Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has strongly criticised the Minister for Education Norma Foley for missing a “real opportunity” to stamp out “elitism” in schools.
Deputy O’Ríordáin urged the Government to stop the practice of schools reserving places for the children of past pupils.
In a statement, Deputy O’Ríordáin said: “Since January, myself and my Labour colleagues have been snowed under with representations from parents that say they cannot get a school place for this September.
“Unfortunately, many schools can still reserve places for the children of past pupils. This practice must end.
“In 2021, the Labour Party produced a piece of legislation in good faith that would eliminate a discriminatory provision within the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 by ensuring that when students or families present themselves to a second level school or to any school in this country, they can do so on the same basis.
“When our Bill, which proposes to delete section 62 (10) (b) of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, was introduced it was not opposed by the Government, they said to delay for 12 months so it could pass second stage.
“We agreed, so we could progress this vital and widely supported amendment through committee stage.
“Every single witness at the Committee Stage said it was right that this section of the Bill be deleted.
“However, when the Bill appeared in the Dail in May 2022, we were told that the Minister wanted to review it over an undisclosed number of school admission cycles.
“It is an insult to all our collective and cross-party efforts, particularly representatives from organisations like Barnardos, the Ombudsman for Children and Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission, who spoke at Committee Stage, to win support for this vital change in legislation and ignores the parliamentary process where something so important can be reviewed until it dies a death.
“The reality is that the private school lobby wants this provision and ultimately, they get what they want from this Government.
“Right now, 25% of school places are reserved for the children or grandchildren of past pupils of that school. It is an exclusionary and elitist piece of legislation.”
Deputy O’Ríordáin said that the system cannot “cherish” some children more than others “which is what has happened by allowing a quarter of an intake of any school to be reserved, if the school so wishes, for the children and grandchildren of past pupils.
“As many parents seek to settle on a school place for the forthcoming term, I am urging Minister Foley to make education genuinely equal for all.”