Principals’ group calls for CAO system for primary schools

Central enrolment would be too bureaucratic, says Catholic management association

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn is preparing to publish draft legislation aimed at regulating school enrolment policies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn is preparing to publish draft legislation aimed at regulating school enrolment policies. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 05:00

A Central Applications Office-style process for primary school places could be used to regulate enrolment practice, the professional body for primary school leaders has said.

In a submission to the Department of Education the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) called for a “clearly defined, legally robust national enrolment policy, with a standardised basis for admission to all schools”.

The call comes as Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn prepares to publish draft legislation aimed at regulating school enrolment policies.

Rank schools
The group has called for a web-based system that would allow parents to rank schools in order of preference in a method similar to the CAO application process for college, with clusters of schools defining their catchment areas and co-operating on shared enrolment practice.

The body has called for one annual date for applications by parents and another for a response from schools.

Sean Cottrell of the IPPN said some schools give preference to children based on historical family links, academic or sporting achievements, how early they joined the queue, or whether their parents could afford the advance deposit.

Waiting lists
He said that any new system should prohibit multi-annual waiting lists, booking deposits and aptitude screenings.

“Schools are funded based on the number of children enrolled. IPPN believes that extra weighted capitation values should be applied to Traveller children, new Irish children, children from designated disadvantaged areas, and children with special education needs under the new national enrolment policy.”

Eileen Flynn of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association has rejected the proposal, saying there was a risk of the system becoming “overly-bureaucratic”.

“ It is important that the system does not become overly-bureaucratic in trying to resolve an issue for a relatively small number of schools.”