18 December 2013, The Tablet

Irish schools accused of discriminatory admissions policies

Ireland's Ombudsman for Children has called for an end to “religious discrimination” in Catholic schools’ admissions policies.

In a submission to Dublin’s Department of Education on draft legislation on schools selection policies, ombudsman Emily Logan said denominational schools should no longer have the right to favour enrolling children on the basis of religion.

This right is protected in section 7 of the Equal Status Act, which allows schools to select students on the basis of religion, if necessary, to protect a school’s ethos.

Ms Logan said the provision has been criticised by international human rights bodies including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

She suggested that where a denominational school is oversubscribed, children not belonging to the school’s denomination are at an unfair disadvantage.

“Children should not have preferential access to publicly funded education on the basis of their religion and the Equal Status Act should reflect that principle,” she wrote in her submission.

However, Fr Michael Drumm, Chairperson of the Catholic Schools Partnership, told The Tablet: “Faith-based schools use adherence to a particular religious denomination as one criterion because there are parents who want such an education for their children.”

He said the Equal Status Act makes clear that when a school uses religious affiliation as a ground for selecting students, the school is not engaged in discrimination.

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