Independent TD Mattie McGrath has criticised the decision of the Minister of Education Jan O’Sullivan to press ahead with radical changes to existing schools admissions policy. Deputy McGrath was speaking after accusations that Clonmel’s Christian Brothers High School was guilty of discrimination in its enrolment policy were rejected by the Supreme Court:
“It is a deeply worrying development to hear that the Minister is essentially going to ride rough shod over the ability of a school to determine its own admissions policy.
Both the High Court and the Supreme Court found that the school had no case to answer by refusing to accommodate an enrolment request from a member of the travelling community.
While it must have been very disappointing for the child involved, I would have very serious concerns about the pressure that is going to be placed on schools to effectively surrender their autonomy in this area.
The Minister complains that she has heard no compelling reason why schools should be allowed to reserve a certain portion of their places for past pupils, but this only highlights how woefully out of touch she is.
Many parents rely on the perfectly reasonable expectation that their children can attend the same school that their siblings attend.
This kind of policy facilitates the smooth integration of new students who can be encouraged by the presence of family members in the same school.
It also allows many parents to avoid the stress of commuting to various different schools instead of being able to drop their children off at the one location.
I would urge the Minister to actively engage with parents and schools on this issue instead of ratcheting up the bullying language of Departmental authority,” concluded Deputy McGrath.