2.5.1. Structure of the Ministry and Department of Education

The functions of the Department of Education continue to be:

  • to provide for the education and training needs of children and people in the education system in accordance with government policy and programmes;
  • to formulate plans and programmes for the implementation of education policies and programmes and to ensure cost-effective and efficient implementation of such policies;
  • to continually review education policy;
  • to ensure appropriate participation by various interested parties in the development and implementation of education policies and programmes;
  • to ensure the continual provision of quality education and training in accordance with prescribed rules and regulations;
  • to disburse financial resources for capital and current expenditure on education in accordance with government policy;
  • to disburse allocated financial resources for adult, youth and sport activities outside mainstream education.

Along with the above functions the Department of Education and Science exercises a detailed control function particularly in budgetary matters with the vocational sector. The Department also has an overview function in relation to certain third level institutions and is directly responsible for negotiating overall funding levels for designated institutions under the Higher Education Authority.

In addition to its work in relation to Vocational Education Committees and the Higher Education Authority, the Department of Education liaises continually with a huge variety of other organisations including managerial organisations at primary and secondary levels, associations of school head teachers or principals, three major teacher unions and a fourth dealing with third level, parents’ organisations, church bodies and others.

The day-to-day work is carried out by the administrative staff while the formulation and execution of policy is the responsibility of those in the higher level appointments.

The Minister and principal officers are located in Dublin. The Primary Branch (including Administration, Primary teachers’ salaries and pensions, registration) second level teachers (appointments, salaries, pensions and registration), Special Education, Examinations Branch, which administer all second level state examinations are located in Athlone in the geographical centre of Ireland.

The Chief Inspector is the head of the Inspectorate and is assisted by Deputy Chief Inspectors responsible for primary and second level schools inspectorates. The Assistant Chief Inspectors organise the delegation, monitoring and communication of the work of the inspectors throughout the country. Reporting is directly to the centre or, in the case of primary, through intermediate stages in the inspector’s own line system. The Inspectorate has four operationally independent sections with the Chief Inspector as the sole co-ordinating authority under the Secretary and the Minister:

  • Primary (first level and special education)
  • Post-Primary (second level comprising secondary and vocational education)
  • Psychological Services (mainly for second level at present)
  • In-Career Development Unit (ICDU) for first level and second level

The post-primary Inspectorate has some limited responsibilities for the Regional Technical Colleges and Colleges of Technology.

2.5.1.3. General administration at national level of secondary education

The four types of second level schools – secondary , vocational, comprehensive and community – are centrally administered from the Department of Education . As a rule there are separate sections in the Department and separate officials who deal with the general administration. The Department of Education gives recognition to secondary schools, sanctions secondary buildings and extensions, registers the full-time teaching staff, allocates numbers of teachers to individual schools on the basis of the pupil teacher ratio and sanctions appointments, controls redeployment panels of the teachers, pays teachers’ salaries, pensions and school grants, decides curriculum related to public examinations, controls the allocation of timetables in the school week, provides a guidance service and a schools psychological service, a home-school liaison scheme. School timetables of the annual pupil attendance rolls and the monthly teacher attendance records must be submitted to the Department of Education. In the course of its general administration at national level the Department of Education constantly interacts with the main representative bodies of the four types of second level schools. The legislation relevant to secondary schooling in Ireland is in the School Attendance Act 1926 and its amendments, the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act 1878 and the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act 1924. The Vocational Education Act 1930 provides for technical and continuity education.

Recognised second level schools must conform to the Department of Education’s requirements in regard to educational standards and the general standard of the curriculum.

The Secondary Branch of the Department of Education functions through three areas: teacher personnel, finance and general administration, and the examinations branch.

The personnel section deals with almost 14,000 teachers in voluntary secondary schools, the 3,289 teachers in comprehensive and community schools, the payment of eligible substitutes and part-time teachers, the registration of teachers and the redeployment of teachers in the voluntary secondary schools.

The financial and administration section is concerned with capitation and other grants for most secondary schools, with the funding of the education and training schemes of the 38 Vocational Education Committees and other funding, with the funding of the 77 comprehensive and community schools, with higher education grants and scholarships – although this last is currently being redesigned.

The Examinations Branch which is located in Athlone, the geographic centre of Ireland, organises all that concerns the State examinations in secondary schools. This task included the appointment of a total of 9,000 examiners and superintendents. In 1995, there were 4,410 public examination centre to which 4,424 superintendents were appointed. There were 5,399 examiners for all Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Examinations, of which 1,262 were Oral Examiners in the Leaving Certificate Examinations

2.9.1. Educational Guidance in the pre-schools

There is no national provision for pre-schooling. Since 1996 the 39 Early Start pre-school projects have available the services of health board personnel including psychologists where necessary. In June 1997 the Fianna Fail – Progressive Democrat government announced the setting up of a national psychological service which will have implications for all age-groups in education. In July 1997 the new Minister for Education established a planning group to identify the existing policy framework for a background to psychological services for children and young people. Since 1965 there has been a small Psychological Services unit within the Department of Education and Science. The intention now is to provide a comprehensive Schools Psychological Service. The planning group and a Technical Working Party are charged with establishing the nature and extent of the Schools Psychological Service. It is expected that the Service would provide for the needs of all children and young people including those with special needs and disabilities, early school leavers. It is estimated that at present Ireland falls short of all other EU countries in the provision of psychological support services. School guidance counsellors have expressed the need for a better provision to support their work with children and young people in schools.

7.3.1.2. Other Adult Training

National Training and Development Institute (NTDI)

The NTDI, founded in 1949, is the largest non-government training organisation in Ireland with some 40 training centres in 1996 under the umbrella body, Rehab Group.

Entry requirements are flexible; there are no fees and individual competencies are catered for in a wide variety of education and training programmes. Applicants must be sixteen years of age, be eligible under European Social Fund (ESF) and be approved by the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB). Students receive a training allowance and may retain their statutory social welfare benefits.

Courses range from a three months vocational assessment module, a community-based Fresh Start programme or higher level training. The introductory programme or level one leads to the level two and level three certification programmes. From there students may go to employment or higher education. To-date 17,000 people have been trained and placed in employment by NTDI. IN 1996 NTDI catered for over 1,500 students. The purpose of NTDI is to deliver high quality flexible and responsive training, education and employment access, programmes leading to recognised qualifications and job opportunities.

Some programmes are based in NTDI centres, others are on -the-job or through Distance Education. About 450 qualified personnel are involved in delivering the programmes. The personnel include teachers, trainers, curriculum development officers, psychologists and counsellors.

Many bodies are involved in validating NTDI programmes and there is a wide variety of certification available including

Department of Education

CERT (The National Tourism Training Agency)

The Institute of Accounts Technicians of Ireland

TEAGASC (The National Agriculture and Food Development Authority)

City and Guilds of London

NRTC (National Retail Training Council, UK)

The National Bakery School of Ireland

Pitman Examining Institute

FAS (The National Training and Employment Authority)

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

FAS/CERT/TEAGASC (Integrated Assessment) (IAS)

National Council for Vocational Awards (NCVA)

Irish Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management

University of Cambridge

Telecom Eireann

Royal Horticultural Society

NCFE(National Council for Further Education UK)

FAS/City and Guilds Certification Agreement

Shorthand and Commercial Examination Institutes

A specialised Preparation for University and College Course (PUCC) is available at Roslyn Park, Dublin, to prepare people with special needs for third level education.

The National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) is the Government body which provides education and training services to people with disabilities. NRB helps to create public awareness of disability issues and advises the Minister for Health, public authorities and various organisations providing services to people with varying disabilities. NRB services include vocational guidance, training, education and employment, testing and support for hearing disability. A Disability Resource Centre is available. Supported by the ESF and the training of trainers’ programme, the NRB co-ordinates training programmes and conducts and commissions research. NRB aims to enable people with disability “to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential”. To this end the NNRB promotes national and local recognition of rights and equality of opportunity for people with disability.

NRB works closely with FAS, CERT, the VECs, TEAGASC, AHEAD (the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) and the NTDI (the National Training and Development Institute) in providing specialised training and education courses funded by the EU and the Irish Government through the Department of Health and the Health Boards. R056

8.4.3. Second Level

In-career development for post-primary teachers is mainly organised by the ICDU, by subject-associations, Education Centres and third-level educational institutions. They are financed by the Department in whole or in part and monitored by the Department’s Inspectorate and the Psychological Service. Attendance is voluntary and there is no leave allowance. Personal expenses are allowed.

Courses range from one-day seminars to courses of up to four weeks’ duration. A typical arrangement for most subject areas would be a week-long summer course and three weekend courses during the first term of the school year in different regions of the country. Courses are held outside of school hours except where the ICDU (since 1994) has enable teachers to attend during school term.

In March 1994 the Department of Education received a report it had commissioned through the Association of Teachers’ Centres in Ireland on the in-career development needs of teachers – as perceived by the teachers. The in-career needs as prioritised by teachers were: teachers’ own subjects, new school programmes, classroom management/teaching methods, personal and professional teacher needs, dealing with change, pupil needs, skills for roles. The Report detailed each of these seven areas of priority as perceived by different age-groups in the teaching profession. In addition, the Report presented the in-career needs as perceived by chief executives in the Vocational Education Sector, by Inspectors of the Department of Education, and by school Principals or Head Teachers. The ICDU carefully monitors in-service courses since 1994 to ensure quality and appropriateness.

11.8.2. The European Dimension at Second Level

In 1988 an attitudinal survey of teachers and school-leavers revealed that 97% of teachers wanted to include a European dimension in the second level curriculum. Two-thirds of the school-leavers said they would like to have learned more about the European Community while at school. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is committed to the European Dimension in the second level curriculum. An increasing number of schools are actively involved in the work of the European School’s Day. In addition, a growing number of schools and local communities have developed twinning associations with parallel schools and local communities in other Member States. In May 1997 the Europe at School competition under the patronage of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the European Cultural Foundation and the Commission of European Communities was launched. The Linguistics Institute of Ireland (Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Eireann, ITE) was established in 1972 as the national centre for research on state language policies. The government White Paper 1995 reiterated the Irish commitment to the European dimension in education at all levels. A senior staff member of ITE is currently on secondment to the Council of Europe, completing the “Common European Framework of Reference for Language Learning and Teaching”. The Taskforce on Human Resources, Education, Training and Youth of the EU awarded ITE a research grant to begin a comprehensive assessment of the various language survey methodologies currently in use in Europe. The first phase of this project was completed in 1994. Projects for completion by the end of 1997 and begun in 1993 include: sociology of language; psycholinguistics, structural linguistics and modern languages. The Association of Language Teachers in Europe (ALTE) of which ITE is a member continues its work on the standardisation of language testing in Ireland. As part of SOCRATES/LINGUA, ITE is working with the Department of Modern Irish at University College Dublin on the teaching of foreign languages in future years. The EU is spending more than 3 million ECU in the next few years on the PAROLE project. The aim of this project is to produce standardised electronic resources for thirteen of its languages, including Irish., The language assistant scheme under SOCRATES and LEONARDO (since 1995) is organised through ITE. It has enabled assistants from Ireland to work for three to six months in eleven Member States. Assistants from thirteen Member States have worked in Irish schools to date. Schools see this service as vital in language learning.