The so-called baptism barrier, wherein oversubscribed Catholic schools would give entry priority to children who had been baptised, will be a thing of the past come September 2019, following the passage of new legislation in the Dáil. The School Admissions Bill will now prohibit favouritism in Catholic Schools on the basis of the child’s religion.
Minority faiths, however, can still prioritise members of their own religion in order to ensure those children can still access the rare places in those faith based schools. This will only be a temporary provision and will be under review after three years.
Welcoming the passing of the Bill was Michael Barron, the founder of EQUATE – an equality organisation which lobbied for the removal of the baptism barrier. Barron stated, “We need to get to a position where no child is ever asked their religion when accessing State-funded education.”
Barron, who is also a former director of the national LGBT+ youth organisation, BeLonG To, had previously stated: “The legislation is very important for LGBT families. We know that LGBT parents are less likely than others to baptise their children, meaning that their families have always been inordinately affected by the baptism barrier.”
He described how his work with EQUATE was informed by “the daily experiences of LGBT young people, for whom religious ethos in schools has too often been used to discriminate against them, and of LGBT+ headed families who have disproportionately experienced exclusion from school communities.”
Schools not oversubscribed will continue to be obliged to accept all children regardless of religion. In the cases of past pupils, there will be a limit of 25% of places which can be set aside, and all schools will be required to cater to children with special needs.
Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, welcomed the historic decision, stating: “Parents should not feel pressured to baptise their child to get access to their local school.”
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