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Children could face CAO-style admission to schools

April 24, 2013

Primary principals want radical shake-up of entry procedures

PARENTS of up to 120,000 children a year would have to fill out CAO-style forms to secure primary and secondlevel school places under a plan put forward by principals.

In a dramatic shake-up proposed for the schools admission system, parents would rank their school choices in a centralised application system – similar to the one used for college entry.

Primary principals want the CAOstyle scheme at both primary and second-level, with parents listing schools in a particular catchment area in order of preference.

Under the proposal, where a particular school could not cope with the demand, places would be allocated on the basis of a lottery.

The scheme, proposed by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), would be operated by a centralised agency. The IPPN’s proposal is a response to moves by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to bring in a law to shake up school enrolment rules.

About 80pc of schools can accommodate all applicants but the rest apply selective admissions policies, which are now being targeted by the minister.

Mr Quinn plans to ban or restrict certain practices, such as giving preference to children based on the fact their mother, father, or another relative was a past pupil.

Mr Quinn wants to end the days of some schools “cherry-picking” pupils on the basis of brains or breeding, while others take more than their fair share of children with special educational needs.

The IPPN supports Mr Quinn’s plan and, as an additional measure, suggested the CAO-style common enrolment application form, with clusters of schools in defined catchment areas co-operating on shared enrolment practices. IPPN director Sean Cottrell said the school enrolment policy system, mainly at second level, was uneven.

He said a fairer and more transparent enrolment process would relieve stress on many parents.

Mr Cottrell said the system they were proposing would be web- based, with one annual date for applications by parents and another for a response from schools.

“Then, parents could get their first, second or third choice, depending on supply and demand factors,” he said.


The primary principals’ organisation is now seeking a meeting with the Department of Education to discuss its plan.

The department did not comment on the IPPN proposal, but said Mr Quinn would be reflecting carefully on the views expressed in the consultation process that will follow the publication of his draft legislation.

The IPPN proposal drew a mixed reaction elsewhere in education circles. Ferdia Kelly of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) representing secondary schools, traditionally run by the religious, said such a system could be too complicated.

He pointed out that only 20pc of schools were oversubscribed.  Mr Kelly said that what they favoured was a common enrolment timeline, where all schools in an area shared the same enrolment date, which would put the onus on parents to make a firm commitment.

However, Michael Moriarty, general secretary of the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), which has schools both in the second-level and primary sector, said he supported a system based on schools working together in clusters, with parents listing their preferences.

Other changes planned by the minister include a ban on first-come, first served admissions policies because they discriminate against people who have recently moved to an area.

He also proposes to ban “booking deposits” and to put restrictions on a requirement for children and their parents to attend compulsory open days or be interviewed.


Foilsithe ar 24 Aibreán 2013

Irish Independent – Katherine Donnelly