Belfast Telegraph

School enrolment document published

School places should not be secured by paying backhanders or on high exam marks alone, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has suggested.

The proposed new rules were among a raft of options being examined to stop youngsters being discriminated against because of wealth or connections.

Mr Quinn said he wants school enrolment policies to be transparent and fair, and also seen by everyone.

"It is not the department now trying to dictate to schools how they should enrol pupils - that`s the last place we want to be," he added.

Education experts have pointed to practices which are not considered acceptable in the school enrolment system and called for people`s views on whether they should be outlawed.

The "blacklist" focused on several key areas, including age, faith, academia, talent, wealth, waiting lists and nepotism.

The discussion document calls for, among other things: Schools to give priority to older children; An end to waiting lists as they discriminate against newcomers to an area, but also abandon the first-come-first-served regime as it leads to queues on enrolment day; Pupils with brothers and sisters in a school should get priority; No preferential treatment for pupils related to staff, board of management, past pupils or benefactors.

Mr Quinn said: "Central to this debate on enrolment is the need to ensure a fair and transparent system at all of our schools which does not discriminate unfairly against students or parents. At the heart of this paper is the simple question, 'Can we find a better way for all?'.

"This document is not meant to be prescriptive, nor have any decisions been made as to what elements will be contained in any final regulations or legislation. It is meant to lead and provoke debate on enrolment policies."

Sheila Nunan, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, said any new procedures must not bury principals in bureaucracy: "Any new procedures must be straightforward and not increase the paperwork of schools. In particular, the procedures must recognise the workload of principals who usually manage the process on behalf of the board of management."

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