CPSMA Annual Conference
11 March 2011
CPSMA Annual Conference, Friday 11 March 2011
Address by Fr Denis McNelis, Vice Chairperson, CPSMA
Thank you for your presence with us today. I also would like to congratulate you on your Appointment to the Department of Education and Skills. I know that you have shown a keen interest in Education matters, particularly in the last 3 years.
I would also like to say that we were very appreciative as members of the Catholic Primary School Management Association that you took time to meet with us last year to hear of some of our concerns and share some ideas.
We are very interested in the issue you have raised here this morning, and we will be very happy to discuss it further with you and your Department.
We are open to new models of Patronage, and we welcome the opportunity to engage in the proposed Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. We are open to the idea of divesting. But be under no illusion, we are interested in education, and as long as there are parents who want a Catholic education for their children, the State should support their right.
Minister, we on the ground are more than aware that money is scarce, and that anything that can reduce spending and produce a better service – getting more for less – certainly merits exploration.
The Programme for Government states that and I quote:
“Education is at the heart of a more cohesive, more equal and more successful society, and it will be the engine of sustainable economic growth. Ireland has experienced a decline in educational outcomes in recent years. We will draw from top performing education models like Finland to reverse this trend. Even in our country’s crisis, we can make progress in education and protect frontline services”
CPSMA welcomes this commitment to Education and the protection of frontline services. In particular the commitment to early childhood care and education is of immense importance to us.
My understanding of the Finnish Model of Education is that although children do not start school until the age of 7, parents can avail of Free, full day care for their children in the form of Free Pre-School and Free Kindergarten from the age of 8 months.
I was interested in your comments on the radio yesterday that for every $1 invested in education the pay back is something like 16 times in value.
It has been a hallmark of the Irish Education system that resources have been skewed away from early childhood learning.
The primary sector has been grossly under funded in comparison to other sectors. Schools are not able to survive on Capitation Grants. They rely on the goodwill of Parents and the wider community to fund the activities of the school.
The recent cuts to the capitation grants have been detrimental. And as most of the funding to schools is capitation based, the cuts have been more pervasive than might first appear.
Allowing resources to be diverted from early childhood learning and the primary sector means that the most disadvantaged in our society are disproportionately affected.
Minister, we make no secret of the fact that we are interested in Education. As Managers (or Governors – whichever you prefer) of Catholic Schools we make no apology for wanting to share our Faith. Our philosophy is based on the teaching of Christ. We believe in his approach of justice and mercy. We see the need for his peace – a peace the world can’t give. We are encouraged by his call to stand up for what is right. We believe in the value of life, and having life to the full. We are inspired by his stories – the pearl that is worth searching for, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan. We believe that Jesus and his word are good for us and our children and indeed for our society. And that is why we are happy to be involved in education. And that is why I believe that our Catholic schools offer the best education for the children of this country. Particularly in these times we experience first hand how the message of Jesus is good news for the Poor.
And God knows, and we know, there are more poor today than there were yesterday, and there will probably be more poor tomorrow than there are today.
Last night I met with two members of our local society of St. Vincent de Paul. Families are experiencing unbelievable hardship, and many are bearing it very silently. You wouldn’t know from outward appearance what they are going through.
A story – just something that happened me last September.
[Recounted story of a chance meeting with a man on Talbot St. The man had been released from prison that morning. Had fallen on difficult times, got involved in something he shouldn’t have got involved in, and received a short sentence. He was married and had two children of Primary School going age, but because of family circumstances was probably not going to go home].
Do you know, I’ve thought about that man several times since September, and of his children who are attending a Catholic Primary school. And anyone in this room who has any connection with a school will tell you that there are many like them, whose experience of home life is nothing like what most of us would have experienced – and please God, their school is like schools that we have in our own parish, where such children are welcomed and safe, and experience the loving care and support of teachers and assistants – who give of their time in school and after school to run programmes such as Rainbows that help children such as these deal with significant issues in their young lives.
Minister, we appreciate that Departments have to work within budgets and staff and pupils appear often only as statistics – numbers and figures on a page. As Catholic Management we see individuals with gifts, talents challenges and needs. We see children full of potential who are the future and hope of the country. But they need support. Their parents need support. Their teachers need support.
Minister, as we grow older, many of us experience trouble with our backs, our hips, our ankles. And very often if happens that the cause is our feet.
One arch flattens, the other does not.
Then the bones of the leg twist to accommodate the changes beneath.
The knees go out of shape, or the pelvis twists forward on one side to compensate.
Then the back develops an S-bend to compensate for that.
What it comes to is this: the feet are the foundation of the body.
If there are problems with the foundations, the effect is throughout.
The foundation that our children get in our schools will be carried by them for good or for ill into second level, into third level and into life.
We see for ourselves concrete proof that the earlier the intervention the greater the educational outcome for the child, therefore Primary Schools are the greatest enablers for change.
Minister as members of Boards of Management of Primary Schools we need every support possible to ensure that the children get the best of a start in life.
We have lots of issues, and we hope we will have an opportunity to go through them in detail with you in the next few months – briefly, some of them:
Where there is significant population growth, why do schools have to wait a full year to get the additional teacher while a teacher who could be a resource to that school queues to collect the dole.
We are concerned that schools are constrained by the panel system and are not free to recruit the teacher who may be more suited to the position. And this at a time when teachers out from college are forced to emigrate, as they cannot get employment in the country that educated them.
We are concerned about Middle Management in our schools, as we are not allowed fill Posts of Responsibility. Middle Management is effectively being squeezed out of schools.
We are concerned about literacy and we welcome the Government’s commitment to making literacy a national cause. We have already furnished a submission on the issue.
Minister, can I just mention as an aside, that a lady who wants to run Adult Literacy courses in our parish has approached me three times in the last number of months, begging me for use of our Parish Hall for her classes. Our hall could do with an injection of money. But that’s not why I’m not giving it to her. I’m not giving it because we have 16 different groups using it already – including a second level school that is awaiting its own new building. Minister, what puzzles me is that where I live I’m looking at vacant property all over the place. I have a multi national supermarket, surrounded by boarded up units promising that new fashion shops are arriving soon. They haven’t arrived in the last 3 years, and I don’t anticipate that they will anytime soon.
I’m looking at a 4* Hotel that has had to close from November to May. Don’t get me wrong – we are more than happy to provide for the whole community in our parish and school facilities – our facilities are already full – but surely some imaginative thinking in Government can work out some use for all this vacant property and provide training and education facilities for this lady and all the other groups so she can run her literacy classes and other courses.
[In these times, saying that these facilities cannot be used because they are not zoned ‘educational’ is unacceptable – This is a Council matter and was not used in response].
Minister, we have concerns regarding the negotiation of an exit strategy for the members of the teaching profession, who may need one.
We have major concerns and have written to your department several times regarding Garda Vetting as outlined in Circular 63/2010 Employees or volunteers newly engaged by a Board should be newly vetted. It is not good policy to ask a Board to rely on vetting that could be 5 years old.
We have concerns about Circular 70/2010 regarding the 5% cut in wages of ancillary staff. No single circular has had such a negative impact – I realise that the problems arising at school level were not created by the Department of Education and Skills. Nevertheless, enormous problems have been created for Boards of Management on a number of levels. We are concerned that the circular seems to ignore the role of the employer in its contractual arrangements with the said employees.
We wish to acknowledge the funding for ICT over the last two years, but request that this is maintained as equipment dates quickly and requires much maintenance. We are currently costing website options for the delivery of ICT and other services to schools through the National Procurement Service.
And finally, I was delighted to hear of your commitment yesterday to the employment of new teachers, and know that schools would far prefer to have fully trained teachers instead of teachers who are not fully trained in their classrooms.
The theme of our Conference is Catholic Schools – New Approaches for Challenging times.
We will be happy to engage with you to explore the possibilities of bettering the system of Management, that Roles and responsibilities assigned to Boards are roles and responsibilities that Boards will feel qualified to undertake and deal with competently.
The training funded by your Department has been a great start, but it needs to be supported in the longer term, and we trust that this financial support will continue, as we look to the future.
We wish that the children in our care receive the best quality of education possible. We hope that they will realise their full potential and take their places in the society and country we all love and serve.
Minister, thank you once again for your presence with us today.
Guimid rath Dé ort agas do choid oibre.
Molamid thú as ucht an dian iarracht atá dhá dheanamh agat
ar son oideachas na tire.
Míle buíochas a Aire uasal.
Address by Ruairi Quinn T.D. Minister for Education and
Chairperson and Delegates
Thank for providing me with the opportunity to address your annual conference.
I may have been appointed Minister for Education and Skills less than 48 hours ago, but when I was presented with the opportunity to address this conference, to be honest, I jumped at the chance.
Today’s conference is my first public engagement as Minister, and I hope my presence here signals my intention to hit the ground running in addressing some of the many pressing issues that need to be tackled in the education system and in the Primary Sector in particular.
I hope it also signals my intention as Minister, to work with, rather than against, the various partners in Education such as parents; students; school managers; as well as teachers and support staff and school communities.
In that regard, I would like to acknowledge the important and significant contribution CPSMA makes in primary education as the management body covering the majority of the primary schools in the country. Apart from the support and guidance role you provide for your schools I know that as an organisation you contribute nationally in industrial relations matters and on working parties convened by my Department to progress various issues. I am also conscious that many of you who are present here today as delegates make an invaluable contribution all year round as members of boards of management and it is appropriate on an occasion like this for me to acknowledge your generous contribution in that regard.
There are many issues relating to the primary school system that I could cover today but in this my first formal speech as Minister to an education conference I propose to confine myself to an issue that I see as a priority in the short term. There will undoubtedly be further opportunities for me to engage with you on other matters in the time ahead.
Forum on Patronage
“Towards Recovery — The Programme for National Government” commits us to initiating a time-limited Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector to allow all stakeholders including parents to engage in open debate on change of patronage in communities where it is appropriate and necessary. The Forum will have concise terms of reference and will be required to complete its work before the end of this year.
I will be pressing on with this commitment as an immediate priority. The focus of the forum will be on identifying the methods and processes by which schools can be transferred from Catholic patronage in order to create greater diversity and choice.
I want to acknowledge the importance of the initial contribution by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that first brought to public attention the potential for the divesting of Catholic schools. Thanks to Archbishop Martin, the Forum will begin its work not in the context of determining whether or not this is a good idea, but in the context of how we can make it happen.
The work of the Bishops’ conference that culminated in the publication of the document “Catholic Primary Schools — A policy for provision into the future” is also important and gave further impetus to the concept of divesting when it acknowledged as part of the policy for the future that “in some areas where historically there were large numbers of parents who wanted a Catholic school , circumstances may have changed and an existing Catholic School may no longer be viable.., and that it may be considered desirable to enter into new patronage arrangements”.
It is important to establish the National Forum on Patronage as soon as possible and that it completes its work in nine months time.
We have to provide for an array of choice in our education system and ensure that different forms of patronage reflect the diversity of our modern society and the choices of parents. Of course, all of this must be done within the context of the restraints on the public finances.
The work of the Forum and the implementation of its findings should in no way interfere or damage the delivery of our education system in primary schools.
Some commentators have recently tried to claim that the Labour Party has a secular agenda, particularly when it comes to education. In fact the Labour Party has a pluralist ethos which affects the republican nature of our Constitution and where respect for diversity is a fundamental value.
The establishment of the National Forum on Patronage is part of the Programme for Government, jointly agreed by both Fine Gael and Labour.
I know that some work has been done in my Department and by church representatives on identifying candidate areas. While the initiation of the Forum need not halt any consideration that is already under way and such work may be able to inform the work of the forum in the coming months, it is essential that we make more rapid progress than hitherto and achieve real concrete delivery of divesting if we are to meet society’s diverse needs.
The Government programme provides that the recommendations from the Forum will be drawn up into a White Paper for consideration and implementation by the Government during the course of 2012.
As I said at the outset I expect that today is but the first of many opportunities we will get to engage on issues of common interest. I wish you well with your conference.
Address by Mrs. Maria Spring, Chairperson CPSMA
Minister, Bishop O’Reilly, Delegates and Diocesan Representatives, welcome to the forty first AGM of CPSMA.
Fáilte romhaibh go léir anseo inniu chuig cruinniú Cinn Bhliana Cumann Bhainistíochta na mBunscoil Caitliceach 2011.
Cuirim fáilte speisialta roimh an tAire, an tUasal Ruairí O’Cuinn, Leas Runaí Ghinearálta Martin Hannevy, agus na hoifigí atá i láthair inniu.
Fáilte roimh Easpag Leo O’Reilly agus roimh na h-ionadaithe go léir ó gach deoise atá linn inniu.
Comhghairdeas, go háirithe ar do cheapachán mar Aire Oideachas agus Scileanna.
Ba mhaith linn buíochas a ghabháil leat as ucht teacht anseo inniu ar do chéad ghnó oifigiúil mar Aire Oideachas agus Scileanna. Guímid rath Dé ar do chuid oibre as seo amach.
Congratulations and thanks:
Minister, congratulations on your appointment as Minister for Education & Skills. CPSMA wishes you every success in your new role.
A sincere word of thanks to you and your Department for the support and assistance to CPSMA.
I want to thank all of those CPSMA works with, in the Department of Education & Skills. I would like to express our gratitude for the support of all the officials and their understanding over the past year. They too are under pressure.
CPSMA deals with a quite a number of officials in the various sections of the Department of Education & Skills. I wish to acknowledge the courtesy and co-operation CPSMA receives at all times.
CPSMA provides advice and support to Boards of Management, of approximately 3008 schools. The contribution made by voluntary boards of management to the running of the entire primary system should not be underestimated. This fact gets little enough recognition at a time when the focus for many is ‘value for money’. We were surprised to find some solace in the McCarthy report! However it acknowledged the very significant cost saving that voluntary Boards of Management deliver to the State, the benefits to the school and wider community.
The theme of the AGM this year is Catholic schools – new approaches for challenging times.
This theme is thought provoking for us all. It poses the following questions:
What is a Catholic school in a modern pluralist Ireland?
What is the place of the Catholic school in the local parish, community and wider society?
While it is always timely for those of us working in the system to reflect on this, the theme goes further in challenging the community to re-examine its values, beliefs, standards and how these are to be communicated, lived and acted upon.
In the current economically fraught environment, value systems and human endeavour still matter.
In fact these values probably matter more than ever. Education is a human and personal activity based on valued trusting relationships between parents, children, teachers, school staff and Boards of Management.
It is not cheap and value for money cannot be the only consideration.
Relationships need to be built, sustained and supported, even in the current climate.
We are all very alive to this issue and indeed one of the motions which we will be discussing later today is recognising the central role that small schools play in their local community. The motion calls for a rejection of any attempts to close such schools for purely financial reasons while ignoring the cultural, social and educational consequences. It is no exaggeration to say that many of these schools are the lifeblood of their community. The Primary school is at the heart of every community.
Management can of course examine and explore models of delivering cost savings while not compromising on educational excellence.
There is a duty on all of us to finding creative ways of addressing these issues and we must look anew at resolving old problems.
We hope to continue this conversation this weekend.
The one thing that we must always remain clear on is our vision for Catholic schools.
We cannot compromise on this nor on the delivery of the best possible education to pupils in our care – currently standing at 475,068 in number.
It behoves all of us to reject cosy consensus. We have frequently found that the debate around education focuses on every concern other than the pupils that we are all there to serve. While it may seem otiose to state that the pupil must always remain the focus of our endeavours, it is unfortunate that on occasion other interests are allowed to crowd the pupil out who is left peripheral to the debate. The goal of true education is the development of the child. We need to constantly recall that goal. We cannot lose sight of that goal. Our young students are the hope for our country.
Boards of Management:
This is the last year of office for the present Boards of Management and next autumn will see new boards. Boards of Management, who are charged under the Education Act with the responsibility for delivering an appropriate education to the children in their care, need and deserve every support. You will be aware Minister that Board members are volunteers who deliver on an entire system of management. It is indeed a great tribute to them that in the context of 18,000 volunteers so much is delivered for so many by so few to rephrase and to continue the analogy for so little. It is a credit to them. I want to thank publicly those members of Boards at primary level who have given so unstintingly of their time, commitment, interest and expertise over the past four years and indeed over a life time for many of them and DES has indeed been supportive of Boards of Management in providing funding for training for the past several years. It has committed itself to continuing to do so for the incoming boards, and for that Minister, we sincerely thank the Department of Education & Skills. We will work with your Department and with the National Steering Committee to deliver what we all have as the new catch phrase ‘value for money.’ In fact we already do just that – management for free! I was working it out on VFM basis and I reckon that on a rough estimate paying the volunteers the new minimum wage for attendance at compulsory meetings only the cost saving to the state is in the order of 1.5 million per annum! Where can you get better value?
Training for Boards of Management was organised by CPSMA at 22 venues throughout the country over a two month period from October to December 2010. This training which covered employment issues was very well supported.
In conclusion Minister it brought home to us again just how important additional support is for chairpersons and officers of the Boards.
Address by Senator Ronan Mullen
Catholic School New Approaches for Challenging Times
New Governance Structures
Mó buíochas to the Chairperson, the Standing Committee and the General Secretary of CPSMA for the invitation to address you AGM.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Chairperson – Maria Spring, the General Secretary – Eileen Flynn, Fr. Paul Finnerty and in particular to Fiona Shanley, Director of St. Senan’s Education for their assistance in preparing for today.
I have been asked to address you on the subject of “New Governance Structures”
The concept of governance
The concept of governance is not new. It is as old as human civilization. Simply put governance is the system that ensures the fit between the organisation’s mission and its performance or the manner of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not). A proposal on new governance structures involving as it would an analysis or discussion of Primary School Governance in Ireland would require a focus on the formal and informal actors involved in, or having an influence on, decision making and implementation, a list that could make for a cast of thousands. To undertake such a review of the roles of primary school governance stakeholders would necessitate rescheduling this afternoon’s official closure of the AGM to sometime next month. You will, therefore, no doubt be relieved to hear that the conduct of such an elaborate and complex review is not my intention.
So, in approaching a subject as broad as that of primary school governance, or perhaps more aptly, in making a subject as broad as that of primary school governance more approachable, what will I be focusing on today? Perhaps the best response to that question is to start with the topics I will not be concentrating on:
I will not be focusing on the issues of Patronage, Plurality of Provision, or indeed the much flaunted contention of ‘Catholic Control of Primary Education’, other than to say that Article 42 of the Constitution of this country, Bunreacht Na hÉireann, provides for the provision of state funded education irrespective of Patronage. And as Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn indicated to you yesterday he will be prioritising his commitment to a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.
What I do wish to focus on is the local instrument of school governance – the board of management, or to be more precise, an issue that was first brought to your attention in the 2009 CPSMA AGM Motions – ‘New Models of Primary School Management’.
In discussing this issue, or indeed any matter relating to primary school governance, it would be remiss of me to fail to acknowledge that the current arrangements for the management of primary schools pertain not only to Catholic schools but also to schools under other forms of patronage. Any formal review or proposed changes to current arrangements would have to be inclusive of these organisations. You will no doubt be aware that this subject matter has also been raised by the INTO and IPPN so it in incumbent on you as a Management Association to seriously engage with the subject. In this context it is perhaps appropriate to consider this discourse today as a springboard for further discussion and evaluation of the current arrangements not only between the members of this organisation but also with those involved in governance on behalf of other patron bodies.
Boards of Management
Boards of Management are not a new phenomenon they have been in operation in Irish primary schools since 1975. The introduction of the 1998 Education Act has defined their roles and responsibilities on a statutory basis. Under this act a patron is obliged ‘for the purposes of ensuring that a recognised school is managed in a spirit of partnership, to appoint, where practicable, a board of management’. In 2003 the education partners, namely, the Dept. of Education & Skills, school managers, parents and teachers agreed the composition and method of operation of boards by devising the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure, a document that has been revised as recently as 2007.
This constitution upholds the ‘spirit of partnership’ promoted by the Education Act in its determination on the composition of boards of management. Such a board, in schools with more than one teacher, comprising as it does of 8 members drawn from the direct stakeholders, that is, the patron body, parents, school staff and community. That such a model honours the principles of subsidiarity and democracy is undeniable and that those principles should be upheld is also undeniable. Why then has the topic of seeking alternative models of management come to the forefront?
Many commentators would argue it is because, at present, school boards are –
Overloaded, Overcomplicated and Overlooked:
Overloaded because they are responsible for too much;
Overcomplicated because the work they are required to do is unnecessarily complex, difficult and demanding; and
Overlooked because what they are responsible for and how they are required to function has not received appropriate acknowledgement and goes largely unnoticed.
This argument is further compounded by the fact that the overloaded, overlooked members of boards, functioning in an overcomplicated environment, do so on an unpaid voluntary basis.
That there is merit in these arguments is beyond question. Boards of management are bodies corporate, they are employers and service providers and as a result of such responsibilities they are subject to a raft of’ statutory provision, national agreements and DES directives. On average the Dept. of Education and Skills annually issues approximately 30 circulars that have a direct impact on the management of schools, add to that a board’s obligation in respect of financial management, school planning, and policy development not to mention their obligations as determined by employment, equality, health & safety and data protection legislation and you have a list that does indeed seem ominous.
There is also the issue of the number of primary schools in the country, many of which serve small communities where it is often extremely difficult to attract and recruit the required number of volunteers to serve on boards of management.
However, let us pause a minute to evaluate these problems……. Do they constitute sufficient cause to introduce a new model of management or are they merely challenges to a model, defined only since 2003, that is still in its infancy? In respect to the issues of Patronage yesterday, Minister Quinn urged a cautionary note of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” – When considering this issue we must be careful that we do not find ourselves, plunger in hand, frantically trying to rescue the baby from the drains of a powerful centralised education bureaucracy.
So, if we are to downgrade these issues to the realm of mere challenge how are we to rise to that challenge?
Let us look firstly at the issue of attracting volunteers, and in so doing let me pose a number of questions.
If I were to randomly ask 10 people who is the employer of primary school teachers what would their answer be? Probably in 8 out of 10 cases they would reply ‘the State’.
If I were to ask the same group who is responsible for the management of Irish primary schools how would they reply? Again, the majority would probably say ‘the State’ or ‘the Dept. of Education & Skills’.
The work of boards of management does not have a sufficiently high profile. It is not widely publicised, understanding of its responsibilities is near to non-existent and its contribution is hidden. This should not be the case. There are in excess of 25,000 people up and down this country that are contributing to the management and provision of primary school education on a voluntary basis and it is appropriate, that in this the ‘European Year of Volunteering’, an initiative to bring this work to the attention of the public would be undertaken. How many more volunteers might we generate if the extent of the contribution and the experience to be gained from participation in school management was to receive the recognition it deserves? Would it be possible to engage with professional bodies such as the CIPD, ACCA, or IPA with a view to recruiting ‘expert’ board members. Such alliances would have benefits not only for school management but also for volunteer professionals who would be afforded the opportunity to exercise their skills and add to their resumes. (Research suggests that only 3 out of 10 people in Europe are involved volunteering).
On the issue of meeting the challenge of recruiting volunteers in sparsely populated or rural areas we need look no further than the Catholic Church for a possible solution.
The decrease in the numbers of clergy in this country in recent years has been well documented and has posed a significant test for Catholic Communities. While the increasing trend toward urbanisation and a rationalisation of services has diminished many communities the Catholic Church has remained steadfast in its commitment to Parish & Community. Such a commitment has forced the church to consider how it could best serve the many with the few and thus the concept of Clustering was born. Clustered Parishes are largely what it says on the tin, a group of individual parishes who are served by a Centralised Pastoral Team composed of members of the laity and clergy from all member parishes. This quasi amalgamation or development of a shared services concept provides an opportunity for parishes to collaborate in such a way that individual parishes are supported in their efforts to ensure they will continue to exist as vibrant communities into the future. A similar system may be suitable for geographical areas in which a number of smaller schools are based. The management model could be based on the existing model but its membership would perhaps be based on a parish, inter-parochial or diocesan basis.
Being overloaded – Demand & Response
So, I hear you say, possible solutions to volunteer recruitment, but what of the issues of boards being overloaded and the primary school management environment being over complicated?
Indeed in recent years there has been a sea change in the demands of primary school management but equally there has been a response to that demand.
The recent evolution and growth of your own organisation the CPSMA constitutes just such a response. The full-time availability of a paid secretariat to advise, assist and negotiate nationally on behalf of boards is a significant development and I am sure with the appropriate support the association will continue to go from strength to strength.
Local Level Diocese
Further support is being provided at local level through Diocesan Education Secretaries and a number of dioceses have established dedicated Education Offices.
Equally the DES has responded by making a centralised fund available to all patron bodies to assist with the expenses incurred in training board members.
That more could and should be done goes without saying. Volunteering is freely given, but not cost free, it needs and deserves targeted support from all stakeholders, the volunteer organisation, government at all levels, businesses and an enabling policy environment including a volunteering infrastructure. However, it is important that the current initiatives are afforded appropriate time to establish themselves before any judgement on the level or effectiveness of support to boards is made. In light of this I am delighted to see that in your workshops you will be looking at the issue of Board of Management Skill Sets.
When considering the issue of increasing capacity or utilising resources the role of the school principal, also secretary to the board of management, should not be overlooked. The principal is seen as the leader of teaching and learning but in reality is also the line manager of the school. As such the principals need continuing and enhanced support with the provision of management training on either a formal accredited or CPD basis. In this context particular consideration must be given to the feasibility of the role of teaching principal.
In preparing for my talk today I attempted to research the issue of governance and models of management. There have been a significant number of studies and research carried out on this issue in the UK and America however the bulk of information on the situation in Ireland is perception or position based. The best decisions are usually founded on fact and not opinion and in this regard to progress this issue it would probably be wise to undertake some form of formal research on the issue. I understand that a dialogue has commenced at diocesan council level and adaptations of the current model are being discussed. I am delighted to see that the motion that “CPSMA begin discussion with its constituents and relevant Education Partner on proposed new models for Boards of Management” received overwhelming support from your delegates. Perhaps such discussions could be considered in the context of the following quote from Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin:
“I am still convinced that our current system, with its strong community base, has enormous advantages and that it can be strengthened through training, capacity building and effective technical back-up services. We need structures, albeit flexible, to ensure a future which will maintain that remarkable level of creativity in education which was in the past attained by the singular talent of our teachers. Leadership in education requires both innovation and the ability to recognise and draw out the best of our heritage, not as folklore, but as something important for our identity ………….. The story of the evolution of ethos, management and governance of our schools is an open-ended book. Changes will come…….. What the shape of management and governance of our schools will be in the future is not clear. The challenge to get it truly right is a great one. Knowing your own passion for education I am comforted that we can get it right together.”