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Czech Public Defender of Rights issues recommendations for primary school enrollments

15.1.2016 20:23
Anna Šabatová on the program
Anna Šabatová on the program "Questions with Václav Moravec"", 23 February 2014 (Photo: Czech Television)

Today first-grade enrollments began in the Czech Republic. Children who will turn six during 2016 are those affected.

The Public Defender of Rights, Anna Šabatová, has published a set of recommendations on the website of her office that parents enrolling their children and the principals of primary schools should follow. In her view, if parents and principals follow the recommendations, they might be able to avoid unnecessarily stressful situations during enrollment or even eventual disputes.

The recommendations to principals will aid them with resolving unclear situations in a way that does not discriminate and is in accordance with the Schools Act. The recommendations were also sent to the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport with the suggestion that the ministry issue an implementing regulation setting forth the conditions for registering children for their compulsory school attendance.

The form of first-grade registration is in the process of being set by the ministry in response to the fact that in the past registration has been a mere formality at some schools, while at others it has been reminiscent of an admissions procedure; in 2014 the ministry issued non-binding recommendations as to how registration should proceed. The ministry also published 10 recommendations for the parents of pre-school age children on what a first-grader should be able to cope with.

Public Defender of Rights - Recommendations for parents of future first-graders

1) Find out from the school the criteria according to which the principal will decide to enroll children during registration. If you don't understand something, immediately contact the local government (the establisher) or the school.

2) You have the right for your child and both parents to be present during registration, but you are not obliged to bring the child.

3) You do not have to subject your child to any testing.

4) Give only such information to the school as is essential to their decision. The school cannot require you provide information about the child's citizenship or your own education or profession.

5) Are more children from your catchment area enrolling into the same school than it has capacity for? Any school can give priority to some children ahead of others provided that it uses rational criteria. In case of overenrollment, you can request that your child be accepted by another school that will be able to guarantee your child priority acceptance.

6) If a child's permanent residence is within the school district, that child cannot be rejected in favor of a child whose permanent residence is outside it.

7) Do not intentionally change the location of your child's permanent residence prior to enrollment. You will paralyze the schools by doing this, because they will not be able to cope with the capacity problem.

8) The order in which applications for enrollment are submitted to the school is not determinative of your child's enrollment. The first application submitted is of the same value as the last.

9) In cases of insufficient school capacity, a lottery may be a harsh way to resolve enrollment, but it is the fairest. Do not reject participation in such a lottery, but do demand that it be transparent.

10) Do not let yourself be verbally deterred from registering your child. The school has the obligation to aid you with submitting your request and also is obliged, should it not accept your child, to issue a written decision that includes the justification for not enrolling your child.

11) If you do not agree with the school's decision not to accept your child, then appeal to the Regional Authority.

12) If you do not like school policy in the community where you live (e.g., the schools are of varying quality, or the school districts are drawn unfairly, or there are long lines for registration), then communicate with your local council about it.

Public Defender of Rights - Recommendations for school principals

1) Prior to registration, ask your establisher for a list of children in the catchment area if you haven't yet received it.

2) Proceed openly during registration. Create an atmosphere that is fair and friendly.

3) Organize registration so that undignified lines are not created either in front of the school or inside it.

4) Inform parents in advance of the criteria according to which you will decide to enroll children.

5) Verify whether an authorized person is acting on behalf of the child during registration.

6) Never reject someone verbally. Aid parents with completing applications for enrollment. That is the task with which the law has entrusted you.

7) Never accept a child from outside the district to the detriment of one from inside the district. To do so is a violation of the Schools Act.

8) If the number of children registering from the catchment area exceeds the capacity of the school, you can give priority to some of them according to criteria you have established in advance. Communicate with the establisher and with other schools so that such a situation does not repeat in future.

9) Some criteria for giving priority to certain children (e.g., those who postponed their school attendance, those who have an older sibling at the school, those who attended a nursery school at the primary school) may be lawful. Everything depends on the specific situation of the child and the school.

10) Do not condition your acceptance of a child on the result of a test for school readiness. Registration is not an entrance examination.

11) When making your decision, avoid suspicious criteria (e.g., results of tests for school readiness, membership in a sports club collaborating with the school, the order in which applications were received, the distance of the child's residence from the school, whether a child's sibling gets along well with others or not).

12) If it is not possible to choose children according to legally permissible criteria, then hold a lottery. What is at stake is a fair solution to the problem.

13) When you reject a child for enrollment, issue a written decision that is properly justified and properly delivered to the child's legal representative. 

jal, Czech Public Defender of Rights, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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