The management and administration of Irish post-primary schools
Demographic trends suggest that change is inevitable in the Irish post-primary sector. Closures, amalgamations and general rationalisation will increase the average size of schools. This will increase the pressure and workloads of those already in principalship.Almost twenty-five percent of Irish post-primary schools are under two hundred and fifty pupils, and the constraints on the provision of a wide curriculum in such small schools are likely to become a serious factor in their struggle for existence. The participation rate at senior level will increase and therefore curricular diversity will become essential. Many small schools are in multi-school areas and it would be unreasonable to expect the State to duplicate (or even triplicate) ever more expensive educational provision. As the curriculum widens, so its provision becomes more costly. The post-primary curriculum in Ireland was traditionally biased towards the liberal and literary, which is relatively inexpensive to provide, even in triplicate. As scientific and technological subjects take their place in the 'new' broader curriculum, so the necessity for larger schools, and thereby non-duplication of provision, becomes more imperative. Amalgamations are inevitable, but the management profession is unprepared and under-trained, and those who will join the profession anew will be unable to avail of any substantial body of experience.Clearly, intensive training for incumbent and new principals and middle management personnel is demanded. In addition, a mass of statistical data on the post-primary system as it exists, is required for this purpose.Many references were made in the Green paper (1992) and the National Education Convention report (1994) to the changing role of principalship and the management and administration of schools. One of the aims of the proposed legislative changes is to radically devolve administration and introduce good management practices to schools.It is widely acknowledged that good leadership is a prerequisite to effective school management. Devolved administration and greater autonomy will make good principalship even more necessary. Principalship has an instructional leadership role which differentiates the position from an industrial manager or a commercial executive. Research has shown however, that principals spend little time planning or in any kind of leadership role (despite the fact that they value these activities as the most important!) and most time in low value tasks. Clearly, the time has come to assess what principals actually do and how satisfied they are with the administration of their institutions.While the principalship is the pivotal position in any school, the middle management structures that surround the principal will largely determine how successful (s)he is. The principal should be free to utilise his/her expertise in the more important functions like instructional leadership and staff motivation.It was in this context and against this background that this research was undertaken: to investigate the management and administration of post-primary schools in Ireland.The aim of this research is fourfold:1. To gather information on the characteristics of post-primary schools in Ireland. Specifically, to amass data on the following aspects of school structure:(a) The physical and human environment;(b) The academic environment and policy;(c)A profile of principals in principalship.2. To examine the administration of post-primary schools, by function, and to research the styles of management currently prevalent. Management of schools is not coincident with industrial or commercial management and the management of post-primary schools is dissimilar to that of third level institutions. Furthermore, the management of Irish post-primary schools is unique as a result of its particular history. While all will have some degree of similarity, there is an ever increasing level of synonymy as the institutions become more equivalent. Scientific investigation provides the basis for theoretical development and this research aims to:(a) categorise Irish post-primary schools according to styles of management and develop new theoretical models of management and conflict, in the context of existing theory.(b)place existing management structures and theoretical developments in an historical context.3. To gauge (dis)satisfaction within the educational management profession; not so much self-assessment of principalship by principals, rather assessment by principals of the success or otherwise of the school as an institution.4. Generally:(a) To contribute to the body of factual and scientific data about the post-primary sector.(b)To contribute to the theory of management and conflict in schools.(c) To contribute to the debate on the management of and practices in, Irish post-primary schools.(d) To raise the awareness of principals and middle managers at a time of change. Managing change is as important as changing management and it is hoped to contribute to the constructive development of the Irish post-primary system.