I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 149 together.
It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of all schools to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act, 1998. The enrolment policy must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in the area.
Parents can choose which school to apply to and where the school has places available the pupil should be admitted. However, in schools where there are more applicants than places available 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. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.
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. Further information on the Section 29 appeals process is available on the Department's website www.education.ie.
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 can be contacted at 01-7718500.
In relation to the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme, the programme is one of the three leaving certificate options made available by my Department for senior cycle students. The LCA is a two-year programme designed for those students who do not wish to proceed directly to higher education or for those whose needs, aptitudes and learning styles are not fully catered for by the other two Leaving Certificate programmes.
It is a matter for each individual school to decide whether or not to put in place the LCA programme in its own school.
My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. It is open for the parents of the student concerned to raise their specific concerns about the educational development and progress of their child with the Principal of the school the student currently attends. This can be done with a view to the school raising those concerns with an assigned NEPS psychologist.