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Vocational Education Committees.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 9 April 2008

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Questions (119)

Michael Kennedy


168 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the recent changes made to the enrolment policy of the Balbriggan vocational educational committee, which has resulted in numerous pupils from a school (details supplied) being denied places; the action she will take to remedy this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13466/08]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I understand, from enquiries made by officials of my Department, there has been no change to the enrolment policy operated by Balbriggan Community College, which operates under the control of County Dublin VEC. The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of identifying the areas where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level for 2009 and onwards. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Having considered these factors decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. It is not unusual for some second level schools to prioritise named feeder schools in their admissions policies. This often reflects long standing connections between schools. However, in formulating an admissions policy a school must ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, the parents of a student who has been refused enrolment may appeal the decision. In the case of Schools or Colleges established or maintained by a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) the decision may be appealed to the VEC. If an appeal to the VEC has been concluded parents may go on to appeal the decision to the Secretary General of my Department. If an appeal is upheld, the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The Welfare Board has indicated that it will treat children for whom an appeal under Section 29 has been unsuccessful as priority cases in offering such assistance. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.