Urgency missing as school admissions reform long-fingered

16 January 2017

Labour Party spokesperson on Education, Joan Burton TD has welcomed the statement from the Minister today that he will hold a public consultation on changing admissions policy to remove the baptism barrier. However she said that urgency was sadly lacking from his announcement and that the Government and Fianna Fáil have colluded to long finger the serious reform that is needed.

“Last June Labour proposed, and the Dáil debated our Bill to amend the Equal Status Act and redress the imbalance between the right to maintain denominational schools and the rights of children to receive a secular education in a State-funded school.

“With the support of Fianna Fáil, the Government sent our Bill for public consultation in the Education Committee and over six months on, nothing has happened.

“If the Minister was really serious about removing the baptism barrier he would have directed the Committee to bring forward the consultation he sought when he delayed my Bill for 12 months and ensure the proposal agreed were included in the current Admission Bill before the Dáil.”

“Instead the Minister has now announced his own public consultation on four options, while also confirming that the changes won’t occur in the Government’s school admissions bill currently passing through the Dáil.

“This ensures another year will go by without any reforms to school admissions policy.

“In the coming weeks and months school across the country will be finalising their Junior Infant intakes for the 2017/2018 academic year meaning change has been delayed at least another year.

“Once again school across the country will admit pupils without any change to our archaic system, while Labour’s Bill is held at committee stage.”

“It is clear what while outlining the issues, and trying to ensure he stays on the right side of public opinion, the Minister has no immediate plans to address the baptism barrier.

“His public move is welcome, but there is no reason why he could not expedite the matter, and ensure that the Bill currently in the Dáil is amended to reflect the modern, pluralist Ireland we live in – by removing the baptism barrier as soon as possible.

“Local children should have access to their local schools, because local schools serve as the centre of our communities.”

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