According to the Department of Education website, Richard Bruton has delivered historic reform of school admissions. I always suspected that the people that proclaim things as historic are generally not the people who proclaim them, but that aside, they open up a lot of discussion, and questions that need to be answered.

In terms of the aims of this website, the above announcement makes absolutely no difference to the lives of pupils or teachers in schools. Schools have not been asked to change their ethos or to change anything about how they go about their everyday business. The only thing it affects is who can be prioritised for admission to schools. Having said that, the announcement will potentially mean that more children will be enrolled in Catholic schools and thus may need to opt out of the faith formation aspect of the school. However, for the remaining Church of Ireland, Jewish and Muslim schools, they can carry on discriminating on admission on the basis of religion.

A can of worms may very well have been opened by the second announcement. While the Gaelscoil Teo group argue that only 3% of their families will benefit from this change in admissions, one has to look at the picture in all cases. While the figure may be very low now, what will happen if the percentage raises, which inevitably it will as more and more people that decide to send their children to a Gaelscoil will begin to give themselves a bigger advantage of getting in. In time, one might find a situation where a large percentage of children are being raised to speak enough Irish to gain access to these schools and only a small percentage or maybe no places will be left for non-Irish speakers. This has the inevitable outcome of discriminating against people on the basis of language, which I’m pretty sure is illegal.

The announcement of the enforcement of schools to open up special classes for autism is only welcome if the government resource these classes properly. Currently, this isn’t happening, and all classes have been opened on a system of goodwill and in the spirit of inclusivity. Also, we need to consider having specific training for teachers that wish to teach in these settings. Autism comes in a large spectrum, where some children can access the curriculum and some cannot. Special class placement does not discriminate on levels of need, and, in fact, since 2016, the guidelines have changed to make the classes less likely to allow for integration.

Obviously, this site is more interested in the first announcement. While it doesn’t directly affect the aims of the website, the likelihood is because of the announcement, there will be an increase in the number of pupils in schools who do not share the ethos of the school and need to be accommodated. The law also states that schools will have to have a policy on how they accommodate diversity in their schools. We provide this policy for all schools that register with us.

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