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RCB Library Notes

Finding archival homes for Church of Ireland primary school records

A Policy for the Appropriate Custody of Primary School Records is now in place to guide Church of Ireland primary schools and their Patrons in how to best keep and share archived information about their work and service to their communities, with the assistance of archivists in local authorities.

Miss Stella Greer's class at Killeigh School, county Offaly c.1931. RCB Library P48.28.1
Miss Stella Greer's class at Killeigh School, county Offaly c.1931. RCB Library P48.28.1

The policy was produced by the Representative Church Body’s Library, under the authority of its managing Library and Archives Committee. This has followed lengthy discussions with all organisations involved, and in consultation with the Secretary of the General Synod Board of Education. It will be particularly relevant for schools in the Republic of Ireland.  The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) takes in all school records for schools located within its jurisdiction.

The five–page document has been produced with the aim of promoting awareness about the importance of primary school records and their value for historical research. The advice it contains seeks to assist School Patrons and Boards of Management with guidance about the historical value of primary school records and ensure that they take the correct steps to arrange and safeguard these materials.  This is particularly relevant where records have ceased to be used in the day–to–day administration of a school, or in circumstances where a school is due to close or has already closed.

The school records of any primary school in the State belong to the Board of Management or Patron responsible for that school, with the Board of Management making decisions about what records should be retained for the historical record.  Many would have a unique value which may be required for reference for a variety of legal, educational, historical and social purposes in the future. 

Whilst the RCB Library is concerned about the preservation of these records, the Library is not itself the custodian of primary school records and is not responsible for the long–term storage of such records. The Library has, however, been in discussion with colleagues in the National Archives of Ireland and the Local Government Archivists and Records Managers (LGARM) Group representing archivists and records managers at local government level.  LGARM has confirmed that it is happy to facilitate requests from any Board of Management or Patron of a Church of Ireland primary school wishing to deposit their collections in a local authority archive service, subject to available storage and these services being considered as the first place of deposit for these collections.

Each school is to be responsible for arranging the collection prior to its transfer to the local archive.  For example, all registers, roll books, daily attendance books, District Inspector’s observation books, organiser’s observation books, and corporal punishment books could be sorted chronologically.  LGARM members are particularly interested in acquiring any extant school photographs as these records can be made available without restriction.

Many local government archives have already been acquiring these collections for a number of years.  In the case of local authorities with no archivist, the group recommends that the National Archives of Ireland might be considered as the temporary custodian of these collections until such time as a local authority archive has been established or that suitable storage has been identified.

The policy is available at the following link in the Parish Resources section of our website and at this link.

Church of Ireland Press Office

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