School principals have challenged the Government to reduce the red tape burden on principals and support school leadership in delivering strong education outcomes.
Seán Cottrell, director of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN), said principals are "spending hours form-filling and two-finger typing", and that the "gradual scrapping of in-school management posts" is jeopardising principals' ability to lead learning in schools.
"In other countries, resources to employ administrators are ring-fenced, making sure that principals can do what they are best at - focusing on the quality of teaching and learning," said Mr Cottrell, whose professional body represents primary school leaders.
In his keynote speech to the IPPN annual conference, Mr Cottrell urged the Government to prioritise funding for skilled administrators, to reinstate in-school management posts, and to allow at least one non-contact day per week for the leadership and management role of teaching principals.
"This is about getting the foundations right on which we can build an education system fit for the future," said Mr Cottrell.
He hit out at the Government for not granting teaching principals substitution cover to attend the conference, describing the move as "short-sighted".
"Cutting back on professional development while continuing to add extra responsibilities to the principal’s role is a dangerous game," he said.
Mr Cottrell paid tribute to school principals for their dedication in managing the learning of more than 500,000 children every week.
"As the leader of your school community, you have the greatest capacity of all to determine the direction and vision for your school - greater than the Minister, the board of management or the patron," he said.
Mr Cottrell urged the Government to avoid introducing further initiatives unless schools get the necessary capacity to manage their implementation.
"We must give principals the required administrative back-up so they can fulfil their primary function of leading the quality of learning. The Government must give them the resources to run their schools and harness their capacity to lead," said Mr Cottrell.
In his address to the conference, President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the many dedicated principals and teachers which "we are fortunate to have in this country".
These were people "who not only discharge their duties to a very high standard but who also become involved in a wide array of extra curricular activities for the benefit of their pupils.
"Without the dedication, commitment and generosity of our teachers many children would not be able to partake in sporting activities, choirs and drama productions, after-school clubs, local community work and so many other activities which can awaken undiscovered interests, build a spirit of teamwork and co-operation, and prepare children to become active participants in their communities and societies in later life."
It was his wish that teachers "be allowed to give their generous talents to these activities and that no bureaucratic requirement impedes their capacity to do so".