Diversity in our schools is an opportunity for our society
Education Spokesperson, Joan Burton TD, Party Leader Brendan Howlin, and Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin today published a Labour Party Bill that will make it easier for parents to send their children to their local school, regardless of their faith.The Equal Status (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016 will address and tackle the current practice of primary schools in which they discriminate against children on the basis of their religion.Under current laws, schools run under the patronage of one religious organisation or another, and are perfectly entitled to exclude a child of any other religion, if a member of their own faith is seeking a place in the school.Under Labour’s proposals, schools would be allowed to give preference to members of their own religion, but only those in the direct catchment area. After that, any child from the locality, regardless of their religion, would have to be given a place, if there is one available.The Bill also gives practical effect to the constitutional requirement that a child is entitled to attend any state-funded school and opt out of religious instruction at that school.Speaking at today’s Bill launch, Joan Burton TD said: “Children benefit from meeting and getting to know children from various backgrounds and religions in school. Diversity in our schools is an opportunity for our society, not something that we should feel threatened by.“As a TD, I have come across many parents who have felt obliged to baptise their children in order to secure a school place. This is not fair, and while our Bill won’t solve all of the problems, it will go some way to addressing the issues.Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin added: “Access to a local school is one of the most important things that a child can have. Our Bill will make provision so that, on a realistic and reasonable basis, local children can gain access to their local schools.“In some areas, the demand for places can be addressed through the existence of multi-denominational schools in each area, but that option is not always available.“In the spirit of new politics, we will be engaging positively with other parties in the coming days in an effort to make sure that this Bill gets through the Dail and becomes law.”The Bill will be debated on Tuesday, with the vote taking place on Thursday.