Tuesday, 13 November 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
501. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the guidelines he has issued to schools regarding the streaming of classes; if a school has the authority to move a student from an honours to a pass class against the wishes of the person's parents or where that person has received grades above 40% in the specific subject; and his overall policy in relation to streaming. [27607/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The Education Act, 1998 sets out a clear statutory framework within which the Irish education sector can operate and continue to develop. The rights and roles of all the partners in education are clearly laid down in the Act. The Act also places considerable emphasis on the principle of partnership in the management and operation of our education sector.
Sections 22 and 23 of the Act assign to each principal teacher responsibility for the instruction provided to students in the school. The functions  of principals range from overseeing the day-to-day management of schools to providing leadership to staff and students. In keeping with the principle of partnership that underpins the Act, principals are asked to encourage the involvement of parents in the education of their children.
The Act encourages principals to have due regard to the wishes of parents. However, another objective of the Act is to enhance the operation and management of schools, and to ensure schools are run in as effective a manner as possible, every principal must balance the wishes of individual parents with the needs of the school community when carrying out his or her functions.
The rules and programme for secondary schools do not specifically state that school authorities should use the results of in-school tests to determine the level of the examination which junior or leaving certificate students may sit for in the various subjects. However, it would be expected that schools would use the results of such tests, allied to the views of the relevant teachers, and taking due account of the wishes of parents in allocating teaching resources to best suit the needs and abilities of each student.
Junior and leaving certificate candidates, who are eligible to sit the examination, themselves make the choice of level at which a particular subject will be taken, normally on the advice of and on consultation with their subject teachers. They indicate this choice on a form, which is completed in the school, usually by 31 March of the year of the examination, and sent to the examinations branch of my Department. This practice means that the choice of level is not made by the candidate on the day of the examination, so that the danger of unwise decisions is avoided. However, in the event of a genuine mistake, the student may on the day of the examination, seek to change level and the examination superintendent, with the consent of the school authorities, will facilitate this change of mind.
The Education Act does not include a specific channel of complaint which may be followed by parents aggrieved by such decisions taken by a school. In such cases parents are advised that they should appeal the decision to the board of management of the school in question.
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