Europe

Reform plans for faith-school admission in Ireland

Children singing Image copyright HIGHWAYSTARZ-PHOTOGRAPHY
Image caption Mr Bruton will say the current system for publicly-funded schools is unfair

The Irish education minister is expected to announce a change to the role a child's religion plays in the school admissions process.

Richard Bruton will outline options for reform later, Irish broadcaster RTÉ reports.

Mr Bruton will say the current system for publicly-funded schools is unfair.

Children who live close to a religious school can currently lose out on a space to those who live further away but share the school's religion.

In snippets of his upcoming speech, released to the media ahead of a seminar, the minister notes that while 96% of primary schools in the Republic of Ireland are Christian - the vast majority being Catholic - more than a third of couples getting married there are choosing civil non-religious ceremonies.

Options for reform include allowing schools to favour children of their own religion only when those children live within the school's catchment area, or when that school is their nearest one.

A third option is the introduction of quotas, allowing preference on religious grounds for a limited proportion of places.

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Image caption The minister says he will be commencing a process of consultation, and is interested in hearing the views of affected groups

The fourth is an outright ban on using religion as a factor in admissions.

Under this last option, the minister will say religious schools could require parents or students to indicate support for the school's religious ethos.

He will say there is a most important need to avoid possible impacts on the wishes of minority religions - such as Protestants - to run schools in accordance with their ethos and admit children from their communities.

Other possible consequences are breaches of the constitution, or the creation of so-called 'postcode lotteries' where schools in less advantaged areas could suffer.

The minister says he will be commencing a process of consultation, and is interested in hearing the views of groups who are affected, as well as members of the public.

He will say the desire of religious parents to educate their children in their faith is welcome and should be respected, but non-religious parents or parents of minority religions should not be unfairly disadvantaged.