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Housing crisis among reasons why ring-fencing school places is wrong, says Children's Ombudsman

It is currently allowed that 25% of school places can be reserved for children and grandchildren of past pupils.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE OMBUDSMAN FOR Children will today tell politicians that there are “valid reasons” why parents may have to move to different areas and that children should not be disadvantaged in accessing school places as a result.

Dr Niall Muldoon, who heads the statutory office responsible for promoting children’s rights and welfare, will tell the Oireachtas Education Committee that his office is supporting moves to stop school places being reserved for the children of past pupils.

A bill put forward by the Labour Party seeks to remove a clause that allows 25% of school places be reserved for children and grandchildren of past pupils. 

The party’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has said the law as it currently stands is “an exclusionary and elitist piece of legislation”. 

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project to investigate why every child in Ireland doesn’t have a place in secondary school.

In a statement to the committee today, Muldoon will say that children may only experience differential treatment if there is “a reasonable or objective basis for this” and that a parent’s school history cannot be considered a “reasonable or objective” basis.

Muldoon will outline that this test is outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of which Ireland is a signatory. 

He will add that the position of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office is that several groups of children are “particularly disadvantaged” by the current rule. They include Traveller children, children of immigrant parents, and children of parents with disabilities who may not have attended a mainstream secondary school.

Muldoon will also outline that an even wider net of children are affected by rule because they may come from families who have had to move to a different area to find accommodation due to a number of valid reasons, “including the housing crisis”. 

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A number of other groups will also speak today in favour of the removing the clause including Barnardos, the National Parents’ Council and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. 

Last week, a number of groups including the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools spoke to the same committee seeking to keep the rules as they are.

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Rónán Duffy

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