Limerick schools accused of unfair admission policy


Noel P. Malone, Headmaster of Coláiste Chiaráin, Croom, County Limerick.A LIMERICK teacher has voiced concerns over the issue of “educational inequality” with the best students being “cherry-picked” by some Limerick post-primary schools.

Noel Malone, who is principal of Coláiste Chiaráin in Croom, urged an Oireachtas Education Committee to review the proposed regulations in the light of his experience of the Limerick area Post-Primary Schools Common Application System.

He told the committee that in his experience in Limerick, it is widely perceived that the system as it operates is “unfair and discriminatory”.

“The last thing such a system needs is light-touch regulation,” he warned.

He told the Oireachtas Committee that a key characteristic of schools in Limerick is the lack of social mix.

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“This has negative consequences on those lower down the social hierarchy, and brings additional advantage to pupils in those schools, which are almost entirely middle class in their social composition”.

Mr Malone insisted that schools cannot be allowed to continue to operate independently in terms of their admission criteria and decide their selection criteria with no independent scrutiny.

“Vast swathes of population are often ignored in favour of other applicants living significantly further away. This can mean travelling substantial distances away from their home by private bus or car. A key point is that current admissions policies do not observe the spirit of inclusiveness, even though many claim to do so. That is what has to change. If it does, greater equality of opportunity will follow,” he told TDs and senators.

“Some schools apply preferential criteria, such as favouring children living in certain affluent areas, cherry-picked traditional feeder schools, brothers or sisters of past pupils, sons or daughters of past pupils and so on, and finally, of course, ‘all others.’

“In effect, very few places are left in this last category, as the schools have pretty much wrapped up their preferred clientele, and end up sending refusal letters to so many disappointed 12-year olds.

Mr Malone went on to tell the committee that the fact Minister Quinn may now consider granting a derogation to permit a school’s admission policy to include a past pupil criteria of up to 25 per cent, will “skew the process”.

“It cannot be explained away by defending its inclusion on the basis of tradition. If it is accepted that tradition can be used by a school to discriminate against other applicants, the very basis of the proposed regulation is undermined.

“There is no real justification for giving preference to children of past pupils or to a lesser extent, siblings of former pupils. Again, this is always discriminatory and unfair. The proposed limit of 25 per cent should be withdrawn and no derogation should be applicable,” he said.