The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. 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. The criteria to be applied by schools in such circumstances are a matter for the schools themselves. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the rights of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.
Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the Board refuses enrolment to a student. Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to either the relevant Vocational Educational Committee or to the Secretary General of my Department. 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 Board can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.
As the Deputy will be aware, I announced at the recent Teacher Union Conferences that I will shortly bring to Government draft heads of a bill – the Education (Admission to School) Bill 2013. I will seek to publish the Bill in draft form to allow a full public discussion, including inputs from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection and the education partners. I also intend to publish draft regulations that I plan to make when the Bill is enacted. In bringing forward these proposals, it is not my intention to unnecessarily intrude into how schools do their business. My policy objective is to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that the way in which schools decide on applications is structured, fair and transparent. As the Bill and the Regulations will be published in draft form, they will also be subject to a lot of detailed scrutiny before becoming law. I will be reflecting carefully on the views expressed in the consultation process to ensure they strike the right balance between school autonomy and fairness in our education system.