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Primary school system has to change with the times

The debate on the future of our primary school patronage system has gathered pace. We currently have 500,000 pupils in 3,200 primary schools; 75pc of them are being educated in 25pc of the schools. In other words, 800 schools accommodate 375,000 pupils. Many of those schools are located in urban or growing suburban areas. The Department of Education estimates that an additional 100,000 pupils will be added to our primary system by 2020 or earlier. Including parents and grandparents, up to 2.8 million people, more than half our population, have direct involvement and interest in the education system at primary level.

The good news is that, by and large, our present system works well for the majority of pupils and parents. Educational outcomes, by international standards, are high, despite the low investment in primary education. This is because of the quality and dedication of our teachers, the regulatory role of the Department of Education and, critically, the voluntary involvement of 22,000 parents, teachers and others on the boards of management of our primary schools.

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