Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (230)

Finian McGrath

Question:

230. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school place (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20835/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. 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 right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld. Application forms for taking a section 29 appeal are available on my Department's website at the following link http://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/Section-29-Appeals-Application-Form.doc, or by contacting Section 29 Administration Unit, Friars Mill Road, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, phone 0761 108584. The Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (EWS) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the EWS is Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7, phone number 01-8738700.

I have published a draft General Scheme for an Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill, 2013 as well as Draft Regulations on Content of Policy and Draft Regulations on Admission Process for discussion ahead of enacting legislation. These are available on the Department's website. The Government recently gave approval for drafting the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2014. My aim in bringing forward legislative proposals in relation to school admission is to improve the admission process and to ensure that the way schools decide on applications is structured, fair and transparent.