Boards of management in primary schools


Primary schools are not required to have boards of management. Each school is established by a ‘patron’ who can decide whether or not to have a board of management. In practice, most primary schools have boards.

The Education Act 1998 sets out the responsibilities of boards of management in primary schools.

The 4-year term of office for boards of management of all primary schools started on the 1 December 2019 – see ‘Term of office of the board’ below.

Why does a school have a board of management?

Under the Education Act 1998, the patron of the school must, where it can, appoint a board of management.

The composition of the board of management should be agreed between school patrons, national associations of parents, school management organisations, teacher representatives and the Minister for Education.

The board is appointed by the patron. When the patron appoints a board it must comply with Ministerial directions about gender balance. The board must also follow the Governance Manual for Primary Schools.

If the patron decides that it is not able to appoint a board, they must give reasons to the parents, teachers, staff and the Minister but they cannot be forced to appoint one.

What does the board of management do?

The board's main function is to manage the school on behalf of the patron and for the benefit of the students and to provide an appropriate education for each student at the school. The board is accountable to the patron and the Minister for Education. The school principal is responsible for the day-to-day management of the school and is accountable to the board.

In carrying out its functions, the board must

  • Follow the Ministerial policies
  • Support the ethos of the school and be accountable to the patron for this
  • Comply with the law and with any deed, charter, or similar instrument relating to the school.
  • Consult with and inform the patron of decisions and proposals
  • Publish the school's admissions and participation policies, including its policy on expulsion and suspension of students and the admission and participation by students with disabilities or with special educational needs
  • Ensure that the school's admissions policy respects parents’ choices and the principles of equality, complies with Ministerial directions and considers the school ethos and the constitutional rights of all involved
  • Comply with the school’s admissions policy in line with the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018. The Act aims to make the rules around admissions to schools more structured, fair and transparent.
  • Regularly consider the teaching and learning in the school and ensure appropriate targets are set
  • Ensure a School Self-Evaluation Report and School Improvement Plan is prepared each year and share a summary of the plan with the whole school community annually
  • Observe the principles and requirements of a democratic society and promote respect for the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions, languages and ways of life in our society
  • Make efficient use of resources (particularly the grants provided by the State)
  • Consider the public interest in the affairs of the school and be accountable to students, parents and the community
  • Use the resources provided by the State to help meet the needs of students with disabilities or special needs, including, if necessary, the adaptation of buildings or provision of special equipment
  • Recognise the leadership roles of principals, deputy principals and assistant principals in the school as part of the goal to achieving high quality outcomes for students
  • Co-operate with the NCSE in providing special needs education. Under the Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs) Act 2022, a school must comply if the Minister directs a school to open a special needs class. The Department of Education has published frequently asked questions for schools about providing for children with special education needs.

How the board of management operates

All boards of management must follow the governance manual set by the Department of Education. The boards must follow the terms of the Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019-2023 (pdf). The manual sets out the key activities of the Board.

Essentially, the board manages the school to provide all students with the best possible education.

Among its responsibilities, the board:

  • Must draw up the school plan and ensure that it is acted on
  • Appoint the principal, the teachers and other staff.
  • Ensure that the school fulfils its functions as set out in the Education Act 1998
  • Promote contact between the school, the parents and the community and must facilitate and give all reasonable help to a parents' association in its formation and its activities
  • Have overall responsibility for the school's finances. It must ensure the school has comprehensive insurance cover, keeps proper accounts, which may be audited by the Department of Education and/or the Comptroller and Auditor General. Its annual accounts must be available to the patron and the school community.
  • Ensure that child protection and welfare are considered in all of the school’s policies, practices and activities. The board must ensure that the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools are fully applied by the school.
  • Ensure the school has a code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy
  • Comply with garda vetting requirements before employing, contracting or placing any person in contact with children or vulnerable persons
  • Keep discussions and documents confidential unless otherwise agreed by the board. Members should disclose any interest they have that may conflict with the work of the board

The board must have a procedure for informing parents about its activities – this could include an annual report. More information on boards of management is available on the website of the Department of Education.

Who is on the school board?

The composition of the board of management for schools with more than one teacher is

  • Two direct nominees of the patron
  • Two parents of children enrolled in the school (one mother and one father) elected by the parents
  • The principal
  • One other serving teacher elected by the teaching staff
  • Two extra members agreed by the representatives of the patron, teachers and parents

There are particular rules for boards of management for convent and monastery schools in relation to the teacher representatives. If the principal is a religious, the elected teacher-member must be a lay person and, if the principal is a lay person, it is recommended that the elected teacher-member be a religious. In one-teacher schools, there is one direct nominee of the patron, one teacher representative, one parent and one extra member proposed by these nominees.

There are certain criteria set out for choosing the 2 community representatives on the board of management.

  • The people appointed must have a commitment to the ethos of the school. In the case of Catholic schools, they must have an understanding of and commitment to Catholic education as outlined in the Deed of Trust for Catholic Schools. For Church of Ireland schools, they must be members of that Church; in Presbyterian schools, they must also be church members and in Muslim schools they should be members of the Muslim community in Ireland (in all cases the patron of the school can decide otherwise). For Educate Together schools they must have a commitment to the ethos of the school.
  • They must have skills that are complementary to the board's requirements
  • They must be interested in education but normally should not be parents of students currently attending the school or teachers currently on the staff
  • In Gaeltacht schools and Gaelscoileanna, they are expected to have a good knowledge of the Irish language.
  • The need to maintain a gender balance must be a consideration

The patron appoints the chairman of the board.

The rules set out in detail how the parents' representatives are to be chosen, including the notice to be given to all parents and how replacements are chosen.

In general, members of the board may not hold any interest in the school property or get paid for serving on the board. The Education Act 1998 explicitly clarifies that being on the board does not confer any property interest on a board member. Employees, other than the teacher representatives, may not be on the board.

Pilot shared governance arrangements

Under the shared governance arrangements two schools under the same patronage can operate a shared governance arrangement if this has been agreed with the patron. This is a pilot scheme introduced in 2015 and extended until 2023.

There are separate rules for a pilot shared governance arrangement. The board must comply with the Governance Manual 2019-2023. Each school will have a separate 12- member Board, but there will be just one election/nomination process across both schools and the 12 people who are elected/nominated will serve on the Boards of both schools.

Each Board operates as a separate legal entity with the same group of people managing issues in a consistent manner in each of the two schools. Further information is in the governance manual on the terms of this arrangement.

The board of a shared governance arrangement are made up of:

  • 3 direct nominees of the patron
  • 3 parents of children enrolled and in attendance in either of the two schools. At least must be a mother and at least one must be a father and each school must have at least one parent of a child enrolled and attending its school on the Board). The parents must be elected by the general body of parents of children who are enrolled and have started attendance at either of the two schools.
  • The principals of the 2 schools.
  • One serving teacher on the staff of one of the schools, elected by vote of the joint teaching staff.
  • 3 extra members proposed by those above nominees.

Each board is a separate legal entity. Each school must hold its own separate board meetings and keep a separate bank account.

People who are not eligible for board membership

The following people are not eligible for membership of a board:

  • A person who is an undischarged bankrupt or was involved in a court procedure for settling with creditors in the previous 3 years
  • A person who received a prison sentence in the previous 5 years.
  • A person, other than the principal or the elected teacher nominee, who is employed by the board of management or ETB

A board member can be removed from the Board or the board can be dissolved by the patron with the consent of the Minister.

How long can a person serve on a school board?

The term of office for a board is 4 years and members can hold office only for 4 years although members are eligible for reappointment when their term of office expires.

Page edited: 6 December 2022