Schools struggling to recruit busy parents to boards of management

Department may create ‘federal boards’ to be responsible for number of schools

The Irish education system is highly unusual in its reliance on voluntary work to support schools. Photograph: Getty Images

The Irish education system is highly unusual in its reliance on voluntary work to support schools. Photograph: Getty Images

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Schools are struggling to recruit time-pressed parents and members of the community to serve in a voluntary basis on school boards.

The move has prompted the Department of Education to consider establishing “federal boards” which would be responsible for a number of schools in a parish or locality.

The Irish education system is highly unusual in its reliance on voluntary work to support schools.

However, internal Department of Education records show there are concerns over the lack of management capacity within small schools.

And the increasingly complex responsibilities placed on school boards in areas such as child protection or employment law are posing a particular challenge for smaller schools.

Potential alternative

While records state that a reduction in the number of small schools through amalgamation would help, a potential alternative is the creation of federal boards to help strengthen governance.

“The manner in which local communities wish to maintain the status quo should not be underestimated in trying to deliver on such a change which, logically, should be perceived as less threatening than school closures or mergers,” says the briefing material, prepared for Minister for Education Joe McHugh.

Records also note the Irish education system stands apart from other developed countries due to the “virtual absence” of a middle or local tier of government between schools and central government.

“It is questionable whether it is feasible to continue to maintain the system and enhance quality without providing for better local or regional management structures . . .” records state.

Critical of delays

The records also show the department is planning to appeal a recent High Court ruling which was highly critical of delays facing students waiting for the results of the Leaving Cert appeals.

Rebecca Carter won her case in which she argued she was unfairly forced to wait a year to take up her place in veterinary medicine in UCD due to these delays.

Mr McHugh and the State Examinations Commission have pledged to accelerate the completion of the appeals process from next year so students can take up their courses without delay.

However, the department has confirmed it will appeal “certain broad constitutional and legal issues” raised by the judgment and findings relating to aspects of the examinations system.

A spokesman said these appeals will not affect Ms Carter.

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