Green Party Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Education, Catherine Martin TD, has welcomed the Education (School Admissions) Bill 2016, but said the provisions of the bill should be extended to include measures to tackle discrimination on the basis of religion in the schools admissions process.
Speaking in support of the Bill, Deputy Martin said, “While we welcome many aspects of this bill, there are huge gaps in it that need to be addressed. This bill presents a real opportunity to finally remove the baptism barrier from the school admissions process, and ensure that no child can be discriminated against because of their religion, but the Government is not taking that opportunity.
He said, “Our schools should reflect the diversity of our families and our communities. No State-funded school should be able to discriminate for or against a child on the basis of his or her religion. Of course there is a place for freedom of religion and religious schools in Ireland. This should be both recognised and respected, but not in an exclusive way. Taxpayers’ money should not be funding discrimination, and this bill doesn’t reflect that."
“In addition to this, the Department of Education should provide guidelines to schools and accessible options for children who will opt out of religious classes and access for these children to appropriate alternatives to such classes," Deptuy Martin stated
"This bill also takes some steps towards removing barriers for children with special educational needs. Again, it does not go far enough and to that end I will seek amendments at committee stage. At a recent education committee briefing with the National Council for Special Education I noted that many schools will not open ‘autism classes’ despite a local need being identified. I believe this bill should have a provision where by the NCSE would have the power to instruct a school to do so. This would, of course, be where the school had the physical space to allow for this.
“All schools in receipt of State funding should be fair, transparent and inclusive in their admissions policies. Discrimination on the basis of religion or special educational need would not be tolerated in any other walk of life and the education system should be no different. The Government has an opportunity to end such discrimination with this bill – I strongly suggest they take that opportunity,” concluded Deputy Martin
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