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7. National School Ethos

Extract from Section 15.2 (b) of the 1998 Education Act:

It shall be a function of the Board of Management of a School to uphold, and be accountable to the patron for so upholding, the characteristic spirit of the school as determined by the cultural, educational, moral, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions which inform and are characteristic of the objectives and conduct of the school


  1. Ethos and Characteristic Spirit are interchangeable words which are defined by Webster as “the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution“.
  2. The basic ethos of all National Schools includes equal access for children of all religions.
  3. Neither individuals nor regulatory authorities should accept a declared religious ethos of any National School that does not include equal access to children of all religions.
  4. The ethos of all National Schools must include the principles of the Stanley Letter which includes primarily the object to “unite in one system children of different creeds”.
  5. Ethos as related to schools in Ireland is not defined in law. However the extract above from the 1998 Education Act gives some legislative guidance.
  6. Ethos (characteristic spirit) has come to be associated almost exclusively with religion.
  7. There is no such thing as a Catholic National School – it is a contradiction in terms. Many National Schools are named after saints like Schoil Naomh Pádraic, Scoil Bhride etc. However, in many cases, when the history of the school is checked, it will be found that the school is actually Athlone National School or a similar name relating to the location of the school.
  8. The Patron has no power to dictate the ethos of a school.
  9. Each individual school must get its ethos from its foundation and traditional position in the community.
  10. Ethos can only be legally defined by way of evidence – the assertion of school authorities or Patrons does not constitute evidence.
  11. It is important that the ethos of a school should be defined as it appears in the Equal Status Act 2000.
  12. Private primary schools, commonly attached to private secondary schools, often have a denominational religious ethos – this is not the case with National Schools.
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