“I have noted the Judge’s careful scrutiny of a very complex collection of issues.”

The Department of Education has now supplemented the initial ‘duty to verify’ guidance to Primary Schools with guidance to Pre-Schools and Post-Primary Schools – in response to the court ruling on places at St Cecilia’s in Londonderry (full ruling available here [pdf file]). But the Irish News picks up [subs req] on an interim circular sent to schools this year on transfer arrangements from Primary to Post-Primary Schools. [pdf file] In particular the Minister’s declared “intention to review the current legislation, with a view to changing it” – that is, legislation which prevents schools in Northern Ireland selecting pupils from the Republic of Ireland in preference to pupils resident in Northern Ireland. [Did the minister declare an interest? – Ed]

There has been a delay in issuing the Transfer circular this year because the possibility had been raised of a conflict between Article 16(4) of the 1997 Education Order (for primary and post-primary schools) and Article 32(4) of the 1998 Education Order (for pre-schools) and EU legislation. Articles 16(4) 1997 and Article 32(4) 1998 provide for children resident in the North of Ireland to be given priority in schools’ admissions criteria. Such a priority may be in breach of EU legislation.

The minister continues

Article 16(4) was raised as an issue in the recent Judicial Review involving St Cecilia’s College, Derry. I have noted the Judge’s careful scrutiny of a very complex collection of issues.

The case highlighted that schools in the North are currently required by primary legislation to give priority to children resident in the North. As stated above, such legislation may be in breach of EU legislation. In any event, it would be my intention to review the current legislation, with a view to changing it. In doing so, it is my intention work in close co-operation with my counterpart in the South. [added emphasis]

It is the Department’s policy to maximise the extent to which parents are enabled to send their children to their first school of choice. That principle is at the heart of our enrolment and admissions policies and there is no logical reason as to why families living along the border corridor should be unfairly affected. I shall be talking to all interested parties on this issue.

In light of the circumstances set out above this circular is issued as an interim guide for schools and it will be reviewed on an ongoing basis taking into account a number of relevant issues not least the outcome of my discussions with all interested parties.

CAITRÍONA RUANE MLA

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  • I smell a smokescreen. Surely EU law deals with discrimination on the grounds of nationality rather than residency.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, there’s no reference to whether the minister has actually sought any legal advice – from any quarter.

    But she also states that she intends to review that legislation “In any event..”

  • The Raven

    It was quoted that: “she also states that she intends to review that legislation “In any event..””

    Cool…expect action by July 2008.

  • kensei

    “I smell a smokescreen. Surely EU law deals with discrimination on the grounds of nationality rather than residency.”

    I don’t think you can make that distinction as long as they are both residents of the EU — I don’t think a university, for example, could discriminate against a EU National simply because they aren’t resident in an different EU state. I would guess that payment or non payment of relevant social security and the like would matter, but not residency directly. Which might be complicated with cross border working.

    The principle is fairly clear:

    http://ec.europa.eu/youreurope/nav/en/citizens/education-study/eu-legislation/index.html

    “1) The fundamental principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality between students studying in a foreign country and national students applies as regards admission to an educational or training establishment. This includes enrolment fee requirements and the conditions governing the award of a grant to cover such fees. In this respect, any Community citizen must be treated in the same way as national citizens. One example of the kind of problem which young people studying in another country may encounter would be special requirements on admission, the need to pass tests or supply documentary evidence, or other such conditions which are not required of nationals, and which have no objective justification.”

    Pete

    “Well, there’s no reference to whether the minister has actually sought any legal advice – from any quarter. ”

    Which proves nothing either way. I suggest it’d be fairly straightforward to make a FoI request to find out.