Galway & Roscommon ETB core values take centre stage at national education symposium

Schools Ethos champions from Galway & Roscommon ETB pictured at the Let’s Talk Ethos: National Symposium held in Athlone this week. Photo: Melissa Mannion.

Schools Ethos champions from Galway & Roscommon ETB pictured at the Let’s Talk Ethos: National Symposium held in Athlone this week. Photo: Melissa Mannion.

More than 200 principals and teachers from across Ireland’s 16 education and training boards, including Galway & Roscommon ETB, who gathered at a national symposium 'Let’s Talk Ethos' in Athlone this week to reflect on their core values, have heard that the previously “uncontested” core value of equality can be the most challenging to implement.

Education & Training Boards Ireland (ETBI ) commissioned research on how schools are currently experiencing the ethos agreed for Ireland’s almost 300 community national schools and community colleges under the patronage of education and training boards (ETBs ). While the overall findings were very positive, with clear evidence of the core values of excellence in education, care, equality, community, and respect in action across the sector, the research highlighted that the most challenging core value to implement is ‘equality’.

“We think this is for a number of reasons,” said ETBI general secretary Paddy Lavelle, “including teacher identity, the need for training and more time for discussion on equality issues. However, the climate has also changed: previously uncontested values like equality are increasingly contested in the often-febrile public discourse we see across social media. This symposium gave our school leaders the space and time to explore key equality issues and shows me that, despite the challenges, ETB principals and teachers are very proud and committed to provide equality-based, inclusive and multi-denominational education for all students.”

Dr Séamus Conboy, ETBI’s director of schools, agreed. “Having strong multi-denominational primary and post-primary schools has never been more important," he said. "The 2022 Census shows that 69 per cent of people in Ireland now consider themselves to be Roman Catholic and 14 per cent of the population identify as having no religion. There are also significant increases in those identifying as having other religious beliefs.

"Our own research, carried out by Opinions in 2023, shows that 61 per cent of people nationally – of all religious backgrounds and none – want multi-denominational schools. ETBs provide this equality-based education at primary and post primary level. While one in three post-primary schools are multi-denominational, only one in 20 of Ireland’s primary schools are multi-denominational. There is a clear evidence base for the need for change.”

The 'Let’s Talk Ethos' symposium included an address by Professor Anne Looney, executive dean in Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, a dynamic panel discussion featuring ethos champions and equality themed workshops on: Beliefs and religions, LGBTQ+ inclusion, support for marginalised communities including Travellers, and creating a culture of welcome.


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