Prof Joe O' Hara and Dr Shivaun O'Brien
Prof Joe O'Hara and Dr Shivaun O'Brien at the launch event for ETBI Patrons’ Framework on Ethos, at Killashee Hotel in Naas

Launch ETBI Patron’s Framework on Ethos marking the introduction of new national guidelines for ETB Patronage

The Education and Training Board Ireland (ETBI) launched The ETBI Patron’s Framework on Ethos. It was authored by Dr. Shivaun O’Brien, Director of Research at the DCU Centre for Evaluation Quality and Inspection, in the DCU Institute of Education.

It marks a significant milestone in the ETBI sector, as Dr. O’Brien’s work has become national policy across all 279 primary and post-primary schools, impacting directly the educational experience of nearly 120,000 students and thousands of teachers and school leaders. 

Dr. Shivaun O’Brien, Director of Research at the DCU Centre for Evaluation Quality and Inspection said

“I was delighted to be entrusted to develop the Patrons' Framework on Ethos in consultation with ETBI and to see the real and lasting impact of this work for future generations of school leaders, boards of management, staff, parents and especially students. It is wonderful to see patron bodies and schools prioritising values and student experience at the heart of all school activities rather than a narrow focus on exam results. ETB schools now have a clear identity, they know who they are, have a shared language to express it and a system to evaluate and improve it.”

Through a yearlong consultation process with key stakeholders across the ETB sector, Dr. O’Brien developed a set of detailed standards and statements of good practice based on the EBTI core values and ethos (multi-denominational, coeducational, excellence in education, care, equality, community and respect).  Although ETB schools were set up as Vocational Education Committee (VEC) schools almost 100 years ago, this was the first time in their history that the ethos of ETB schools was agreed and documented.

Following the development of The Patrons’ Framework on Ethos, Dr. O’Brien also developed national guidelines for the self-evaluation of ethos by all ETB schools, the ETB-specific self-evaluation instruments, and from 2021 to 2022 she led 20 schools through a pilot initiative where they evaluated their ethos for the first time in the history of its patronage. Going forward, all ETB schools will be expected to use the tools, and the processes she developed for ethos evaluation, in order to assess how effectively the ETB ethos is implemented in each school. 

Dr Seamus Conboy, Director of Schools in ETBI said

"Dr O'Brien played a central role in supporting the ETB sector in articulating the ethos of our schools. We engaged her at a point where we needed someone with the relevant expertise to bring together in one coherent document all the various strands of work that the sector had done over that 10 year period. As many people across the sector have commented to me, this work has translated the nebulous concept of ethos into something tangible, quantifiable, and achievable. 

The response from the 20 schools involved in the piloting of the School Self Evaluation on Ethos process, in particular, has been incredibly positive. Many have described the work as ‘transformative’ for their school communities. We hope to roll this process out across all ETB schools over the coming years."

At the launch of the ETBI Patrons Framework on Ethos, Executive Dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, Professor Anne Looney, said, ‘the historical importance of the framework launch cannot be underestimated.’ 

Carl O’Brien, Education Editor at the Irish Times, moderated a panel discussion on the themeEthos in Action’, featuring staff, learners and parents from across the ETB sector with all participants testifying to the significance and positive  impact of the work on the school community, not only now but for many years to come. 

Dr. Shivaun O’Brien is widely recognised as the national expert in the area of school self-evaluation and school ethos. As a researcher within the DCU Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, she has been commissioned by other school patron bodies including Educate Together and Jesuit schools networks to engage in the development of similar ethos quality frameworks, specific to the values of each patron body.  To date her work on school ethos and self-evaluation has been adopted as national policy by three patron bodies and will directly impact on the lived experience of 155,359 primary and post-primary students as well as the staff in 404 schools where values and ethos has now moved to centre stage in the priorities of patron bodies and schools.

The ETBI Patron’s Framework on Ethos is available to read here