School admission policies have led to segregation – principal

Four Lucan Educate Together schools launch ‘inclusive’ co-ordinated admissions system

Educate Together: The common enrolment system will mean parents apply for school places via a centralised system run by a committee of representatives from the schools’ boards of management. Photograph: Getty Images

Educate Together: The common enrolment system will mean parents apply for school places via a centralised system run by a committee of representatives from the schools’ boards of management. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Current school admission policies have led to segregation in parts of Ireland, the principal of a predominantly “newcomer” school has said.

At the launch of a common enrolment system for four Lucan-based Educate Together schools, Colette Kavanagh said the Department of Education has failed to tackle the issue of equality of access in the schools admissions Bill due to come before the Oireachtas shortly.

In areas where schools are oversubscribed Ms Kavanagh said one school might be made up of 85 per cent or more “newcomer” children while a neighbouring school might have a fraction of that, meaning the “composition is not representing our local communities”.

She said “newcomer” families – those of a non-Irish background, those returning from abroad or those who have moved from elsewhere within Ireland – were losing out due to current school patronage, first-come-first-serve admission policies and unregulated parental choice.

She said the tendency was for “new schools (to)become schools for newcomer families”, adding that this was already occurring in parts of Ireland including Lucan, Swords, Balbriggan and Galway.

“We don’t want to say we have segregated schools but actually we have”.

Ms Kavanagh said the Department of Education had failed to grasp the nettle when it came to tackling school patronage which she described as an “anomaly” internationally: “They didn’t tackle it . . . They said, ‘this is where we are, what can we do now to make it better?’ There is no patronage system in other countries...there is a national school system. We don’t have that.”

“Our norm is very unusual and, while it might have suited our population until very recently, it definitely does’t suit our population anymore,” she added.

Analysis of school census data for the 2013/14 school year carried out by the Irish Times in February found four in every five primary school children from an immigrant background were concentrated in less than a quarter of schools. In 20 schools, more than two-thirds of pupils were recorded as being of a non-Irish background.

From Thursday four Lucan Educate Together schools – Adamstown Castle, Esker, Griffeen Valley and Lucan East – will operate a co-ordinated admissions system, the aim of which is to promote “inclusive, integrated local schools”.

The system, which took seven years to develop, will mean parents apply for school places via a centralised system run by a committee of representatives from the schools’ boards of management.

Children will be offered a place in order of age (with the oldest receiving priority) until all available places in the four schools are filled. Once a child has secured a place, the placement of children in individual schools will be based on two other criteria: children with siblings in that school and those who live within closest proximity.

However, she said parents already on waiting lists for coming years for any of the four schools would still get a place.

Ms Kavanagh said the current first come first-served system in place in schools, including those under an Educate Together patronage, was “no longer a valid system” which disadvantaged newcomer families.

“That’s something we don’t feel can stand over . . . we want to have a level playing pitch for all families,” she said.