SCHOOLS are wasting thousands of hours every year keeping paper attendance records – because the Department of Education won't accept them in digital format.
The department accepts only "antiquated ledgers" as official school records, said Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) president Gerry Murphy.
The daily school roll is still entered manually by teachers and principals are also obliged to keep their centralised attendance registers as paper records.
The system hasn't changed since 1922 in a country that is fast becoming the European hub of the global information technology industry, Mr Murphy told the IPPN annual conference.
Mr Murphy told the meeting of more than 1,000 primary principals that they were constantly reminded of the need to prepare our children for the 'knowledge economy'.
But he asked: "How does this vision for the future blend with the reality for those children who every day in their classrooms watch their teacher manually entering data into the leabhar rolla?"
He said many schools were already using electronic systems themselves for record management, but they were unable to transfer the information in digital format to the department.
Mr Murphy gave a stark example of the time-wasting it was causing, when he said his school secretary spent six weeks transferring data from an efficient electronic system to paper, following a visit from the inspector.
He said there was an electronic database for almost every farm animal in the country, but nothing for schoolchildren.
Mr Murphy said it would be effective if the department trialled the electronic school management systems already in use in some schools.
"It would provide a one-stop source of accurate data and save the inspectorate the embarrassment of enforcing outdated rules for national schools," he said.
Mr Murphy also said that food poverty was hindering some primary school pupils' ability to learn basic literacy and numeracy. Adding that as many as one-in-five principals was reporting that more pupils were arriving to school hungry.
More pupils were also suffering from depression, according to IPPN's surveys.
A department spokesperson said work would start shortly on the development of an online database for primary schools covering a number of administrative functions.
There would be discussions with education partners on matters such as school roll books.