ETBs as Patrons

Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are currently patrons of  252 Community Colleges and 27 Community National Schools. ETBs are also the largest provider of education through the medium of Irish with 47 of the ETB post-primary schools being either Gaelcholáistí or Coláistí and with one Scoil Ghaeltachta at primary level. In 1998, ETBs were automatically deemed ‘patrons’ of the schools they managed for the purposes of the Education Act. This Act outlines the role of the patron as the body that establishes the school. The patron also appoints the Board of Management of the school and determines the ethos or characteristic spirit of the school.  ETBs have a long-established history of providing high quality and inclusive education opportunities for the communities they serve. In many communities, schools under the patronage of ETBs have become the school of choice and are known for their academic excellence, while at the same time maintaining an ethic of care and respect for all students.  

ETB Ethos and Core Values

ETB schools are state, co-educational, multidenominational schools underpinned by the core values of:

  • Excellence in Education;  
  • Care;  
  • Equality;  
  • Community and   
  • Respect.  

As the state provider of education, the ETB sector defines a ‘multidenominational’ school in the following way:  

In ETB schools, all students are given equal opportunities for enrolment in line with the Education (Admissions to School) Act 2018.  Once enrolled, our schools strive to provide all students with equal opportunities to engage with the curriculum and school life. In all aspects of school life all members of our school communities are treated equitably regardless of their race, gender, religion/belief, age, family status, civil status, membership of the Traveller community, sexual orientation, ability or socio-economic status.  

Our schools provide a safe physical and social environment that reinforces a sense of belonging to the school community and wider society. They strive to enable every student to realise their full potential regardless of any aspect of their identity or background. Our schools promote a fully inclusive education that recognises the plurality of identities, beliefs and values held by students, parents and staff. We prepare open-minded, culturally sensitive and responsible citizens with a strong sense of shared values.  

In ETB schools, students of all religions and beliefs are treated equally.  The school environment and activities do not privilege any particular group over another whilst at the same time acknowledging and facilitating students of all religions and beliefs.  

Background on ETB Ethos and Core Values

The ETB sector began looking specifically at issues relating to core values and characteristic spirit in 2011 with a series of John Marcus O’Sullivan conferences. As a result of these conferences, the sector commissioned the University of Limerick (UL) to undertake a piece of research across 18 ETB post-primary schools in six ETBs in order to ascertain current understandings of characteristic spirit and the place of religion and beliefs in ETB schools. The main findings from this research were that although values such as equality, respect and care were evident throughout the schools, there was little coherence within or between schools in understandings of their overall characteristic spirit of the school or sector (McCormack et al., 2018; O’Flaherty, Liddy and McCormack, 2018; McCormack and O’Flaherty 2019; Liddy and McCormack, 2018). This led to in ETBI being mandated to carry out a Core Values Review across all 16 ETBs. This review took place throughout 2018. The key findings of the review are set out in a report compiled by ETBI. The findings from the Core Values Review confirm that ETB schools are, in the main, thriving in the areas they serve. There is ample evidence of excellent practices across the sector in relation to core values and living out the ‘multidenominational’ aspect of the characteristic spirit. However, there is not a common understanding amongst our senior leaders of what the ethos of an ETB is or should be. 

As a result of the Core Values Review process, the following statement can be used to describe the core values of ETB schools. ETB schools are state, co-educational, multidenominational schools underpinned by the core values of Excellence in Education, Care, Equality, Community and Respect. 

Supporting ETB Schools with Ethos and Core Values

To support ETB schools with ethos and core values, Education and Training Boards Ireland, in conjunction with relevant ETB forums and networks, is currently working on a number of initiatives including:

ETBI, is currently developing an ETBI ‘Patrons Framework on the Ethos of ETB Schools’. The Framework is being developed around the following statement:

ETB schools are state, co-educational, multi-denominational schools underpinned by the core values of – excellence in education; care; equality; community and respect.

The purpose of this Framework is to:

  • Define what is meant by each of the core values underpinning the ethos of ETB schools
  • Outline statements of effective practice underpinning each of the core values
  • Provide schools with tools and templates required to carry out a self-evaluation process on their ethos

The Framework has been informed by:

  • Research carried out by the University of Limerick (UL)
  • A sector-wide Core Values Review Process
  • Numerous consultation events with the sector
  • Relevant national policies

Next Steps:

Each ETB has appointed an Ethos Coordinator who, in conjunction with the Director of Schools, has responsibility for the implementation of the Patrons’ Framework across ETB schools. The Framework will inform BoMs and school staff about how the ethos of an ETB school can be lived out.

The Goodness Me, Goodness You! Curriculum for junior infants – 6th class was launched in 2018 in the Department of Education and Skills. Since then, CNSs have been trialling this new patrons’ curriculum in their schools.

To support Community National Schools with teaching and learning of Goodness Me Goodness You! (GMGY), Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), in conjunction with the GMGY Coordinators’ and CNS Principals’ Network Groups, have developed Phase 1 of an Implementation Plan for the curriculum.

The aims of this implementation plan are to:

  • increase schools’ appreciation of the patron’s curriculum as a discrete curricular area as well as an essential element informing and supporting the multi-denominational ethos of Community National Schools
  • begin to develop schools’ understanding of the vision and aims of the curriculum, elements and outcomes of each strand as well as relevant methodologies and pedagogies underpinning teaching and learning in GMGY
  • build schools’ confidence and competence to collaboratively plan for and teach the curriculum through discrete GMGY lessons as well as integrate GMGY into other curricular areas, as well as across the school environment, and reflect on learning from their practice

The ETB Patrons’ Curriculum for Junior Cycle is currently under development through ETBI and will be a curricular expression of ETB ethos and core values. Following on from the GMGY Curriculum for Community National Schools, the Patrons’ Curriculum will be a multi-belief and values education curriculum that will be offered to students at Junior Cycle. The curriculum will build on the key principles of the Junior Cycle Framework (2015) as well as support its vision and aim. The curriculum will be symbiotic with ETB ethos and core values allowing for a flexible programme for students’ learning and providing schools with autonomy to align the learning outcomes in a way that reflects their individual contexts.