Baptism barrier to Catholic school places to go by next year
CATHOLIC schools in the Republic are to be prohibited from refusing children places based on religion from next year.
The Dáil this week removed the `baptism barrier', which means schools can no longer use religion as a criterion for prioritising entry.
It has allowed schools under Church control to give priority admissions to young people baptised in their faith.
Education minister Richard Bruton announced the change last year.
It will only affect Catholic schools from giving priority to baptised children in cases where they are over-subscribed.
Other minority faiths, including the Church of Ireland, may continue the practice to protect ethos.
Catholic groups warned that the change would create major constitutional problems and open the government to legal challenges from parents and religious bodies.
It will affect hundreds of Catholic schools, mainly in Dublin and other cities, where demand far exceeds the number of places.
In practice, the barrier has seen non-baptised children living near a school miss out in favour of baptised children leaving much further away.
April Duff, chair of the Education Equality campaign group, said parents would now be able to enjoy the right to freely choose and practise their own beliefs without the fear of being refused a school place as a result.
It has been reported that the School Admissions Bill will go to the Seanad on June 13 and, following its passage there, Mr Bruton will then pursue early implementation.
Awarding priority based on faith remains uncommon in the north.
Downey House and Fullerton House, preparatory departments of Methodist College Belfast, are among the only schools that have such an admissions criterion.