Education (Admissions to Schools) Act, 2018

With the stroke of a pen, Minister increases workload for school leaders without any advance warning or consultation

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation has criticised the decision taken today by the Minister for Education and Skills to commence provisions of the Education (Admissions to Schools) Act, 2018 without any consideration of the chaos such a move will cause in schools in the absence of specific guidance on implementation. INTO is not opposed to the policy changes contained in the Act itself but is concerned the lack of guidance will cause chaos in schools.

Three of the four provisions will have immediate effect in schools. These provisions include an end to the use of religion as a criterion in school admissions, the ending of school fees, and provide the Minister with the power to require schools to co-operate in relation to admission. Many schools admit students year-round as parents move to an area. This measure will require the immediate adoption of new admissions policies, without any guidance, at a time when school leaders are already under considerable pressure.

The commencement order also empowers the Minister to compel a school to open a special class, following consultation with the National Council for Special Education, the Board of Management and the patron of the school, from 3 December. INTO have raised repeated concerns that this power, as drafted, makes no references to the effective provision of education for children with whom the child is to be educated. We have urged the
Department to ensure that the needs of all the children in a school are considered before a decision to designate a school is made. INTO have also raised concerns that such decisions may be made where the appropriate resources are not already in place to meet the needs of pupils.

INTO General Secretary, Sheila Nunan said, “The Minister has put the cart before the horse by commencing provisions of the act with blatant disregard for school leaders who, will be expected to change policies in their schools without any regulatory guidance. Time and time again we have told this Department that the workload facing school leaders is too high and consistently requested that the introduction of significant legislative changes be better managed, in full consultation with the trade unions in this sector.”

“If the Minister is serious about addressing the workload concerns of school leaders, Budget 2019 provides the ideal opportunity to do so. The restoration of middle management posts and the provision of one admin day per week for teaching principals would be a step in the right direction.”