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New ethos framework for ETB schools will focus on ‘common good in diverse society’

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Schools under the patronage of Education and Training Boards (ETBs), which have often wrestled with the “complex task of establishing a positive identity built on who they are”, have received a clear framework around interpreting their ethos.

Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) has launched the ‘ETBI Patrons’ Framework on Ethos’, a culmination of 10 years of empirical research, consultation, and policymaking involving all ETB schools.

With Ireland experiencing major cultural, religious, political, social, and demographic changes in the last decade, school leaders have consistently asked for clarity on how to articulate the ETB ethos, in particular the place of religions and beliefs in ETB schools.

Dr. Séamus Conboy, director of schools at ETBI, said: “As ETB schools are ‘state’ schools, they have particular responsibilities in respect of the common good in an increasingly diverse society.”

Research carried out in 2016 found that although values ​​such as equality and care are evident throughout the schools, there was “little coherence” with regard to their understanding of their overall ethos.

“With 279 ETB schools around the country at both primary and post-primary level, we needed to be clear on our ethos.”

Published on Wednesday, the policy document sets out that ETB schools are State, co-educational, multi-denominational schools, underpinned by core values ​​including care, equality, community, and respect. It sets out that in ETB schools respect is “upholding the dignity, rights, and recognition of the identity and background of each member of the school community.”

Executive dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, Professor Anne Looney, said the historical importance of the framework launch cannot be underestimated.

“For too long, schools under the auspices of Vocational Education Committees and the subsequent Education and Training Boards have been defined by what they were not. In towns around Ireland, they were seen as not ‘the sisters’, not ‘the brothers’ and ‘not for the likes of us’.”

Professor Looney added: “For the last decade, these schools and those who manage them have been wrestling with the complex task of establishing a positive identity built on who they are, what they value and promote, and how they serve their communities.”

The ETB sector has shown that the articulation of ethos in “a contemporary pluralist Ireland” is hard work, requires critical engagement, and is an ongoing and continuous process.

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