From February 2020 every recognized school will be required to draft a new school admission policy in accordance with the act’s requirements following consultation with the patron, the staff of the school and parents of current pupils.
The Commencement Order provides for the new laws to come into effect in respect of applications made for admission to schools for the 2021/2022 school year onward. This does not affect the intake for the 2020/2021 year.
The Minister has said that from 1st February 2020, boards of management will have three months to prepare a draft admission policy having first consulted with the patron, parents of students attending the school and staff of the school. Commencing the relevant sections of the act now will provide schools with time to start putting in place their arrangements for the new framework.
Newly revised school admission policies under the commenced provisions of the act will include the following:
- That the school admit all applicants, where the school has places available and is not oversubscribed.
- Set out the manner and sequence in which selection criteria will be applied in the case of over-subscription.
- Set out requirements for schools to make offers and for applicants to accept offers and arrangements where offers may be withdrawn.
- Place a ban on waiting lists, apart from waiting lists maintained for the school year concerned.There is a provision that will allow for a five year period for current waiting lists to expire allowing schools to honor commitments they have already made to parents.
- Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to their admissions policies.
- Prohibit interviews, consideration of a student’s academic ability, skills or aptitude, consideration of a parent’s occupation, financial status, academic ability, skills or aptitude, apart from in the case of the stated exceptions, as a consideration for the offer of a place.
- Provide details of the school’s arrangements in respect of students, where the parent, or the student if they are 18 or over, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious instruction.
New arrangements introducing an Annual Admission Notice will contain important information for parents regarding the application process, including key dates and the number of places available, which will ensure a consistent and transparent approach to school admission processes.
The Department of Education and Skills are preparing a template policy, a template admissions notice, guidance notes and an FAQ document. All school management bodies will be invited to provide feedback on these documents.
Sections Commenced in 2018
Section 11 prohibits schools from using religion as a selection criterion in school admissions and includes protections for applicants of a minority faith.
Section 9 (new section 64) School Fees prohibits the charging of fees or seeking payment or contributions for an application for admission to or for continued enrollment in a school.
Section 9 (new section 66) Co-operation of boards allows for sharing of information between schools and provides the Minister with the power to require schools to co-operate in relation to admissions.
Section 8 – Special Classes provides the Minister with a power, after a process of consultation with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the board of management and the patron of a school, to compel a school to open a special class.
Section Commenced on 14 January 2020
Section 65 – Regulations
Section 65, which contains the enabling provision for regulations, will commence immediately in order to have the regulations containing the necessary procedures and timelines in place before 1 February.
Key Sections Commencing on 1 February 2020
Section 61 Admission Statement
This provision requires schools to include an Admission Statement in their Admissions Policy advising that the school will not discriminate on any of the grounds set out in the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018.
Section 62 Admission Policy
Section 62 requires that, from 1 February 2020, boards of management have three months to revise their admission policies in line with the commenced provisions of the act.
Prior to preparing the draft policy, school boards of management must consult with the patron, staff and parents of current students. This is a one-off process and is not required on an ongoing basis except where a school decides to revise the policy at some future date.
Section 63 – Annual Admission Notice
This section provides for the publication of an admission notice each year so that key information about the annual admission process is available to parents and saves schools having to change their admission policy on an annual basis. Schools will be required to publish their Annual Admission Notice at least one week before receiving applications for admission for the school year concerned.
Section 10 (a) – Amendment of Education Welfare Act 2000
This section provides that schools must now publish their code of behavior.
Commencement of Sections of the Act relating to appeals
Section 7 will replace Section 29 in the 1998 Education Act in relation to appeals processes to align the legislation with actual practice and procedures as they have developed over the years, and to increase the efficiency of the processes involved. This section is designed to operate in conjunction with the new admission framework and will be commenced when the new framework is operational.
New timelines and procedures
From 1 February 2020 boards of management will have three months to consult with the patron, parents of students attending the school and staff of the school and prepare a draft admission policy.
Once the draft admission policy is prepared it is forwarded to the patron for approval. The regulations provide that the patron has a period of over 4 months to approve the draft policy of the school. Once the policy is approved by the patron it must be returned to the board and published after 1 September 2020 and prior to the commencement of their admission process.
Schools can decide when to run their admission process as long as they do not begin accepting applications for admissions for the school year concerned before 1 October in the previous year. The advantage of having a clear starting date is that parents will know with certainty that schools will not start accepting applications before this key date, but that once this date arrives, they must then be alert to the possibility of the school(s) in which they are interested commencing their admission process.
Starting Date for Admission Processes
The Department will be providing a Q & A document that will assist with any queries in relation to the new admissions process and will contain some useful templates for schools.
The Education (Admission to Schools) Act, 2018 is available on the Oireachtas website at the following link: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2018/act/14/enacted/en/html