038. Reduce the number of stakeholders in primary education

Have you ever wondered what happens when the Department of Education has a meeting with all education partners? I always did and wondered what it would look like. When I was invited to represent a body regarding a new Department of Education initiative, I could see exactly why the education system is so messy.

I went into the Department of Education and found myself as one of over 32 “partners.”

Every patron body was represented from the religious ones to two Gaeilge ones to Educate Together to the ETB. There were two parent bodies. There was representation from the INTO and the IPPN (as well as a load of second level organisations I can’t remember the names of) and then there were other groups I can’t possibly put a name to. 

Every single body had their own personal agenda and were looking for their slice of the pie, whether that was financial or some other gain, however intangible. The whole day was a complete mess because there were far too many people there and it’s impossible to make any decisions with such a large number of people in a room.

And really, there’s no need for most of them.

All patron bodies could be taken out of the equation because we shouldn’t have a patronage system. I don’t see any reason for unions to be there because they need to be there once decisions are made and decide whether or not to block them. It becomes problematic for unions when their bodies are part of the (very limited) decision making team. In fact, there was very little need for any of these bodies to be there. 

It got me thinking that even outside of these meetings, we have a ridiculous amount of interest groups involved in primary education and we need to cut them down. There is so much alphabet soup, it is hard to know where to begin. However, I will try and cull as many as I can think of in this post.

If you think I am too harsh, please save them. If I’ve missed any, please add them. Right, let’s go:

All Patron Bodies

This ties in with my general feeling about our education system. We only need one primary education system and patron bodies just create divisions between ethnic groups and interest groups. We need to decide on one common system that is state funded.


I’d scrap this completely and take whatever is needed in it into the main DES. About 99% of it isn’t worth saving.


The ICT branch of the PDST. They just need to join up with the PDST and lose their TiE (see what I did there?) with them.


Needs to become part of the PDST. After the debacle of the Primary Language Curriculum and ERBE, they don’t really deserve to be a separate entity.

All Religious Management Bodies

See above re patronage


Maybe it should replace the NCSE or maybe it should become part of something else. I’m on the fence with this because I know Special Education is constantly being targeted. However, I haven’t seen a huge amount of evidence of their impact to oppose this, most likely through no fault of their own.

Teaching Council (sort of)

Oddly enough, I wouldn’t scrap the Teaching Council. I would, however, tear it apart and start it again. I think it is important that we have a self-regulating body independent from the government. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near where it needs to be and it lost its direction a long time ago.

All Second Level Entities

I’m not saying they should be disbanded. They shouldn’t have any say in anything relating to primary education. Primary and secondary level are two different beasts that have little to do with each other. Currently it’s like if Doctors’ and Nurses’ bodies came together to make decisions about health. It should only happen when it’s absolutely necessary but it shouldn’t be the norm.

I know I’ve left quite a few bodies out so feel free to add them or defend some of my victims.

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