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‘Poor performance, interpersonal problems’: Schools with ‘serious weaknesses’ identified by department

Seven primary schools, three secondary and two special schools are being assisted by a ‘school improvement group’

A dozen schools have been identified by the Department of Education as having “serious weaknesses” that are impacting on teaching and learning.

The seven primary schools, three secondary and two special schools were flagged because of issues such as poor performance, interpersonal problems and failure to implement recommendations.

They are being assisted by a “school improvement group” in the Department of Education, including senior officials and members of its inspectorate.

A spokesman for the department said: “Its function is to engage directly with school leaders, including the board of management and patron, in schools where there are concerns about the operation of the school and its impact on learning.”


The department says it maintains “discretion and confidentiality” in relation to the monitoring and improvement work at the schools.

One of the schools understood to be in receipt of support has been at the centre of what inspectors described as serious communication and working relationship issues that affected leadership, management and supports for pupils.

In such cases, external support or mediation is often provided to address underlying issues affecting school performance.

Separately, department officials are examining 21 cases of enrolment or financial irregularities involving schools.

Resources such as grants and staffing allocations provided to schools are based on student numbers collected in September.

As part of the national school census in September 2021, more than 99 per cent of pupils had their details validated against data held by other Government departments such as child benefit.

A spokesman for the department confirmed that it is examining 21 cases involving allegations relating to financial and enrolment irregularities.

“The department’s policy is to report all misappropriation of resources to An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Recoupment arrangements are in place for about 10 schools and the remaining cases are being considered by the department. In some cases, investigations have not been completed.

Schools have a responsibility to immediately notify the department of any error or irregularity in their enrolment returns.

The department identifies fraud as cases where there has been a deliberate attempt to knowingly defraud or misappropriate resources.

In relation to enrolment fraud, cases most commonly tend to involve small schools that inflate their enrolments to keep a teacher that may be redeployed due to falling student numbers. Principals, in these instances, typically do not benefit personally from the fraud.

In relation to possible enrolment irregularity, it is the policy of the department to engage with the school management and patrons to ensure that an investigation is undertaken at school level and that matters are referred to the Garda, where appropriate.

The courts have tended to be more lenient in the case of principals involved in enrolment fraud compared with those that have misappropriated money for personal gain.

In recent years, for example, a former principal that furnished false information to get more than €200,000 in grants for her school was given a one-year suspended sentence and barred from applying for a promotional post for 10 years.

By contrast, a former principal that stole just over €200,000 from his school for golf equipment and weekends away was given a 15-month jail sentence.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent