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Parenting & Education in Ireland

Types of Primary School

National Schools/Primary Schools

    The national school system was established in 1831. The national schools were originally meant to be mixed religion or multi-denominational as we would describe them today. In practice, that did not happen and virtually all national schools are under the management of one church.

    There was no legislation governing how they were to be run. Circulars and rules issued from the relevant department instead. The Rules for National Schoolsreflect the fact that they are largely denominational schools.

    The Education Act, 1998 does not use the term "national school" and instead uses "primary" school. The name is not particularly significant except that national school clearly denotes that the school is state aided while a primary school can be private or state aided. Most relevant schools actually describe themselves as "national" schools. The following initials are frequently used to describe schools

    NS - National School

    GNS - Girls National School

    BNS - Boys National School

    SN - Scoil Naisiunta (appears before the name rather than after it)

    Some schools use the Irish form of their name but that does not necessarily mean that they teach through the medium of Irish. Gaelscoileanna are national schools that do teach through Irish and they usually, but not invariably, include Gaelscoil in their title.

    Multi-denominational schools sometimes include that description in their title.

    Some national schools are run by religious orders - they are sometimes called convent or monasteryschools. They operate under the same rules as other national schools except for some special rules relating to the appointment of principals and the choice of teacher representatives on the Board of Management.

    There is a number of special schools - including residential care units and schools for children with disabilities, young offenders, children at risk, children with specific learning disabilities and emotionally disturbed children.

    Private Primary Schools

    Private primary schools receive no state support nor are they subject to state control in relation to curriculum, school day, school year, etc. There is a limited element of state assessment of private schools because of the requirement that the state ensure that children receive a certain minimum education.

    Teachers in private primary schools are not paid by the state and there are no requirements about their qualifications.

    Many private primary schools do provide the basic curriculum as set out for national schools but they are not obliged to do so.

    Choosing a School

    Parents have a constitutional right to choose the kind of school to which they want to send their children and have a right to educate them at home if they wish.

    There is no absolute requirement on schools to admit any particular student. Schools are required to publish their admissions policy.

    Schools are subject to equal status legislation and to the constitutional requirements on religion.

    Admissions Policy

    All national schools are obliged to publish a school plan that describes their ethos, admissions policy and objectives.

    The admissions policy of most national schools is fairly straightforward - they give priority to children from their local area, which, for denominational schools, is usually the local parish. Admissions problems can arise in expanding areas where the school cannot cope with extra numbers. Schools run by the minority religions usually give priority to their co-religionists. The admissions policy for multi-denominational schools and gaelscoileanna is decided by each school.

    When choosing a primary school, parents may also need to know about the admissions policies of secondary schools. Some secondary schools give priority to the students from certain primary schools.

    Source and copyright Irish Government Website, Oasis