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Minister praises ‘vibrant tradition of education’ and diversity in Protestant schools

Dr Ken Fennelly, Minister Norma Foley, Archbishop Michael Jackson and Lesley Ruttle at the conference of the Council of Governors of Protestant Second Level Schools.
Dr Ken Fennelly, Minister Norma Foley, Archbishop Michael Jackson and Lesley Ruttle at the conference of the Council of Governors of Protestant Second Level Schools.

The governors and principals of Protestant second level schools have been praised for their flexibility and openness to change by the Minister for Education. Minister Norma Foley told the Council of Governors of Protestant Second Level Schools yesterday(Thursday March 10) that she deeply appreciated the leadership they had shown over the last two years.

The Minister was addressing the annual conference of the Council, which represents 27 Protestant managed schools in the Republic of Ireland, in the Clayton Hotel Liffey Valley. Members attended both in person and online. The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, was also in attendance.

Minister Foley acknowledged the enormous efforts and energy the schools had shown during the pandemic. “Much has been asked of the education sector and even more has been given with a generosity of heart and spirit that has been such a core sustaining element of Irish education,” she commented. She added that schools who accommodate boarders had additional tasks to ensure infection control.

She thanked the school principals and expressed her deep appreciation for the leadership they had shown. “All through the pandemic important attributes such as flexibility and working collaboratively have showcased the key strengths of our public service ethos in keeping schools open and keeping schools safe. You and your teams of staff have demonstrated those attributes in a whole myriad of ways. We need to celebrate and shine a light on this collective national effort as we now hopefully reach calmer waters that allow us to return to the richness of school life that had by necessity become restricted in these last two years,” Minister Foley said.

She said she was conscious that the schools represented by the Council of Governors had a long honourable tradition of service to the Protestant community. “Some of your member schools have educated young people for literally hundreds of years […] As a sector you have always and consistently been open to new ideas and to change. It is truly heartening to know that know that this vibrant tradition of excellence in education lives on in modern, dynamic schools all across the country. Schools that serve the Protestant tradition but which also reach out to others and indeed celebrate diversity,” she stated.

Governors played an enormously important role in managing schools on behalf of the communities that they serve, she observed adding that it was not an easy task but was a vital one in supporting principals and staff who work in school communities. She thanked them for their volunteerism.

She acknowledged that Protestant schools often served communities that were dispersed over a wide geographical area and noted that the Bloc Grant was made available by the Department of Education each year. She paid tribute to the work of the Secondary Education Committee in ensuring that funds were distributed equitably and to Dr Ken Fennelly for his work.

Turning to the 2022 Leaving Certificate exams, the Minister said planning for them was well underway following wide consultation. She also gave an update on the Junior Cycle.

She said the next exciting challenge related to reform of the Senior Cycle which was currently being reviewed.

She said that the experience of the last 24 months had challenged everyone greatly but she hoped we could all look forward, albeit with continuing caution, to better and brighter days ahead.

Minister Norma Foley receives a presentation from Lesley Ruttle.
Minister Norma Foley receives a presentation from Lesley Ruttle.

Speaking earlier in the meeting, the Chairman of the Council of Governors, Lesley Ruttle, explained the role of the Council. He said their primary purpose was to address the concerns of the governors of the Protestant and reformed voluntary,comprehensive and secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland and to promote issues relating to Irish Protestant managed secondary schools.

Mr Ruttle pointed out that the ethos of the schools was of the Reformed Christian faiths but they were open and inclusive to all, contributing to diversity in the country. He told the Minister that their schools deserved to be protected and cherished.

The Board of Education (Republic of Ireland) represents the Church of Ireland in all educational matters applying to the State, including as an education partner with the Department of Education and Skills and other educational bodies.  It also supports religious education in primary schools under Protestant management and provides support, training and advice to primary level patrons and boards of management.

Dr Ken Fennelly

Secretary, Board of Education (RI)
Church of Ireland House
Church Avenue
Dublin 6
D06 CF67
+353 (0)1 4125 609


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