Although children are not obliged to attend school until the age of six, 65% of four year olds and most five year olds are enrolled in the infant classes in primary schools in Ireland. Primary schools operate an eight-year programme, consisting of two kindergarten years (Junior and Senior Infants), followed by classes 1-6.
The primary education system emphasises a child-centred approach and is founded on the belief that high quality education enables children to realise their potential as individuals and to live their lives to the fullest capacity appropriate to their particular stages of development. The primary curriculum (recently completely revised) provides for an extensive learning experience and promotes a rich variety of approaches to teaching and learning.
The curriculum is divided into the following key areas:
The aims of the curriculum are to ensure that all children are provided with learning opportunities that recognise and celebrate their uniqueness, develop their full potential and prepare them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The focus is on the child as learner, and the use of a variety of teaching methodologies is an essential feature of the curriculum.
The curriculum aims to foster the development of key skills in communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, inquiry, investigation and analysis, and social and personal awareness and interaction. In particular, it places key emphasis on the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills.
The curriculum emphasises the need for greater attention to be paid to students with special educational needs and emphasises the importance of achieving functional literacy and numeracy. It also draws attention to the needs of gifted children.
There are no formal examinations at the end of the primary school cycle.
The school year runs from September until the end of June with holidays at Easter and Christmas.
Types of schools:
The Irish primary education sector consists of state-funded primary schools, special schools and private primary schools. State funded schools include religious schools, non-denominatinal schools, multi-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna.
Choosing a school:
Generally speaking you should be able to send your child to the school of your choice. However, when it comes to enrolling your child, you may find that there is little or no choice in the area in which you live. Each school operates an admissions policy which they must make available on request.
State-funded primary schools tend to give priority to children living in the immediate area, but problems can arise if their classes are already full and they have a waiting list. Multi-denominational schools, non-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna each decide their own admissions policy.