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The Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 is providing for a new Section 29 process to be put in place to replace the existing Section 29 of the Education Act 1998.

What is Section 29?

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 gives parents and students who have reached the age of 18 the right to appeal certain decisions made by a school’s Board of Management to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills. This includes decisions to exclude, suspend and refuse enrolment.

The Act is providing for a new Section 29 which contains significant changes. The new Act seeks to increase the efficiency of the Section 29 process.

Summary of key changes

  • The removal of the provision which requires that appeals in relation to ETB schools must be heard by the ETB in the first instance

  • Where a student is suspended for 20 or more cumulative days in any school year, a Section 29 appeal may be taken. While there is no change in this timeline, this has never been set out in the legislation previously

  • Where a refusal to enrol a student was due to the school being oversubscribed, the appellant must request a review by the board of that decision prior to taking a Section 29 appeal

  • Where the refusal to enrol was for any other reason, the appellant may request a review by the board of that decision prior to making a Section 29 appeal

  • Where refusal to enrol is for a reason other than oversubscription, the Section 29 appeal will comprise a full rehearing of the matter

  • Provision has been made for the appeals committee to issue a preliminary decision to the parties and for the parties to provide their observations in relation to that preliminary decision

  • The existing provisions for a facilitation process to take place prior to the hearing of an appeal is removed

The above are just some of the key changes. It is interesting to note that there is no provision for the role of the facilitator in the 2018 Act. However, facilitation is provided for under S.29 (D) (2) (b).

The Procedures

The Department of Education has commenced drafting the new procedures around Section 29 appeals and it is expected that they will be issued shortly. The revised procedures are set to build on the existing procedures with updates being made only where necessary.

The Department released a consultation paper outlining their approach to these procedures. Some notable points include the following:

  • It is proposed to have three separate sets of procedures to cover the different types of appeals as opposed to just the one (oversubscription, reason other than oversubscription, and suspension and expulsion)

  • It is proposed that the procedures will set out relevant timelines which boards of management must adhere to

  • It is proposed that the procedures will set out relevant timelines that must be adhered to

Greater clarity will emerge when the Department issue the procedures.

Implications for Boards of Managements

Under the Act, all applicants applying to a school must be admitted unless (1) the school is full and (2) the parents fail to accept the code of behaviour. This must be reflected in a schools admission policy. Given the tight parameters as regards refusal, it is expected that there will be an increase in Section 29 appeals. Schools must familiarise themselves with the new provisions of the legislation and guidance issued by the Department.

For more information on Section 29 appeals, please contact a member of our Education team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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