Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) is the representative body of 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) nationwide.

On 26 June, their four priorities for the sector were launched under the campaign #SupportYourLocalETB.

With a strong emphasis on more community nationals and deputy principals needed across the board, the priorities are listed below.

  • 1. Increase the number and profile of community national schools nationwide.
  • 2. Increase the deputy principal allocation in ETB post-primary schools with DEIS designation.
  • 3. Increase funding for further education and training (FET) so that funds reflect the proportion of learners and ring-fence €600m in funding for the FET colleges of the future project, due to commence in 2028.
  • 4. Restore funding for youth work to pre-austerity levels and ensure pay parity for youth workers.
  • Launching the campaign, ETBI general secretary Paddy Lavelle said: “The 16 ETBs across Ireland provide education and training opportunities for over 450,000 people.

    "We do this through running primary and post-primary schools and providing FET opportunities, including apprenticeships. We are calling on the Government to commit to supporting our work.”

    More community national schools needed

    With only 152 multi-denominational schools nationwide, ETBI’s director of schools Dr Seamus Conboy emphasises community national schools (CNS) are the ETB model for primary education, but more of them are needed across the country.

    “The most recent census showed only 69% of people now consider themselves to be Roman Catholic - but 90% of primary schools are still under Catholic patronage.

    "We are asking all elected representatives to help us establish more CNSs nationwide,” he said.

    Deputy principal shortages

    In a recent survey, 92% of ETB principals said they believed the current allocation of deputy principals was insufficient.

    Along with this, they also said an increased allocation would impact positively the quality of teaching and learning, the supports available and staff and student wellbeing.

    Deputy principal at Bunclody Community College, Co Wexford, Sandra O’Toole said smaller colleges were being punished because deputies are also employed as teachers.

    As a result, they must spend 11 hours each week in the classroom, not working to support the most vulnerable students.

    “DEIS school students need and deserve adequate support. There have been an increasing number of issues that need to be dealt with outside of the classroom, such as rising absenteeism.

    "I’m a teacher at heart and I love teaching, but, at the end of the day, I am being paid as a deputy principal. But I am unable to adequately support students who are experiencing the greatest difficulties if I am in the classroom,” says Sandra.

    Further education and training

    Concerning FET, the ETBI’s director of further education and training Dr Joseph Collins said more funding is needed for FET as it is more local, accessible and affordable for many compared to higher education.

    “A Government commitment to, and investment in, community-based inclusive FET provision is critical to ensure the sector can continue to attract school-leavers and older learners into key areas to meet skills shortages.

    "Targeted investment in professional development, competitive remuneration, capital spending and improved working conditions for FET staff also need to be prioritised."