Baptism barrier to be removed from Irish schools today

Baptism barrier to be removed from Irish schools today

RELIGION will no longer be a factor in enrolling children in Irish schools as the baptism barrier is to be removed today.

Minister Richard Bruton announced that he will sign an order this morning to officially “remove religion as a factor that can be used in admissions in virtually all primary schools”.

The Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016 was passed through the Oireachtas back in July.

The new piece of legislation will remove the longstanding ‘baptism barrier’ in Catholic primary schools.

The barrier has allowed school administrations to prioritise Catholic children ahead of those of a different faith in their admission process.

The changes signed into place by Minister Bruton today will affect oversubscribed primary schools, mainly in urban areas where places are limited.

Following the Bill’s passage through the Oireactas on Tuesday night, Minister Bruton thanked TDs and Senators for their work support.

“Historic reforms in this Bill will remove religion as a criteria in admissions in virtually all primary schools, ban waiting lists, end fees relating to admissions,” he posted on Twitter.

“The School Admissions Bill will make it easier for parents to access their local school and to enrol their children in a school that best meets their needs."

In addition, schools will be required to open classes for children with special needs where necessary, while Irish language schools may give priority to Irish-speaking pupils.

Earlier this year, Catholic groups warned the Irish government that the removal of the baptism barrier would undermine the role of Catholic schools in the country and lead to legal challenges from parents and religious bodies.

They also warned that such steps would conflict with the constitutional protections for parents and religious schools.

Other changes in the legislation coming in today include the ending of admission fees and a cap on the number of children or grandchildren of past pupils a school can enrol.