Education (Admission to Schools) Bill – Minister Richard Bruton moves to deal with regularising admissions procedures

This is the announcement made yesterday by Minister for Education & Skills, Richard Bruton TD about the proposed Bill to regulate National School admission practices.

The Bill outline fails to deal specifically with the use of religion tests (baptismal certificates) by some schools for admission of some pupils.

Not good enough Minister!

Education (Admission to Schools) Bill introduced to Oireachtas following approval by Government

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today announced that Government has approved the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016.  The Bill will be introduced to the Oireachtas this week with view to enactment as soon as possible after that. The Programme for Government targets enactment of this legislation before September 2017.

Minister Bruton has written to all opposition parties seeking to consult on this legislation, and hopes that all parties can work constructively on this legislation with a view to having these important measures in place as early as possible.

Among other things the new law will:

  • Ensure that where a school is not oversubscribed (80% of schools) it must admit all students applying
  • Ban waiting lists, thus ending the discrimination against parents who move in to a new area
  • Ban fees relating to admissions
  • Require all schools to publish their admissions policies, which will include details of the provisions for pupils who decline to participate in religious instruction
  • Require all schools to consult with and inform parents where changes are being made to admissions policies
  • Explicitly ban discrimination in school admissions
  • Provide for a situation where a child (with special needs or otherwise) cannot find a school place, and allow the National Council for Special Education or Tusla to designate a school place for the child

Minister Bruton said: “The basic aim of this Government is to use our economic success to build a fair and compassionate society. Few areas are more important to this vision than education.This legislation is a significant public service reform designed to make it easier for parents to more easily access local schools and to enrol their children in a school that meets their needs.”

This legislation will increase the transparency and fairness of school admissions. It makes clear that every school must be welcoming of every young person –regardless of their colour, their abilities or disabilities. It will help to end the soft barriers that some of our schools erect in the way of children with special needs.”

“The vast majority of our schools work to welcome every child in their communities; to give them the care and attention that their young minds demand and to support the integration of all children, whatever their differences. But I know that some schools are oversubscribed. They cannot be blamed for that.  But they must be fair and transparent in deciding how to prioritise children for admission to the school. This Bill will make sure that is the case in all schools.”

– See more at:

Press release: From Equality in Education Alliance, Irish National Schools’ Trust and Citizens to Separate Church & State

Press release: From Equality in Education Alliance, Irish National Schools’ Trust and Citizens to Separate Church & State
For immediate use





Three educational reform groups have agreed a common platform as a solution to the problems of diversity in primary education.  At a press conference today in Buswell’s Hotel the Equality in Education Alliance, Citizens to Separate Church & State and the Irish National School Trust called on all politicians and educators to unite around the founding principles of the National School system. The allied groups believe that the Rules for National Schools and Ministerial ‘Circulars’ (Directions) have drifted over time away from the clear objectives and rights enshrined in the National School system (1831) and in the Irish Constitution.

We ask that those engaging in preparations for government take on board the following simple solution to the problems of access and diversity, which surely can no longer be ignored.


It is a national duty on the part of all legislators to insist on this workable solution.  The solution must be part of any programme for government. A Circular should be issued by any incoming Minister with responsibility for education under section 33 of the 1998 education act to give meaningful effect to Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution and Rules for National Schools No.s 54 and 69, as follows:

1.   National Schools

All primary schools recognised under Section 10 of the 1998 Education Act must be designated as National Schools. For all such schools, the inscription “National School” or “Scoil Náisiúnta” shall be put up conspicuously on the school building, and in view of the public road.

2.   Admissions

No National School shall make any enquiry as to the religious beliefs of any child or of his/her parents/guardians’ religious beliefs  prior to the admission of the child to the school. There shall be no priority given to children seeking entry to a National School on the basis of the child’s or his/her parents/guardians’ religious beliefs (an end to religion tests for admission).

3.   Religious Instruction

The Patron may appoint such religious instruction as they may think proper to be given in a National School under their patronage, provided that each School be open with equality to children of all religious beliefs and none – that no child shall be compelled to receive, or be present at, any religious instruction to which the parents or guardians object – that the time for religious instruction be so fixed that no child shall be thereby excluded directly or indirectly from all of the advantages that the School affords. Subject to this, religious instruction may be given either during the fixed school hours or otherwise. (Article 44.2.4 must be upheld and Rules 54 and 69 implemented).

Notes on the “National Schools Solution” above are posted here:

Further information

John Suttle, Director, Irish National Schools Trust.

24A Hollybrook Grove, Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Tel. 01-8331167

Dr. Mike McKillen

Citizens to Separate Church and State

Tel. 087-2314613

Fachtna Roe,
Equality in Education Alliance

Memorandum to those parties negotiating a Programme for Government – “Every National School is for Every Child”

Irish National Schools’ Trust, Citizens to Separate Church and State and Equality in Education Alliance issued this press release today directed at the parties negotiating a Programme for Government.

It calls on them to resolve the two issues dividing some of our children from attending local National Schools.

(1) religion tests used for admission

(2) failure to separate periods of religious instruction from the secular curriculum

160308 National Schools Solution-Final

Editorial in Irish Examiner on 16 January 2016: Discrimination on the religion ground in our National Schools

This editorial reflects on the Irish state’s performance before the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child in Geneva last Thursday.

The proceedings there can be viewed on this webcast:


THOUGH Enda Kennys statements on the possibility of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment should he be returned to power of course falls some way short of a commitment, his suggestion that he anticipates a vote on the divisive issue will take place over the next couple of years is pretty close.

The Taoiseach seems to accept the issue must be resolved one way or another though he has expressed doubts that proposals to change the current legislation would be endorsed.

Earlier this week one of his ministers Childrens Minister James Reilly speaking after a day-long hearing at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva returned to a second deeply divisive issue when he argued that ending religious discrimination in schools admission policies may also require a constitutional referendum.

He said he did not believe it was right that children should be discriminated against on the basis of religious belief or nominal, pretend religious belief or lack of it when applying for a place in State-funded schools. He did, however, acknowledge the constitutional provisions that allow religious institutions protect their ethos.

That essentially gives control of our primary schools all of which are funded more or less 100% by the State to the Catholic Church, a situation that no longer reflects the make-up of this society.

Ironically, and in a particularly Irish way, the legislation that allows 96% primary schools turn away children on the basis of their religious beliefs is called the Equal Status Act.

Deepening that anachronistic and offensive irony, the minister of state, who on December 2 approved the right of schools to reject pupils on the basis of their religion or lack of it, is known as the minister for equality.

The Equal Status Act 2000 allows oversubscribed schools favour children who share the schools patrons religious beliefs.

This, no matter how it is dressed up, discriminates against some children at the very moment that they should expect the States full support and encouragement.

At the very point the State should embrace young citizens from every background, it, or more accurately its agent, uses the baptised-or-not filter to rule on who gets a particular school place or not.

This is, no matter how enthusiastically it is dressed up, religious segregation and makes second class citizens of an ever greater number of Irish children.

The situation might be less fraught if there were more school places in areas where schools are oversubscribed but there are not and that shortcoming cannot be used to perpetuate an inequity.

Those who wish to preserve the current monopoly occasionally argue that under new patronage, many schools would become ethics-free zones and that religious education would be sidelined.

This, of course, is bunkum. Religious education would be available for those who wish to avail of it but it, or at least an exclusive version of it, might not enjoy todays unquestioning centrality.

New school patronage arrangements might also be an opportunity to place a new emphasis on the kind of civic morality so obviously absent on so many fronts.

Irish National Schools’ Trust presentation about true nature of our ‘National Schools’

The Irish National Schools’ Trust (INST) organisation has permitted us to reproduce its brief history of our ‘National School’ system on our web-site.

It comes as a Powerpoint presentation in two parts (PDF due to file size).IrishNationalSchoolsTrust-presenntation-#1 Irish National Schools’ Trust presentation#2

The full extent of the State’s involvement in concealment of the open-to-all origins of our schools is laid bare.