New school-entry rules on the way

 

New rules for school admission, designed to ensure greater transparency in the allocation of places, are set to be introduced next year.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told second-level principals today that legislation allowing for a new regulatory framework for enrolments will be published in 2013. The framework, he said, should improve openness, consistency and equity in enrolment processes.

The new rules are set to be controversial. They could, for example, force schools to abandon admissions policies that favour the siblings of current or past pupils.

In 2006, a Department of Education audit found some schools were using restrictive admissions policies to exclude certain categories of students, including Travellers, those with special needs, the children of immigrants and even low academic achievers.

In his address to the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) in Galway, Mr Quinn also highlighted new school self-evaluations, where the school principal - and not just Department of Education inspectors - take a key role in maintaining standards.

He said the new system would put school leaders at the centre of developing a culture of quality, improvement and accountability in their schools.

"It will give schools and school leaders more autonomy in setting the agenda for school improvement. Providing a clear framework in which school leaders and their staffs can focus on 'making learning better' is the key objective of school self-evaluation. . . . You are being empowered, as school leaders, to manage the teaching and learning in your schools, and to focus with your teachers on educational improvement in your schools," the Minister said.

He said annual reports from the school self-evaluations will also provide parents with much better information on school quality and school performance.

Mr Quinn told the conference the post-primary sector will see a rise of over 20,000 pupils in the next five years

The Minister also announced the establishment of new group in his department that will oversee changes in the transition by students from Leaving Cert to higher education. The new Transitions Reform Steering Group - chaired by the secretary general of the Department of Education, Seán Ó Foghlú, also includes representatives from the third level colleges.

On the new Junior Cert, he said he was heartened by the support of the NAPD and so many organisations for the proposed changes.

The new exam, he said, offers exciting new possibilities to schools to plan learning programmes that are varied and interesting for students and meets their learning needs. It will give students more opportunities to engage actively in their learning and to use their creative energies, Mr Quinn added.

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