Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ceisteanna (233)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

233. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the systems in place within his Department to evaluate the section 29 appeals process; if the issue of inconsistencies in appeals decisions has been raised with his Department; if it is the case that different appeals boards can hear similar cases including in the same school, if this situation is considered satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20885/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The Deputy will be aware that 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.

Following the report of the Oireachtas Committee, I am considering how best to configure the appellate processes in relation to school admission, including the question of access to an appellate process external to the school. The legislation provides that the Minister will establish one or more appeal committees for the purpose of hearing and determining appeals and the committees will act in accordance with procedures as may be determined from time to time by the Minister.

It is the committee, not the Department, that determines the outcome of the appeal. Each appeal is examined on its own merits, and each committee is independent. There is no provision in the legislation for any Department official to interfere with or modify decisions taken by statutory independent appeal committees. My Department's sole role is to administer the process.

From time to time, parties to an appeal have written to my Department for clarity on the decisions taken by the section 29 committee. In accordance with the time frame set out in the Education Act, all appeals must be heard within a period of 30 days and, as a result, the composition of committees may vary from time to time.