National Schools

National Schools

In Brief

In Calypso Bloom passes by "Saint Joseph's National school" and hears the "Brats' clamour. Windows open. Fresh air helps memory." In Hades the funeral procession takes him by another "National school," this one called Saint Andrew's though it is not named in the narrative. The National Schools were public schools, funded by the government, that served students of the lower middle class and emphasized vocational education. In theory, at least, they embraced all religious denominations and strictly separated religious instruction from the rest of the curriculum.

Read More

The National School system, established by an Act of Parliament in 1831, was administered by a National Board of Education consisting of two members each from the Catholic church, the Presbyterian church, and theĀ  Church of Ireland. For early 19th century Irish Catholics emerging from the hedge school arrangements necessitated by the 18th century penal laws, the schools represented a chance of equal opportunity and social integration. But all three churches resisted the constraints on their ability to shape the course of education. Although they failed to change the law, they did manage to influence practice within particular schools, and many parents sought out schools that catered to their particular faith. According to an article in the 1 September 2017 issue of the Irish Examiner, by the end of the 19th century denominational adherence was threatening to undermine the system.

St. Joseph's school was at 81-84 Upper Dorset Street, and St. Andrew's was at 114-21 Great Brunswick Street. These buildings still stand today, though neither one remains a school. And the National School system in Ireland continues, still government-run and non-denominational.

JH 2021
The building that formerly housed St. Joseph National School, now St. Raphael's Private Clinic, an extension of the nearby Mater Misericordiae Hospital. Source: Gareth Collins.
St. Andrew's National School today, put to new uses. Source: Gareth Collins.