Model Schools – Model Teachers? A nineteenth-century Irish teacher-training initiative – Joseph Doyle.
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In the field of Irish education during the nineteenth century, the most significant government initiative was the establishment of a system of national education, which succeeded in providing regulated elementary education for the masses. However, the government attempt to provide these locally managed schools with teachers trained through a nationwide network of model training schools, under its exclusive management, was fraught with difficulties. Lack of funds and the failure to establish the board of national education as a corporate entity delayed implementing this objective until 1846. Over the next twenty years the establishment of a network was influenced by several internal and external factors. Practical difficulties encountered by the board, particularly its inability to control costs, meant that progress was much slower than originally planned. Gathering Roman Catholic clerical opposition, focusing on the board’s failure to provide a management role for any but its own officers, eventually denied the model schools the support of many of the Roman Catholic laity. This skewed their final geographical distribution towards Ulster and the larger urban areas outside of that province. This work sets out to explore the background of the initiative. Tracing the spread of the network, it will evaluate the support for and the effectiveness of the training programme, and most importantly assess the impact of the growing Roman Catholic Church opposition to all aspects of the model school system. Ultimately, it calls into question not only the effectiveness of the preparatory training and indeed the commitment of candidate teachers, but its very raison d’etre