medium of Irish from giving priority in its admissions policy to a student who has previously been determined by a primary school in accordance with this section to be a student with Irish as a home language.”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 3.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
Amendment declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Thomas Byrne and Fiona O'Loughlin.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 10, to delete lines 12 and 13 and substitute the following:

"(d) requirements in relation to the admission process, including in relation to all or any of the following:".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 10, to delete line 14 and substitute the following:

"(i) information that shall be contained in-

(I) an annual admission notice, and

(II) an application form;".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 10, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(ii) the manner in which, and period during which a board shall publish an annual admission notice;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 10, line 15, to delete “(ii) documents” and substitute “(iii) documents”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 70:

In page 10, to delete lines 21 and 22 and substitute the following:

“(iv) the manner in which and period during which applications for admission may be made, which may include setting the earliest date on which a school may accept applications for admission and setting the closing date for applications;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 71:

In page 10, line 23, to delete “(iv) the manner” and substitute “(v) the manner”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 10, line 25, to delete “(v) the manner” and substitute “(vi) the manner”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 73:

In page 10, line 28, to delete “(vi) information” and substitute “(vii) information”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 74:

In page 10, line 29, to delete “subparagraph (v)” and substitute “subparagraph (vi)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 75:

In page 10, line 30, to delete “(vii) conditions” and substitute “(viii) conditions”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 76:

In page 10, to delete lines 33 to 37.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 77:

In page 10, to delete lines 38 to 40 and substitute the following:

“(ix) the procedures that shall apply when an offer is withdrawn;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 78:

In page 11, line 1, to delete “(xi) arrangements” and substitute “(x) arrangements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 79:

In page 11, line 3, to delete “(xii) arrangements” and substitute “(xi) arrangements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 80:

In page 11, line 6, to delete “(xiii) arrangements” and substitute “(xii) arrangements”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 81:

In page 11, line 9, to delete “(xiv) arrangements” and substitute “(xiii) arrangements”.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 82 not moved.

I move amendment No. 83:

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

“(f) the catchment area for each school or schools for the purposes of school admissions, which can be sized according to the denominational status of the school based on principles specified by the Minister in regulations under this section.”.

On the basis that the Minister is coming back with proposals, I will withdraw the amendment for the time being, but our policy is still to use the catchment area system.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 84:

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

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

I intend to press the amendment as I will bring it to Report Stage. This is similar to the one on which we voted already.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 85 and 86 not moved.

I move amendment No. 87:

In page 11, line 16, to delete “65. (1) The” and substitute “66. (1) The”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 88:

In page 11, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

“(c) the Minister considers it in the best interests of students in an area that a jointly coordinated and operated admissions process is established in a specific area, as may be designated by the Minister, the Minister may apply directions to establish such a jointly coordinated and operated admissions process and direct the provision of all resources necessary for its establishment.”.

The locally centralised admissions process needs to be looked at much more seriously. It would be very useful where I live in east Meath and also in towns like Ashbourne, where parents could choose from a number of schools, all of which have different lists. While there is probably more co-operation now than there used to be, schools often do not know where they stand with students if students are on multiple lists.

There is a case for the Minister to do as the amendment proposes and establish a jointly co-ordinated and operated admissions process in order that, at the very least, schools know how many children are in the area. We have had problems in east Meath and in Ashbourne and Balbriggan over the years where there were not school places for children, while other areas may be overestimating the number of children. This should be considered. I understand the Minister is looking at it and I am glad of that. I would be interested to hear what he has to say.

The central enrolment model operates very successfully in Newbridge.

Section 65 already provides that the Minister may direct two or more schools to co-operate with each other in the admission processes of the schools concerned. I will move an amendment today to this section which will allow schools, for the purposes of facilitating the efficient admission of students, to share information with each other in respect of applications received, offers made and offers accepted. We earlier dealt with an amendment requiring a parent to provide that information to the school. I am satisfied that the existing provision in the Bill, which will be strengthened by my amendment enabling information sharing, would allow a Minister to direct schools to co-ordinate their processes in the manner proposed by the Deputy. I therefore consider that the amendment is unnecessary.

Amendment No. 89 provides that a board may share information about applications for admission with another board or patron. Boards may share a list of students in respect of whom an application for admission has been received and an offer of admission has been made or accepted. Such a list may include a student’s personal details, including the student’s name, address, date of birth and public service number. The introduction of this provision seeks to address the practice of parents making applications or accepting offers for multiple schools and should make the enrolment process more effective and efficient for both schools and applicants.

I accept what the Minister has said about my amendment. Why is the personal public service number required for sharing? Is that absolutely necessary? People are fairly protective of their PPS numbers. Is it really necessary for schools to have that on this type of local admissions process?

It is the unique identifier we use in the database for identifying pupils. It is inherent in the whole data collection process. By introducing it in primary legislation, we comply with data protection and it can only be used for the purposes specified. By introducing it in primary legislation, we give people the protection the Data Commissioner requires. However, it is the unique identifier the Department uses in all its operations.

The amendment is about the board providing information to another board or to a patron.

It is solely for this purpose though.

Whatever about the Department needing it, does the other board or patron need the PPS number? If it was not absolutely necessary, I would recommend not doing it. This has been a huge issue in the past.

I will reflect on it between now and Report Stage in light of the Deputy's concerns. However, it is the unique identifier. It is the way in which we are able to manage this information. It is pretty important.

It is not a question of the Department managing it. When the Department started taking up this, many people were giving out. Now the Minister is proposing that local school boards might share it.

The schools record it as part of the application. If they are to share those data with another school for the purpose of having a common admissions approach, the currency of sharing is the unique identifier. I will ask that we check-----

I will support it, but only if it is absolutely necessary. The Minister has not convinced me.

I will come back to the Deputy given that this concern has been expressed. To meet the Data Commissioner's requirements, it is important we set it out in legislation, as we are doing. By doing it in this way, we provide the protection the public needs. However, if it is unnecessary, I will revert on Report Stage.

Will the Minister withdraw the amendment and then bring it back on Report Stage? If he can make the case that it is essential, I have no difficulty, but I do not think-----

The amendment is about the co-operation between boards.

I will put down an amendment to delete that on Report Stage and I will wait to hear what the Minister says then.

It is the section. Is it not? It is the section and not the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 89:

In page 12, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“(6) (a) A board may, in order to facilitate the efficient admission of students, provide a patron or another board with a list of the students in relation to whom—

(i) an application to the school concerned has been received,

(ii) an offer of admission to the school concerned has been made, or

(iii) an offer of admission to the school concerned has been accepted.

(b) A list provided by a board under paragraph (a) may include a student’s personal details including the student’s name, address, date of birth and public service number (within the meaning of section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005).”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 90 is out of order.

Amendment No. 90 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 91, 92, 94 to 100, inclusive, 104, 105, 109 to 111, inclusive, 113, 115, 118, 121 to 124, inclusive, 126, 142, 144, 147 and 149 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 91:

In page 12, line 3, to delete “66. (1) In” and substitute “67. (1) In”.

The amendments I am bringing forward relate to the designation section of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 98 and 110 provide that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, and the Child and Family Agency shall have regard to the admissions policy of schools in the locality when making a designation. Amendment No. 94 provides that the NCSE should also have regard to the availability of places in schools in the locality when making a designation. This is a matter to which the Child and Family Agency already have regard.

Amendment No. 118 also removes the reference to designation being cancelled where a school has proved that the refusal to admit the child is essential to maintain the ethos of the school as provided for by section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. This amendment is necessary as a designation appeals committee would not be suitably qualified to make this determination and this provision is straying into the remit of relevant equality legislation legal process.

Amendment No. 104 is a minor wording amendment which replaces the reference in the Bill to "where the child has not been admitted to any school" with "where the child has no school place."

Amendments Nos. 142 and 144 provide that the Minister, in addition to consulting with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the NCSE and the Child and Family Agency as provided for in the Bill, shall consult with bodies representative of patrons, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations and trade unions, and staff associations representing teachers, when setting out procedures to be followed by an appeals committee. Amendment No. 144 clarifies that such procedures shall be determined as opposed to being set out by way of regulation.

A small number of minor typographical amendments are required, such as amendments Nos. 92 and 105, removing the reference to a school admitting a child "as a student". The wording "as a student" is not required as its use in this context is not compatible with the definition of student in the Bill.

Amendment No. 149 defines child as including a person in respect of whom an application for admission to a school has not been made. This takes account of situations where a parent may not have made an application for admission to a school. Amendments Nos. 91, 95, 97, 99, 109 and 111 are consequential numbering amendments.

Deputies Nolan, Martin, Byrne and Shortall have amendments in this group.

This part of the Bill deals with the designation of a special needs child to a school, in particular where parents have been unable to find a suitable place. It sets down the procedure to be followed by the NCSE or the Child and Family Agency for designating a special needs child to a school. Included in this is an appeals process where the school may appeal against this decision.

The Bill has only two grounds where a school may successfully appeal such a decision. These are where the NCSE or the Child and Family Agency fail to follow correct procedures or where the child's religion is not compatible with that of the religious ethos of the school concerned. The school can prove that it needs to refuse admission on the basis of maintaining that ethos. The amendment I have put forward would remove the second ground for appeal.

The Minister proposes to amend the Bill to delete this second ground. Amendment No. 110 would, however, have the same effect as it sets down that the agency, in making a decision to designate, must have regard to the admissions policies of schools in the locality. This would appear to be a backdoor way of doing the same thing and allowing that discrimination on the grounds of religion. If that is the case, that makes for poor law. It is unacceptable because it would favour religious ethos over the rights of that special needs child. This should have no place in our legislation and it is very hard to defend on any grounds.

In the case of children with special needs, we are all too familiar with the difficulties they have in accessing schools and with schools not being prepared to make provision for them to the extent that they should. The idea that a child who is already disadvantaged due to special needs could be further disadvantaged by being refused on the grounds of religious ethos is an act of double discrimination. I am open to correction on this but that is my interpretation of what is proposed in amendment No. 110. If this is indeed the case, then I find it unacceptable.

Is the first amendment under discussion amendment No. 100?

Amendment No. 91.

Yes, but the first of my amendments is No. 100. This amendment proposes to insert the words "all reasonable efforts" after "the ability of the school to". This is in order to prevent that soft-barrier discrimination, creating more of an onus on schools to provide for a child before it can refuse to admit them. It would state that the NCSE should have regard to the ability of the school to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the child, rather as it currently stands, that is, to have regard to the ability of the school to accommodate the child.

That is self-explanatory. Does Deputy Martin wish to comment on anything further or is she happy with the amendments?

I am not pressing my amendment No. 122 but I support the Sinn Féin amendment No. 96.

Is amendment No. 121 also in this grouping? This is where I propose to delete lines 15 to 24 on page 13. There is a double barrier there for children with special educational needs.

I feel there is a double barrier for children with special educational needs. Amendment No. 98, tabled by the Minister, creates a double barrier. A school might be able to discriminate on the grounds of religion, which would stop access for a child with special educational needs.

Amendment No. 96 seems okay. We feel the council must have regard to the school that is in the best interests of the child to attend. I have no problem with that in principle.

With regard to amendment No. 100, tabled by Deputy Martin, the Bill already provides the council must have regard to the school's ability to accommodate the child. The amendment proposed would reword this to refer to the school's ability to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the child. I consider the current wording, referring simply to the school's ability, is adequate and takes account of the fact this will depend on the school in question. Inserting the proposed wording might cause confusion about this provision and potentially dilute its meaning.

I wish to point out, with regard to amendments Nos. 113 and 124, that the Bill applies to recognised schools only. It does not apply to schools that are not funded or recognised by the Minister for Education and Skills. Such a non-recognised school should not, therefore, be designated under this section. Accordingly, amendments proposing that these particular provisions of the Bill be confined to schools that are not aided by the Department, in other words, non-recognised schools, do not make sense in the context of a Bill that does not apply to non-recognised schools. I therefore do not accept the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 115 and 126 relate to a parental appeal, and it must be pointed out that the designation powers in the section are targeted at very specific situations. They are aimed at children who have no school place at all, including where their parents have tried and failed across many schools to secure a school place for their child. These provisions are not about ensuring parents in those circumstances get their preferred school or school of first choice. The provisions give the council or the agency, as applicable, a power of last resort which can be used after a child has been refused access to many schools. These provisions are not about creating new places in schools that are already full, nor are they about ensuring that the preferred school of choice is designated. Where a school is designated for a child, the school is required to admit that child. There is no corresponding compulsion on the parent to avail of the place in the designated school. The parent may yet decide to pursue other applications or appeals under section 29. It is, however, appropriate that there would be an appeal process for the designated school as the school is being compelled to admit the child. A school could be designated, even where it has already lawfully refused the child and an appeal decision under section 29 has upheld that decision. Therefore, it is reasonable that a school would have a final opportunity to appeal when such a significant interference in its affairs is in question. It should be noted that an appeal will only be upheld where the appeals committee is satisfied that the agency or council, as applicable, has not complied with the requirements of this section or where the school has established that the decision of the agency or council is unreasonable.

Under this section, parents can appeal where the agency or council has failed or refused to make a designation. It must also be noted that the agency or council under the Bill must have regard to the wishes of the parents and the school that, in the view of the agency or council, is in the best interests of the child concerned. However, I do not consider that there should be an appeal on whether the school that has been designated is the preferred school for the parents. For these reasons I do not accept the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 121 to 123, inclusive, all propose to delete the provision allowing a designation to be cancelled where a school has proved that the refusal to admit the child is essential to maintain the ethos of the school as provided for by section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. I have provided for this provision to be removed as already outlined.

Amendment No. 147 defines "all reasonable efforts" by a parent and I do not consider that such an amendment is appropriate. It will be a matter for the agency, council or appeals committee concerned to determine whether a parent has made such efforts. The agency or council must itself also have regard to the interests of the child and the availability of places locally.

Deputy Shortall raised the question about the amendment which inserted the words, "must have regard to the admissions policy". This is to look at issues such as the gender of the school and that a requirement would not be imposed on, for example, an all-girls school. The overriding situation is that the best interests of the child is what will be served but this is a factor the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, would bear in mind.

If the best interests of the child applied we would not have discrimination on religious grounds. It is not any consolation this might be the case. The Minister has already spelled out he has deleted the grounds on which places can be refused relating to section 7(3)(c). My point is that having deleted this, the Minister's amendment seeking to reference the admissions policy of schools in the locality will restore that provision because the admissions policy of the schools in the locality allows them to discriminate on religious grounds. It is often very hard for children with special needs to get into mainstream schools, particularly their local mainstream school. In a situation where the parents were not able to locate or source a school and the council or the Child and Family Agency designates a school as being suitable and states it is the school suitable for the child who has special needs, the idea the school could then appeal this on the grounds of religion, and that a child with special needs not subscribing to the same religious beliefs would undermine the ethos of the school, seems shocking. Many schools are very good at welcoming children with special needs, but some schools go out of their way to not take children with special needs. This provides grounds for refusing a place to a special needs child where a school has already been designated as the most suitable school for the child but a child with special needs will then be expected to jump another hurdle. Acceptance of the amendment, whereby the admissions policy of schools in the locality would apply, means if a school has a policy of refusal on the grounds of religion then a special needs child can be refused on the grounds of religion. While on the one hand the Minister has removed those grounds, on the other hand he is replacing them with the general provision of the admissions policy of schools in the locality.

I completely agree with Deputy Shortall on amendment No. 98 and I believe it will lead to further discrimination. To this end on Report Stage I will table amendments on the principle of what is in the best interests of the child.

Deputy Shortall is misinterpreting what is happening in amendment No. 110. It amends a section where, in making a designation under subsection (3), the agency will have regard to a certain number of aspects, including the wishes of the child's parents, where appropriate, in accordance with the age and maturity of the child concerned; the wishes of the child; and the availability of places in the locality and the school that in the agency's view would be in the best interests of the child. We will add to that the admissions policy. The purpose of this is not the purpose the Deputy considers, which is to bring in religion as a basis for refusal. The purpose is to look at issues such as special schools.

The admissions policy for special schools will set out the schools for which it is appropriate, so that in looking at the placement of a child with special needs, they will look at the admissions policies around special needs categories and gender and issues such as that. This is something they will take into account. It is not binding on the agency obviously, as it considers these issues. This is in no way providing that the agency will say that religion is the overwhelming issue and it will not consider a school for that reason. It is just one factor in a list that will be considered, and the intended purpose is not to introduce some baptism barrier, as the Deputy suggested. As we discussed earlier, the Equal Status Act is an issue to which we intend to return and that is not being dealt with in this Bill. The intention of amendment No. 110 is not that ascribed to it by the Deputy.

That is not explicit. It could well be interpreted in that way. It is providing local schools' admissions policies as a grounds for appeal. The Minister does not say it only relates to gender or special needs. The admissions policies of schools in the locality covers the right to refuse on the grounds of religion.

It is not in the grounds for appeal. It is in the issues which will be considered by the council or the agency. I will look at the wording of this amendment again because if it can be more precise, then we should make it more precise to ensure it could not be construed in another way. This is just one of a list of issues where the agency will consider it. This is not offering a grounds of refusal to a school. This is an issue that would be looked at. The intention is that the agency would look at what the school was offering in terms of the facilities and the admission policies that were involved in the various schools in the locality. It would look across the spectrum. Religion would be one of the issues it would look at. In view of Deputy Shortall's concern, which is that, on the face of it, it could be drawn a bit too widely, perhaps we should spell out what elements of the admissions policy should be assessed and I will look afresh at amendment No. 110. It is certainly an unintended consequence if it were to work in the way the Deputy is concerned about.

I thank the Minister.

Would we not run the same risk with amendment No. 98? There is reference to having regard to "the admission policies of schools in the locality".

One is in respect of the council and the other is in respect of the agency but it is the same point.

Will the Minister address that?

Yes, I will examine that and see whether the language is too loose.

That would be appreciated by everyone.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 92:

In page 12, line 12, to delete "as a student".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 93 not moved.

I move amendment No. 94:

In page 12, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

"(d) the availability of places in schools in the locality,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 95:

In page 12, line 20, to delete "(d) the school" and substitute "(e) the school".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 96:

In page 12, line 21, after "attend" to insert the following:

"with preference given to the child's local school unless the best interests of the child require otherwise,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 12, line 21, to delete "and".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 98 has already been discussed with amendment No. 91. Is the Minister moving the amendment?

No, in light of the discussion, I will withdraw the amendment and consider rewording it for Report Stage.

Amendment No. 98 not moved.

I move amendment No. 99:

In page 12, line 22, to delete "(e) the ability" and substitute "(g) the ability".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 100:

In page 12, line 22, after "to" where it firstly occurs to insert "make all reasonable efforts to".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 101 to 103, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 104:

In page 12, lines 30 and 31, to delete "where the child has not been admitted to any school" and substitute "where the child has no school place".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 12, line 37, to delete "as a student".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 106 to 108, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 109:

In page 13, line 3, to delete "and".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 110 not moved.

I move amendment No. 111:

In page 13, line 4, to delete "(d) the school" and substitute "(e) the school".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 112 not moved.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 13, line 6, after "school" to insert "not aided by the Department of Education and Skills".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 114 not moved.

I move amendment No. 115:

In page 13, line 7, after "school" to insert "or the parents of the child concerned".

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 3.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
Amendment declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Thomas Byrne and Fiona O'Loughlin.

Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 not moved.

I move amendment No. 118:

In page 13, to delete lines 13 to 24 and substitute the following:

“(7) The appeals committee shall, in reaching its decision, allow an appeal under subsection (5) and cancel the designation only where it is satisfied that there has been non-compliance with any of the requirements of this section or the school has established that the decision of the Agency or the Council, as the case may be, is unreasonable.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 119 and 120 have been ruled out of order and because amendment No. 118 has been agreed to, amendments Nos. 121 to 124, inclusive, cannot now be moved.

Amendments Nos. 119 to 124, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 125:

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

“(c) in the case of a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish, and where the child does not have Irish as a home language, the school has proved, after due consideration by the Board of Management, that the refusal to admit the child is essential to maintain the linguistic ethos of the school.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 126:

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

“(c) it is found that the designation places an unreasonable burden on the parents of the child concerned or the parents of the child have established that the decision of the Agency or council, as the case may be, is unreasonable.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 127 to 141, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 127 to 141, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 142:

In page 14, to delete lines 33 to 36 and substitute the following:

“(19) The Minister may, in the interests of the operation of an efficient appeals process under this section and following consultation with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Council, the Agency, bodies representative of patrons, national associations of parents, recognised school management organisations and recognised trade unions and staff associations representing teachers, determine procedures to—”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 143 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 143 not moved.

I move amendment No. 144:

In page 14, line 37, to delete “set out procedures to”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 145:

In page 15, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“(20) Where an appeal concerns a school which teaches through the medium of Irish, the members of the appeal committee hearing and determining the appeal shall have the ability to hear and read evidence and submissions in the Irish language without interpretation or translation and the appeal committee shall conduct its business with such school in the Irish language.”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 5.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 146 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 146 not moved.

I move amendment No. 147:

In page 15, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

" 'all reasonable efforts’ shall not be taken to place an additional requirement on parents to source a school place for their child above what would be expected in normal circumstances and having regard to the principle that the best interests of the child are served in the local school unless circumstances require otherwise;".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 148 not moved.

I move amendment No. 149:

In page 15, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

" 'child’ includes a person in respect of whom an application for admission to a school has not been made;".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 150 not moved.

I move amendment No. 151:

In page 15, line 9, to delete "67. (1) Subject" and substitute "68. (1) Subject".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 152 to 155, inclusive, and Nos. 158 to 166, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 152:

In page 15, line 18, to delete "or".

Amendments Nos. 152 to 155, inclusive, and Nos. 158 to 166, inclusive, are to provide that a patron and-or the Minister can issue a direction to a board where there is non-compliance with the prohibition on charging admission and enrolment fees section or where there is non-compliance with a direction made under section 29D or 29E of the Act to re-admit or admit a student or to adjust the ranking of the student on a waiting list. Where the Minister is considering issuing a direction to a board regarding the above matters, the authorised person appointed by the Minister to prepare a report shall ascertain whether the board has complied with the prohibition on charging fees section or with any direction made under section 29D or 29E.

A number of minor consequential amendments arise from this.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 153:

In page 15, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(iv) the board has failed to comply with section 64, or".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 154:

In page 15, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:

"(v) the board has failed to comply with a direction under section 29D or 29E,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 155:

In page 15, line 32, to delete "subparagraph (i), (ii) or (iii)" and substitute "subparagraph (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v)".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 156 and 177 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 156:

In page 16, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

"(14) In the case of a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish, all said directions, notices, reports and representations to the patron and the Board under this section and all work carried out by the independent person nominated under subsection (4) shall be in the Irish language.".

This relates to the interview process in a Gaelscoil. All communications relating to appeals and non-admission of a child should be done through Irish. It is a basic requirement to communicate in Irish through these schools. Amendment No. 177 is similar. They seek that the schools would communicate through Irish out of respect for their ethos.

I have to give out and I do not wish to take this out on Deputy Nolan. This is typical of Sinn Féin to go too far with Irish language requirements and start annoying people about it. We should be trying to stop that. Tá grá agam don Ghaeilge agus is breá liom a bheith á labhairt agus á cur chun cinn. However, in this amendment, Sinn Féin is requiring all work to be carried out through the Irish language. It is one thing seeking notices, directions or representations to be done through Irish, with which I agree, but it is typical of Sinn Féin to go too far and to seek that all work be carried out through Irish. That requires someone to think through Irish.

That is the Deputy's perception of-----

Members should speak through the Chair. Deputy Nolan will have an opportunity to come back in.

It is the same as the previous amendment that required everyone in the agency to speak Irish at all times and that translation facilities should not be provided. That is going too far. That would damage the language. That is why I have voted against the Irish language amendments. I have huge respect for the language and I try to speak it as often as I can. These amendments go too far and it will turn people off the language if we start legislating to ensure all work be carried out through Irish. It is right that notices, directions or letters should be written in Irish but providing that all work be carried out in the language is unenforceable.

I am disappointed in Fianna Fáil. One of its founding members, Éamon de Valera, established Rathcairn and so on and made great efforts in this regard.

He did not legislate to force people to speak Irish.

Deputy Byrne should allow Deputy Nolan to contribute.

We need to protect the language-----

-----and I make no apologies for that, nor does my party.

Labraim níos mó Gaeilge ná beagnach aon duine sa Teach seo.

Tá sé dochreidte go bhfuil an tuairim sin ag an Teachta Byrne.

Tá an tuairim agam nach ceart-----

Deputy Byrne can indicate to come back in when Deputy Nolan is finished.

Léiríonn sé go bhfuil easpa meas don teanga ag an Teachta agus ag a pháirtí.

Má bhíonn dlí againn sa tír seo ag rá go gcaithfidh daoine obair a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge, beidh sé mícheart agus déanfaidh sé damáiste don Ghaeilge. Tá sé ag dul ró-fhada sa treo sin agus ní haontaím leis ar chor ar bith. Níor chuir Éamon de Valera aon dualgas ar éinne an Ghaeilge a labhairt, mura mhian leo é a dhéanamh. Táimid ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, ach níl mise ach ag rá nach gcaithfimid brú a chur ar dhaoine tríd an dlí an Ghaeilge a labhairt. Sin atá i gceist sa leasú seo agus i roinnt leasuithe eile freisin.

In line with current policy and the 20 year strategy for Irish and having regard to the Official Languages Act 2003, my Department provides services through Irish, where so requested. Accordingly, there is no question but that the documents in question will be issued through Irish as required. I, therefore, do not consider the amendment necessary.

Likewise any independent person appointed by the patron of an Irish medium school would have to be in a position to conduct his or her work through Irish as otherwise the person could not be in a position to undertake the task. The Bill provides that the person must in the opinion of the patron have the knowledge and experience necessary to do so. This, of course, in the case of an Irish medium school would include proficiency in the Irish language. I do not consider this amendment necessary.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 2; Níl, 5.

  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Nolan, Carol.

Níl

  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 157 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 157:

In page 16, line 40, to delete “68. (1) Subject” and substitute “69. (1) Subject”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 158 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 158:

In page 17, line 7, to delete “or”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 159 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 159:

In page 17, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(iv) the board has failed to comply with section 64, or”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 160 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 160:

In page 17, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“(v) the board has failed to comply with a direction under section 29D or 29E,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 161 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 161:

In page 17, line 20, to delete “subparagraph (i), (ii) or (iii)” and substitute “subparagraph (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 162 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 162:

In page 18, line 5, to delete “and”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 163 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 163:

In page 18, line 10, to delete “board.” and substitute “board,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 164 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 164:

In page 18, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“(e) ascertain whether or not the board is complying with section 64, and where he or she considers that the board is not so complying, set out the remedial action which he or she considers should be taken by the board, and”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 165 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 165:

In page 18, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

“(f) ascertain whether or not the board has complied with a direction under section 29D or 29E, and where he or she considers that the board is not so complying, set out the remedial action which he or she considers should be taken by the board.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 166 has already been discussed with amendment No. 152.

I move amendment No. 166:

In page 18, line 12, to delete “subparagraph (i), (ii) or (iii)” and substitute “subparagraph (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 167 has already been discussed with amendment No. 59.

I move amendment No. 167:

In page 18, line 34, to delete “69. (1) Where” and substitute “70. (1) Where”.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Carey is playing a blinder. Amendment No. 168 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 168:

In page 18, line 35, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 169 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 169:

In page 18, line 39, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 170 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 170:

In page 19, line 6, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 171 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 171:

In page 19, line 8, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 172 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 172:

In page 19, line 14, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 173 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 173:

In page 19, line 19, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 174 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 174:

In page 19, line 29, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 175 has already been discussed with amendment No. 49.

I move amendment No. 175:

In page 19, line 39, to delete “section 68” and substitute “section 69”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 176 in the name of Deputy Burton has been ruled out of order. Deputy Burton is not present.

Amendment No. 176 not moved.

Amendment No. 177 has already been discussed with amendment No. 156.

I move amendment No. 177:

In page 20, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“(14) In the case of a school which teaches through the medium of Irish or primarily through the medium of Irish, all said directions, notices and representations to the patron and the Board under this section shall be in the Irish language.”.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

There are a number of issues I will be bringing on Report Stage so I cannot agree to the section as it stands.

We note that. We will agree the section bearing in mind that Deputy Martin will raise other issues on Report Stage.

The section is not agreed. We will be raising a number of issues on Report Stage.

That is fine.

Question put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 178 to 180, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 178 to 180, inclusive, not moved.
Section 8 agreed to.

Amendment No. 181 falls because the Deputy is not here to move it.

Amendment No. 181 not moved.
SECTION 9

I move amendment No. 182:

In page 20, line 25, to delete “Education (Welfare) Act 2000.” and substitute “Education (Welfare) Act 2000;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 183:

In page 20, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

“(d) sections 4 and 6 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
Section 10 agreed to.
TITLE

I move amendment No. 184:

In page 3, line 14, after “attend,” to insert the following:

“and to provide an amended appeals process where a student has been expelled or suspended from, or has failed to gain admission to, a school;”.

Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.

As the Bill has now completed Committee Stage, it is recommended that members table amendments on Report Stage without delay as the Report Stage maybe tabled at short notice.

I thank the members for their help in getting through the Bill. I also thank the committee secretariat, the Minister and the officials from his Department.

I want to reciprocate that appreciation of the committee's work and of the Chairman in chairing the meeting. I thank all the officials for the time and effort they put into this.

Bill reported with amendments.