The first steps towards inclusion and excellence in education had been taken. Ireland was looking towards its future - the children.
Traditionally much of the Public school system in Ireland was reflective of the culture of the nation. The separation by religious affiliation was widely accepted, not just within the school system but within every day life. "State-funded and administered national school system was established in Ireland in 1831. This provided universal access to primary education. By the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, the administration and business of primary education were entrusted to a Department of Education, the head of which was the Minister for Education" (UNESCO, 2000, 1). Although public ally funded these schools, they were run by individual church denominations and exclusion of other faiths was the norm. Prior to the 1980's schools were traditionally Catholic or Protestant schools. Although historically some schools had been considered integrated prior to the 1980's, in fact, the term was loosely used to denote a once catholic affiliated school had become a protestant affiliated school. The cultural differences precluded multi faith attendance by students within the state run school system.
The 1980's through the 1990's saw the most sweeping changes in the Irish educational system. The main focus centered on inclusion of all citizens' educational opportunities: from primary education, to post primary, to advanced degree programs, to adult education and training, and to attract back youth who were no longer attending school. The emphasis on expanding the role both of government and other agencies to provided the best possible education to each person became the target of the Department of Education. The former restrictions of limited opportunities because of religion, gender, and economically and socially disadvantages became an imperative. The Department of Education began restructuring itself to meet the demands of its new philosophy. "The Irish educational system operates in a complex and changing environment, which features many different partners - parents, students, teachers, patrons, managerial authorities, the Department of Education and Science, and other special interest groups, such as employers and community organisations. All of these partners have played a part in the major developments in Irish education within the last decade" (UNESCO,
During these formulative years the Department of Education has established specific divisions within the department to focus on specific areas including: curriculum development, Vocational and Technical training, Information Technology, the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). YOUTHREACH, and Gender Equality Unit to cite a few. The transition from exclusion to inclusion, although not complete, has been a remarkable accomplishment brought about by a unified effort of government, the public and community groups to improve the overall life of Irish citizens. The most important piece of legislature to affect the educational system