Education should be accessible to all- Mayor Holland
Mayor of South Dublin County Council, Cllr Sarah Holland, has asked the Government to clarify exactly what it is doing to ensure education is accessible to every child.
“I have had some cases recently where non-religious families are finding it incredibly difficult to find school places for their kids.
“We saw cases in the news where some children were turned away from up to 13 schools because they weren't baptised, which is frankly shocking.
“I was in touch with Educate Together who have said that some places in Dublin are experiencing a dearth of school places, and that Educate Together was identified as the preferred patron in surveys undertaken by the Department in 2012 as part of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism.
“I would therefore expect to see more pro-active effort from the Department of Education to identify sites for non-denominational schools as a matter of urgency.
“I contacted the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department of Education who said that this obvious discrimination is not within its remit, and referred me to the recent Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2015 and to the Forward Planning unit, who is responsible for identifying need for schools.
“The Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2015 does not propose changes to the existing equality legislation. However, the Bill provides for schools to explicitly state in the school's admission policy that it will not discriminate against an applicant for admission on the grounds of disability, special educational needs, sexual orientation, family status, membership of the traveller community, race, civil status, gender or religion while including provision for single sex schools and denominational schools to reflect, in their admission policy, the exemptions applicable to such schools under equality legislation [text from a response to a parliamentary question].
“However, the Bill will still allow for discrimination if “in the case of a refusal, it is proved that the refusal is essential to maintain the ethos of the school”. This caveat will allow widespread discrimination to continue, as changes to the maintenance of the ethos of a school will be impossible to prove or disprove.
“The fact that denominational schools are allowed by law to prioritise children who fit their religious criteria is causing significant problems around the areas of equality and accessibility to education.
“The long and short of it is that non-Catholic children and those with no religious preferences are having their constitutional right to education compromised.
“I am delighted that we now have an Educate Together and a new Gaelscoil here in Firhouse, but it is clear that we need more non denomination schools all across the county to facilitate children.”