The long anticipated Education (Admissions to School) Act was enacted in 2018.Two notable aspects of the legislation were commenced almost immediately. We examine how has the Admissions Act has impacted schools so far and what further changes it is likely to bring.
Baptism barrier - Commenced
Firstly, the so-called “baptism barrier” for Catholic schools was removed. Schools were also obliged to provide details of arrangements for students who did not wish to attend religious instruction.
Designation of schools - Commenced
This was followed by the commencement of the power of the Minister to designate schools to open special classes and ASD classes in particular. This power of designation has already been exercised in areas where it was deemed there were inadequate places for relevant pupils.
More designations but for individual pupils - Still to be Commenced
Schools under section 67 of the Act can be designated to take individual pupils at the behest of the National Council for Special Education. To date, schools are largely receptive to admitting pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) provided there are adequate resources to support the pupil. Schools may well be wary of this new power.
Parents/pupils do not have to attend for interview - Still to be Commenced
The requirement of parents to attend for interview will no longer be necessary.
This is a huge cultural shift for many schools in that the interview was seen as a critical part of the admissions process. Schools can, however, request parents and the pupils to attend once the pupil is registered.
More transparency - Still to be Commenced
Section 67 was included in the express interest of enhancing admission policy transparency, schools will be required to:
- Provide a waiting list maintained in priority order and valid for a school year
- Provide students/parents with reasons for refusal of an offer and give their number on the waiting list
- Inform an unsuccessful applicant that they may appeal against a decision by the principal to refuse admission to the board of management in the first instance and escalate the matter to the Department of Education and Skills in a section 29 afterwards, if required
Obligations for parents - Still to be Commenced
An offer of a place in a school may be withdrawn by the principal or board of management if information provided by the applicant during the admission process is deemed to be fraudulent.
Parents who have received an offer must indicate in writing that they have accepted the offer of a place or are awaiting confirmation of any such offer at another school and give the relevant details. Parents must also sign the code of behaviour as a condition of admission.
When this Act is fully commenced it has the potential to tilt the balance of power more in the direction of the Department of Education and Skills, pupils, parents and away from schools than previously was the situation.
This coupled with the fact that, when enacted, the Student and Parent Charter will herald an era of accountability and transparency not seen before.
Schools are resilient by nature but may struggle with the increased demands foisted upon them.
For more information and expert legal advice on all related matters, 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.