Parents and education
The Irish Constitution states that parents have primary responsibility for educating their child.
It also says that the State requires that children receive 'a certain minimum education'. This certain minimum has not yet been defined in legislation or in official policy. Under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 parents must make sure that their children get a certain minimum education from the age of 6 to the age of 16.
You can send your child to school or teach your child at home. However you choose to educate your child, at home or at school, you must ensure that your child gets a certain minimum education from the age of 6 to the age of 16.
Going to school
You can decide to send your child to any school, but there is no constitutional obligation on a particular school to accept individual children. However, each school must follow its own admissions policy when offering school places. Schools cannot discriminate on any of the following grounds:
- Civil status
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Membership of the Traveller community
- Special educational needs
There are some exceptions, you can find out more about admission policies in schools.
Parents are also entitled to provide education outside the school system if they want. This could mean home education or private schools.
Further information and support
There is a range of organisations and schemes providing support and information to parents. They include the following:
Child and Family Agency
The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) is responsible for making sure that children attend school regularly or otherwise get an education.
The educational welfare officers (EWOs) also act as advocates or supports to parents, guardians and children experiencing difficulty with school attendance or educational welfare.
Parents have a legal right to set up a parents’ association and membership must be open to all parents in the school. The parents’ association aims to:
- Represent the interests of parents of children attending the school and to promote good relationships between parents and the school board of management, the principal and the teachers.
- Make representations to the school on issues of policy
- Advise the principal and board on any matter affecting the school.
- Adopt a programme of activities that will promote the involvement of parents in the management of the school.
National Parents Councils
The National Parents Council – Post Primary (NCPpp) runs a Leaving Certificate results helpline every August in association with the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
The National Parents Council (Primary) has published guidelines on Working Effectively as a Parent Association (pdf). NPCpp gives information to parents about parents' associations and children’s learning.
Boards of management
- The school is run for the benefit of the students and their parents.
- An appropriate education is provided for each student at the school.
One of the responsibilities of the board of management is to promote contact between the school, the parents and the community. The Board also helps the parents’ association in its formation and activities.
Home School Community Liaison Scheme
The Home School Community Liaison Scheme is aimed at children in primary and post-primary schools who are at risk of dropping out of school or of not reaching their potential in the education system because of economic or social disadvantage.
In each local area the scheme co-ordinator is a qualified teacher from the staff of the school. The co-ordinators work full-time outside the classroom to build relationships with the children’s parents or guardians. They act as a link between home and school, encouraging parents to become more involved in their children’s education.
Early Start Programme
The Early Start Programme is for children between the ages of 3 and 4 living in socially disadvantaged areas who are at risk of not reaching their potential within the school system.
The programme aims to expose young children to an educational programme which would enhance their overall development and prevent school failure and to offset the effects of social disadvantage.
Parents of participating children are involved in their children's learning. Early Start staff work with Home School Community Liaison co-ordinators to encourage parents to take part in both the everyday management and in the organisation of activities in the Early Start centre.
National Council for Special Education
The NCSE employs Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) who are responsible for allocating additional teaching and other resources to support the special educational needs of children with disabilities at local level.
National Educational Psychological Service
The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides an educational psychology service to primary and post-primary schools. NEPS psychologists specialise in working with teachers, parents and children in identifying educational needs and providing a consultation service for teachers and parents. Children are normally referred to NEPS through the school principal and parents should discuss any concerns regarding learning difficulties with school staff.
Young parents programmes
The Department of Health produced a report on young parents in education (pdf) as part of its support of the Teen Parents Support Programme. There is a Home Tuition grant available from the Department of Education for students on maternity related absence. For more information on this see Circular 0052/2017 (pdf).
Early school-leavers programmes such as the Schools Completion Programme, the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, Youthreach and Post Leaving Certificate courses are aimed at increasing the number of young people staying in second-level schools or helping people get access to second-chance or alternative education.
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) can also support parent’s to return to education.