Great Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow
The First National Primary Principals' Conference to be held in Ireland took place in Cork in October 1994. It was organised by an active group of local Principals who met regularly for professional support and who were acutely aware of the changing role of the Primary School Principal. Principals from all over Ireland attended the conference, entitled "Talking Heads", at the Imperial Hotel. The then Minister for Education, Niamh Bhreathnach, opened the conference. The feedback was so positive that the southern capital hosted two further successful conferences in 1995 and 1996. Between the second and third conferences, the Cork committee developed the concept of a local Primary Principals' Network and so the third conference in 1996 was organised by the Cork Primary Principals' Network.
A meeting was arranged between members of CPPN and a group of Principals in the Leinster region to discuss the possibility of holding the next conference in Dublin. As a result of this meeting held in St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra on March 3rd, 1997 the Primary Principals' Network (Eastern Region) was formed and this group organised the 4th National Conference for Primary Principals in the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin. Like their Cork counterparts, the Eastern Committee went on to organise three conferences in all.
At the 5th National Conference held in Malahide in February 1999 a proposal to form a National Principals' Network was accepted by attendees at the closing session. Following this session, which was facilitated by Dr. Ciarán Sugrue, Education Department, St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, an ad-hoc group was formed and this group arranged to meet in Kildare Education Centre on March 20th, 1999. It was at this historic meeting that the Irish Primary Principals' Network - IPPN - was founded. The attendees at that meeting, hosted by Anne Kelleher, Director, Kildare Education Centre, were: George Barry (Tipperary), Ciarán Boland (Cork), Isbéal Brennan (Kilkenny), Seán Cottrell (Cork), Larry Fleming (Offaly), Jim Hayes (Cork), Raymond King (Kildare), Moira Lynch (Westmeath), Pat Meagher (Tipperary), Paul Murphy (Tipperary), Una McNamara (Dublin), Tomás Ó Slatara (Tipperary), Maurice Whelan (Galway) and Damien White (Offaly). All present consented to be on an interim national committee while Jim Hayes, Raymond King and Tomás Ó Slatara were prevailed upon to act as interim President, Secretary and PRO respectively.
Over the following weeks and months, IPPN delegations met with the Minister for Education and Science, officials in the In-Career Development Unit of the Department of Education and Science, the Primary Management Bodies, Education Centre Directors and all the other partners in Irish Primary education. Meetings were held also with our counterparts at second level, NAPD, whose advice and support was greatly appreciated.
At the early National Committee meetings, much time and consideration was devoted to debate on the overall structure of IPPN as a professional association - a relatively new concept in education - as well as the drawing up of a draft constitution and appropriate guidelines for Primary Principals' support groups.
The Minister for Education and Science of the day, Mícheál Martin T.D., was very supportive of IPPN from the outset and his department manifested it's support by offering to arrange for the secondment of a Principal teacher to act as a National Director of the Network.Mr. Seán Cottrell was subsequently appointed as National Director in October 2000.
IPPN was officially launched by the then newly appointed Minister for Education and Science, Dr. Michael Woods T.D. in Dublin Castle on February 10th, 2000. The first National Conference under the official IPPN banner was held in February 2001 in the Corrib Great Southern Hotel, Galway.
Since its foundation, the Irish Primary Principals' Network - Líonra Phríomhoidí Bunscoile Éireann - has become a key part of the educational landscape of this country, providing leaders in primary education with dedicated professional representation, a range of practical supports and services and opportunities for professional development.
Jim Hayes, Founding President, IPPN