The Minister for Education and Skills will soon commence the substantive sections of the Education (Admission to School) Act 2018 which pertain to the Admission Policy and the Admission Statement.
The commencement of these sections will have a tangible impact on schools and will introduce:
New admission policies
Annual admission notices with specific timelines
New responsibilities for management
New responsibilities for principals
New obligations on parents
Boards of Management have three months until 1 May 2020 to prepare a draft admission policy. In doing so they must consult with the patron, parents, and staff. The patron must revert within eight weeks with approval or suggestions for modification. In turn the Board must undertake these modifications within a two week period.
New admission policies must be published no later than 1 September 2020. 1 October 2020 is the earliest time schools are permitted to commence their admissions process.
Mandatory aspects of the admission policy include:
Details of schools arrangements for students not attending religion class
Selection criteria to be applied when there are excess applications over places
Information for parents on appeal procedures for refusal decisions by the principal and Board
All applicants are to be admitted unless the school is full and/or the parents refuse to accept school’s code of behaviour
The annual admission notice
Schools are required to publish their annual admission notice no later than a week before accepting applications. The notice must detail:
The number of places being made available in the intake group/special class
How the admission policy and enrolment forms can be obtained
The date on which the school shall begin and end accepting applications, which must be a minimum period of three weeks
The notification period for the decision by the principal (three weeks maximum) and confirmation of acceptance of a place of the offer of admission by the parents
New responsibilities for principals
The principal manages the process. The principal must implement the policy.
Determinations of the principal may be appealed by parents/guardians to the Board of Management.
Withdrawing offers and obligations for parents accepting offers
An offer of a place in a school may be withdrawn by the principal or Board of Management if information provided by the applicant during the admission process is deemed to be fraudulent.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 offer from another school and give the relevant details.
Sanctions against schools
The patron or the Minister may direct schools to make changes to the admission policy or statement. The patron or the Minister may appoint an independent person to take over the role of the Board relating to admission matters if a school is found to be in default of the provisions of the Act.
While the annual admission notice is a new concept, it will save schools from having to make changes annually to their admission policy.
Boards of Management should start planning now to ensure they meet the deadline of 1 May 2020 for submitting their draft policies.
Schools cannot afford to put this on the long finger as a failure to keep an admission policy up to date could adversely affect the outcome of a section 29 appeal to the Department of Education and Skills by parents/guardians of an unsuccessful applicant.
For expert advice relating to admissions matters, contact a member of our Education team.
This article was contributed by David Ruddy, Education Training Consultant.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.