Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level
Many aspects of the administration of the Irish education system are centralised in the Department of Education and Skills (DES), under the direction of the Minister for Education and Skills. This has been so since the establishment of the Department of Education in 1924, following political independence.
The DES, inter alia, sets the general regulations for the recognition of schools, approves the curriculum developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, establishes regulations for management, resourcing and staffing of schools, negotiates teachers’ salary scales and conditions, and, on the advice of the Teaching Council of Ireland, stipulates the conditions governing qualifications of teachers. The Department approves staffing numbers in schools, and education and training boards. The Department stipulates a staffing and budgetary framework for Further and Higher Education and Training, which is co-ordinated through SOLAS and the Higher Education Authority respectively. While these functions are centralised, they are the subject of extensive engagement by the Department with stakeholders in formulating policies and approaches.
A system of rules and regulations has developed over the years. Through this system, educational resources are allocated. Circular letters and ministerial statements are regular means of interacting with schools and educational bodies. Under the Public Service Management Act, 1997, the Secretary is now called the Secretary-General of the Department. The Freedom of Information Act, 1997 was designed to promote openness and transparency in the public service. Detailed statements of the functioning of various governmental departments, of the kinds of information held by them and of new appeals systems have followed from this Act, which became law in April 1997.
While the civil servants of the Department of Education and Skills are fairly constant, a new Minister for Education and Skills is usually appointed by each successive government. The day-to-day work of the Department is carried out by the administrative staff under the direction of the Secretary General. The main functions of the Department include:
Advising the Minister on policy based on sound analysis of available data and extensive engagement with stakeholders;
Engagement with stakeholders through their national representative structures –parents councils, school management bodies, teacher unions, employers, social partners, community organisations, learners, institutional associations, special education organisations, subject organisations, other Government Departments, EU/OECD/UNESCO etc.;
Delineation, co-ordination and implementation of policy approved by the Minister;
Approval of the curriculum developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in early learning, primary and post primary settings;
Recognition and funding of schools, the Higher Education Authority and Solas, and other educational organisations, payment of teachers and certain other staff, except where an intermediate or co-ordinating tier exists;
Negotiating pay and conditions of educational staff;
Provision of services for those with special educational needs, through the work of the National Council for Special Education;
Inspection, quality assurance and professional development;
Data gathering and engagement in research;
International relations and the internationalisation of education.
The Department head office is in Dublin. It also has offices in Athlone and Tullamore. The Athlone Office handles teacher payroll, teacher allocation, school and Education and Training Board funding, teacher professional development, special education and social inclusion issues. The Department's Office in Tullamore houses the higher education student support unit, and the Building and Planning Unit.
The Department's Organisation Chart sets out the functions of the Department spread across 10 divisions (nine functional areas each under an Assistant Secretary, and an Inspectorate, under the Direction of the Chief Inspector). All divisions report to the Secretary General. A Management Advisory Board, chaired by the Secretary General, and attended by all Assistant Secretaries and the Chief Inspector, ensures an integrated co-ordinated approach. The Ministers and Ministers of State participate in these meetings as needed.
In addition to the education offices in Dublin, Athlone and Tullamore, the Department has nine regional offices throughout the country which include inspection and educational psychological staff.
The principal agencies working under the aegis of the Department include:
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment advises on and develops the curriculum in primary and second level schools, and in early childhood education settings.
|The National Council for Special Education advises on policy and educational provision for persons with special educational needs, with a particular emphasis on children.|
The State Examinations Commission is responsible for operating the Junior Certificate at the end of lower second level education, and the Leaving Certificate at the end of upper second level education.
SOLAS is responsible for policy, co-ordination and funding of programmes of Further Education and Training which are delivered mainly through 16 regional Education and Training Boards.
The Higher Education Authority is responsible for policy, co-ordination and funding of higher education institutions.
Quality and Qualifications Ireland is responsible for maintaining the national framework of qualifications covering all awards in the State across the education and training sector. It is also the external quality assurance agency for further and higher education and training, and is responsible for developing an International Education Mark and code of practice for institutions catering for international learners from outside the EU/EEA.
Education in general is not organised on a regional basis in Ireland. At third level, the Institutes of Technology are regionally based and have both a regional and national focus. Under the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, higher education institutions have formed regional clusters to ensure better collaboration and co-ordination in response to regional needs, and to engage in closer collaboration with employers and further education and training providers.
Nine Regional Skills Fora have been established to co-ordinate an integrated approach across further and higher education and training in meeting skill needs, and in engaging with employers and employment services. These have the task of developing regional action plans for jobs. The regional fora include the education and training boards and higher education institutions in each region.
The only legally constituted local administration of post-primary education in Ireland is for the 265 vocational schools and colleges administered by the Vocational Education Committees under the Vocational Education Act, 1930. With ESF support, the VECs also developed a comprehensive range of vocational education and training programmes, beginning in the mid-1980s. Under the Education and Training Boards Act 2013, the VECs were abolished and replaced by 16 regional Education and Training Boards(ETBs). These assumed responsibility for provision of post primary education operated by vocational schools, and further education and vocational training, including VET services hitherto operated by FAS, the national training authority. The work of the ETBs is co-ordinated at a national level by Solas, the Further Education Authority.
All other post primary schools, and all primary schools are locally owned and managed, and have no regional or local structure. Each school is managed by a management board representative of trustees, parents, teachers and the local community. However, they operate to a policy, funding, curriculum, and staffing framework approved by the Department of Education and Skills.
In Ireland, there are 31 Local Authorities responsible for community, housing, road, fire, parks, planning, environmental, culture, heritage and library services services. Their remit does not include education and training.