Coolfore, West Farney and the National School System 1826 —1968

by Gerard Fealy


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Throughout rural Ireland, small single-storey stone buildings can be found, several bearing ‘national school’ on a stone plaque above the door. These are the schoolhouses that were a common feature of the built environment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The local national school was and still remains an essential institution in the social life of each parish.

This book tells the story of the national school system in Ireland, since its establishment in 1831 to the mid to late twentieth century. The book takes the case of Coolfore national school, a rural school in south County Monaghan to illustrate how the system developed and operated. Beginning with the pay or ‘hedge’ schools, the book traces the development of the national school system in Ireland and shows how the state-supported system of mass education was highly regulated, bureaucratically operated and locally managed and controlled by vested interests, including the local landlord and his agents and by the denominational churches.