Programme of Action
The Programme for Action in Education 1984 to 1987 promoted the idea of a permanent and continuing education for all citizens and equal opportunities for educational advancement. It mentioned the possibility of positive discrimination in favour of persons who are educationally disadvantaged. The Programme emphasised the relevance of the educational process to work and participation in education by both sexes.
At post-primary levels, the Programme emphasised the need for curriculum reform and emphasis on the needs of lower achievers. It sought to initiate discussion of continuous assessment. It looked to new technologies and emphasised the needs of those who did not proceed to higher education. It proposed vocational education reform to make it more coordinated and cost-effective.
Draft Green Paper
The Programme had an impact on policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991, a draft Green Paper outlined proposals that might be reflected in an Education Act. It proposed devolved decision making, rights and responsibilities, and partnership of interested parties in education.
The Green Paper which followed emphasised
- equality of access,
- the relationship between education and enterprise culture,
- adaptation to changes in the environment, quality assurance and accountability and
- the requirements for greater transparency.
The paper proposed boards of management and mentioned the possibility of testing for seven and eleven year olds.
Education for a Changing World
The Green Paper- Education for a Changing World was published in 1992. Emphasising the need to embrace the enterprise culture, prepare students for the world of work, it criticised the lack of openness in the system and the unsuitability of the senior cycle assessment based on factual knowledge.
It mentioned the absence of technical, scientific and language skills. It proposed that boards and management would have responsibilities to maintain standards and take action if required. Schools should produce written statements of their aims and objectives and the means by which they would achieve them. Parents should be included in the school management process and have access to information on their child’s progress.
The paper referred to teacher promotion and recommended that appointments be open to competition. Teaching quality was to be primarily a matter for the principal, and the teacher should be given support to overcome difficulties.
The White Paper followed in 1995 after a change of government Charting Our Education Future. The paper set out five key principles:
- accountability for public funds/money.
- quality assessment procedures to evaluate educational effectiveness.
- equality so that participation shouldn’t be affected by mental, physical, economic or social factors
- pluralism so that policy should value and promote all measures of human development and seek to prepare people for full participation in cultural, social and economic life.
- partnership so that the student is at the centre of educational progress and the other participants, such as patrons, parents, management bodies, teachers and communities are recognised as having a legitimate interest.
It recommended that the curriculum should continue to be based on a broad, general education. It recognised that the Leaving Certificate did not cater adequately for the needs and abilities of all students and stated that there was a need to provide a program for the holistic development of all students to empower them to shape the social and economic future of society.
The White Paper emphasised career development for teachers and staff development initiatives. It emphasised the need for teachers to be able to adapt to changing society. It proposed in-service training on a wider scale.
It recommended that schools should promote partnership with interested parties and that a representative board of management be established. Its functions would include
- dealing with staff and student needs,
- implementation of the school plan and
- procedures to give parental access.
The White Paper was followed by the Education Act, 1998 which reflected many of the principles mentioned in it. (See the separate section on that legislation).
The 1992 Green Paper had mentioned the establishment of a Teaching Council and this was supported by the National Educational Convention. The Teaching Council Act, 2002 established the body and requires all qualified teachers to be registered.
The Education Bill 1997 proposed the establishment of Education Boards. It proposed to give the Board of Management status to a body corporate. There was significant opposition to the bill from the main the denominational school authorities. A general election followed in 1997 and the 1998 bill which became the 1998 Act ultimately changed some important features of the earlier bill
Education Act 1998
The plans for decentralisation were omitted. Boards of Management were not mandatory. Certain bodies were established to provide support systems for education. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment was established.
Prior to the 1998 Act the variation of existing trusts which governed Catholic schools were agreed between the state and the Catholic Church in respect of primary schools. This variation provided that the ethos of the school was recognised. This was effectively part of the process of negotiation towards acceptance of the Education Act.
The Minister must have regard to the right of schools to manage their own affairs in accordance with the Act, charters, deeds, articles of management and other instruments relating to their establishment and operation.
The patron is the entity recognised as such. This may be a diocesan Bishop, the Board of the company if any , Board of Governors, trustees (comprehensive and community schools), Minister in the case of model schools, VEC, the owner of private schools or governors. In the case of gaelscoileanna it may be the bishop of the diocese or Foras Patrunachta na Scoileann Lan-Ghaelige . An application can be made to alter the status of a school from one to another.