Education
‘Baptism barrier’ lifted by Education Minister Richard Bruton banning primary schools from enrolling students based on religion

A ‘baptism barrier’ which allowed primary schools to select students for admission based on their religion was lifted yesterday.

Education Minister Richard Bruton signed a commencement order to bring sections of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 into operation which will make the school admission process fairer throughout the country.

He also signed an amendment to the Equal Status Act 2000, which previously allowed schools to give priority entry to children based on their faith.

The practice did not align with a modern Ireland, where over 20% of the parent-age population is non-religious and 51% of marriages in 2017 occurred in a Catholic ceremony.

However, there will be a protection to ensure that children of minority faiths can still access a school of their faith.

In a tweet posted early on Wednesday morning, Bruton said: “I will sign an order this morning to remove religion as a factor that can be used in admissions in virtually all primary schools.

“This applies from today. I will also bring into operation other key parts of the School Admissions Act to ensure greater fairness in admissions.”

Speaking about the new legislation, he said: “This hugely important law will make it easier for parents in the future to more easily access local schools and to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs.”

“The Act will create greater confidence for parents that the admission criteria laid down by schools and the procedures used by them are visible, legitimate, reasonable and fair.”

All other schools must continue to accept all applicants, regardless on religion.

Other aspects of the Act include prohibiting school from seeking a booking deposit other than in limited circumstances.

The Minister for Education will now also have the power to force a school to open a class aimed at students who have extra educational needs, and schools must now co-operate with each other in relation to their admission processes.

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