The proposed Admission To Schools Bill would also make it more difficult for schools to discriminate on the grounds of limited resources in cases where children have special learning needs.
“For too long, young people with special educational needs have been deprived of the opportunity to attend the school of their choice and the proposed legislation should eliminate this discretionary practice,” said Michael Moriarty of Education and Training Boards Ireland.
However, school management organisations have expressed concerns about how the changes might impact on administration. The draft Bill proposes to remove the current system that allows parents to make an appeal to the Department of Education where they are unhappy with a school decision on student admission, known as a section 29 appeal.
The new scheme, details of which were published by the Department of Education yesterday, would transfer the appeals process back to schools.
Ferdia Kelly of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents 400 voluntary secondary schools with religious patronage across the country, says his members are not in favour of a “cumbersome” appeals process.
“We don’t want an appeals process that will bog us down in bureaucracy. The section 29 appeal process is working well. There are fewer than 300 appeals lodged each year, out of well over 100,000 admissions, and less than half are successful. This is because most schools’ admission policies, as they currently stand, are working.”
Mr Kelly said it was important not to create false expectations for parents. “In a situation where demand exceeds supply, someone will always be disappointed.”
Don Myers, president of the National Parents Council – Post Primary, said he welcomed “some aspects” of the Bill.
“We get a lot of queries from parents regarding the demand for booking deposits and we feel they should not be charged.
“I understand that schools have an issue with parents putting their child’s name down on a number of lists and that may be why this practice has developed.
“However, it works both ways, and often parents don’t get that money back if a place is not offered.”
However, Mr Myers said the Bill would not do away with undersupply in a small number of key schools where problems arise.
“Where you have a number of schools in an area, one will be seen as the best. Not everyone can get in there.”
Draft billÁine Lynch of the National Parents Council – Primary, said yesterday’s draft Bill had “moved the discussion on”.
“Booking deposits were never an issue at primary level, but recently they have become a major feature. This bill, if enacted, would do away with that problem.
“The inability of some students to access certain schools may be a problem for a minority, but for those it affects it is very significant.”