New admissions law will bring social mix to schools - O’Sullivan

Minister for Education hopes a bill will help to address educational inquality issues

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan (centre) with students Evan Kelly (left) and Kate McDonnell (right) who have received their leaving certificate results at St Nessan’s Community College, Moylish Park, Limerick.Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan (centre) with students Evan Kelly (left) and Kate McDonnell (right) who have received their leaving certificate results at St Nessan’s Community College, Moylish Park, Limerick.Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

New legislation aimed at reforming the school admission process will help address issues such as educational inequality highlighted in yesterday’s ERSI report, the Minister of Education has said.

Jan O’Sullivan said the purpose of the Admissions To School Bill was to ensure schools have an open door policy to children from all social backgrounds. The bill is due to be enacted before the end of the year. She was speaking in Limerick as over 56,000 students across the State receive their Leaving Cert results,

Commenting on an ERSI report which found that students from working class schools were less likely to go on to third level, Ms O’Sullivan said a good social mix in schools was very important.

“I will be bringing a piece of legislation in the Autumn which is the Admissions to School Bill. One of the purposes of that bill is to get a social mix in schools to ensure schools do have an open door to children from a variety of social backgrounds,” she explained.

“My personal view on the best type of school is a school that has a mix of children from a variety of social backgrounds. We have seen the best examples of that in the towns rather than in the cities because in the towns there is often just one school and everybody goest to the one school,” she added.

Speaking at St Nessan’s Community College in Limerick, where 45 students received Leaving Cert results today, Ms O’Sullivan said the introduction of bonus CAO points in higher level maths had “cleary delivered” the intended results.

The newly appointed Minister for Education said she does not see any reason to put an end to the bonus system as suggested by her predecessor Ruairi Quinn.

“It has clearly delivered the results that we wanted it to deliver so at the moment I don’t see any reason to stop it. I think it’s positive. It is resulting in more students taking higher lever papers and being successful at the higher level papers so I don’t see any reason to stop it at the moment,” she said.

When asked about Junior Cert reform, Ms O’Sullivan said she was supportive of the changes but insisted they would be gradual and it was a partnership process.

“It is going start with English in September. It will be a very gradual process. I will be meeting all of the partners in education, the teachers, the parents, management bodies and the students in the Autumn and in fact starting in the next week or two. I think reform is important but it is a partnership process,” she said.

Some teachers are unhappy with the reform proposals, and want to retain a state accredited Junior Cert in some form.

Meanwhile. Ms O’Sullivan said she would be slow to do anything “drastic” to the Leaving Cert because it is a “very much trusted exam”.

She said other than Project Maths the focus of reform remains on the Junior Cert cycle.

“There’s a belief in Ireland and internationally that it [the Leaving Cert] is a very fair objective anonymous exam, that what you get is what you deserve. I would be very, very, slow to in any way dilute that but obviously the world is changing and we have to be constantly in a position to change but I think it has to be gradual.”

When asked about the debate surrounding difficulties experienced by students in the transition from secondary school to third level education Ms O’Sullivan said she was committed to making this process easier.

“I will be getting a report in relation to transition, there is a variety of education partners feeding into that. I will be studying that report very carefully and I certainly want to do be doing everything I most possibly can to improve the transition for students.”

Ms O’Sullivan said the role of parents was also very important in the transition process and in helping their children to make the right decisions.