Exploring the Value of the Voluntary Secondary Sector in Irish Education

Voluntary secondary schools account for roughly half of the total number of Irish secondary schools, with over 200,000 Irish students attending a voluntary secondary school. As the largest cohort of schools, there is significant diversity across the sector in terms of school ethos (Catholic, Church of Ireland, non-religious), size, location (in urban and rural areas across all 4 provinces) and social mix. Student experiences of the sector are similarly varied, with each school existing within a unique local context while grappling with the universal issues of 21st century education. In the context of the scale and diversity of the sector, and of the current funding structure, this study takes a holistic approach to exploring how voluntary schools are educating young adults for life. Using a mixed method approach, the research will engage with students, parents, boards of management, principals, guidance counsellors and teachers in a broadly representative sample of schools in the sector in the coming months. Interviews with key stakeholders in the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) and other organisations will also be undertaken. The study will provide a broad answer to the question of what voluntary schools provide to students and the community across different contexts and settings. This study is funded by the JMB.