Primary Voices – Equality, Diversity and Childhood in Irish Primary Schools

Levels of interest in, and awareness of, key social justice issues in Irish society and Irish education have developed sharply in recent years. Irish society has become more visibly diverse and heterogeneous in the last decade, and debates around issues such as ethnic diversity and the rights of those with disabilities have gained prominence. The development and implementation of equality legislation (the Employment Equality Act, 1998; the Equal Status Act, 2000) has formed part of the backdrop to the increased prominence of social justice concerns. At the same time, there has been a growing awareness of the rights of young people not merely to be afforded greater respect in society, but also to be given the right to participate more actively in the naming of their own experiences and needs. The National Children’s Strategy, launched in 2000, was concerned with giving voice to a wide range of young people, enabling them to define their own lived realities.

These developments have impacted in no small way on Irish education, as a result of legislative and social changes and because of the increasingly diverse nature of the students attending school. However, little material focusing directly on changes within Irish primary schools has been published to date. This publication aims to address that deficit by examining key social justice issues related to the inclusion and recognition of difference in the primary school as well as by prioritising the lifeworlds and perspectives of children. Based on wide-ranging, current research it gives voice to the educational experiences of primary school children and minority groups (both adults and children).