Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Secondary Schools Selection Procedures.


asked the Minister for Education whether he is aware of research into selection procedures in secondary schools carried out in University College, Dublin for the secretariat of Catholic secondary schools; if he will comment on the research findings; and if he will make a statement on selection procedures in secondary schools generally.

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the survey entitled "Access to Secondary Education" carried out by the Department of Social Science of University College, Dublin at the instance of the secretariat of secondary schools.

The findings of the survey indicate that the incidence of non-acceptance by schools of all first-year applicants is relatively small, at 16 per cent of all schools and that the schools concerned are concentrated mainly in the large urban areas, particularly Dublin. It is also indicated that the reason given by most of these schools for non-acceptance of all first-year applicants is lack of space or places.

While I am pleased to note that this problem of non-acceptance of all first-year applicants by secondary schools would appear to be of smaller dimensions than may have been assumed, I would prefer to see even greater inroads being made into this area of selectivity so that all post-primary schools would bear their fair share of the burden of remedial education.

Secondary schools are, of course, private institutions and I have no power to interfere in their enrolment procedures. My responsibility as Minister is to ensure that all pupils who seek free post-primary education under the scheme are enabled to receive it. From the inception of the scheme, no pupil seeking free post-primary education has ever been denied it and I shall ensure that this will continue to be the case.

Is the Minister aware of another finding of the survey, that approximately three-quarters of boys' secondary schools in Dublin practise some form of selection of pupils, of the considerable public disquiet about this practice in Dublin and other urban areas, and does he feel he has any responsibility, as the Minister in charge of giving substantial sums of money to these schools, to do something about the situation?

I have already covered both points raised by the Deputy in my answer, namely, that it is in Dublin that the highest percentage concentration is and that I am not satisfied that the situation is a healthy one and would push for less selectivity.

Would the Minister not agree that, even though the question may be a minor one in the country as a whole, it is a major one, perhaps even reaching crisis proportions, in some of our cities?

I agree with the Deputy that it is a serious problem. In my reply to the Deputy, I have indicated how it can be dealt with. The most important single factor is a place for a student in a post-primary school. This I am going to guarantee as my predecessors did.

In regard to pupils who live adjacent to schools and who have been refused entry, does the Minister intend to establish some type of appeal system to ensure that there is no bias against such students?

The Deputy is referring to individual cases.

I am giving an example. Would the Minister not consider establishing an appeal system in view of the nature of the problem?

That is a separate question.

The Ceann Comhairle has ruled that it is a separate question. If the Deputy would like to put down a specific question on that point we will deal with it.

Could the Minister not at least ensure that schools which are in the free scheme do not give priority in their entrance procedures to pupils from private fee-paying primary schools which are run by the same order?

I have no information on what the Deputy is talking about.

In noting the Minister's concern about some of these practices, has he any suggestions as to how progress can be made?

The reason people were not admitted was lack of space or places. There was a distinction made in my answer between space and places. The solution should be along the line of providing plenty of places.

The Minister said the problem was particularly acute in Dublin. I understood the Minister to say that 16 per cent——

I said it was more acute in Dublin. I did not say it was particularly acute in Dublin. It is more acute in Dublin as 16 per cent of all schools are involved.

What would the percentage of Dublin schools be?

I have not that information but if the Deputy requires it I will get it for him.