28th February 2018 - An Update on the Progress of the Centre for School Leadership (CSL)

Updates provided by Anna Mai Rooney, CSL Deputy Director (Primary)



The current number of mentoring relationships at primary level is 186 and there are 52 post-primary mentoring relationships. Feedback is currently being sought by CSL from both mentees and mentors so that further training opportunities and professional learning days for mentors can be improved and to ensure that the support offered to mentees is of the highest standard and most relevant to the needs of their schools.

  • Professional Learning Days for Cohort One took place in the Sheraton Hotel on December 5th and 6th
  • There were 120 participants in attendance, 84 primary principals and 36 post-primary
  • The event was attended by IPPN CEO Páiric Clerkin. Deputy CEO Pat Goff and President, David Ruddy
  • This cohort of mentors was addressed by Dr. Tony Bates, who presented a talk entitled: “Leading the Listening School”
  • Participants took part in Professional Learning Communities, Cairde Mentor meetings and a carousel of Vignettes of Good Practice facilitated by two post-primary mentors and two primary mentors
  • Feedback from these days was very positive with participants appreciating the opportunities to reflect on their practice and receive guidance from colleagues
  • However, participants did state a wish to have the carousel divided into sectors to ensure relevance to primary schools, particularly smaller schools.

The feedback on group mentoring was generally very positive and has the potential to significantly inform the learning about this new initiative.

Fitzpatrick’s Consultants have been employed by the Department of Education and Skills to conduct an evaluation on the pilot phase of CSL. In their interim report, they have stated that mentees reported high levels of satisfaction with the programme. Some 98% of new principals stated that it was critical for their professional learning and that the most highly rated aspect of the mentoring relationship was the trustworthiness of the mentor. The final version of the report will be published later this year.


Over 380 principals have currently engaged with the CSL coaching service. Anecdotally, principals are very much appreciating this service.

“Coaching has been invaluable to me. We experienced a crisis in the school and I believe that it was the coaching service that helped me personally to get through the crisis and assist the staff in coming to terms with our situation. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough”

“Coaching has been one of the most useful leadership tools that I have come across. It gives me time to reflect upon myself, my actions and my decisions. I am making changes in my practice as a result.”

The coaching experience has been rated as either excellent or very good by over 90% of those accessing the service according to the research completed by Fitzpatrick’s Consultants. Furthermore, according to the report, participants view the non-education background of the coaches very favourably with over 50% stating that it influenced the quality of the coaching very positively.

Principals countrywide are encouraged to avail of this one-to-one service by accessing it on the CSL website at www.cslireland.ie.

Aspiring Leaders

  • There are currently 247 participants on the Post Graduate Diploma in School Leadership (PDSL)
  • The application process for Cohort Two is currently open and the closing date is March 30th
  • Links to the application process are available on both the CSL and UL websites
  • The PDSL is being provided by UL, UCD and NUIG with a sraith Gaeilge available in NUIG
  • It is available regionally and facilitates professional learning through a combination of face-to-face and online learning, which includes work placement in a school other than the participant’s own, and in a non-educational setting
  • It also seeks to provide a balance between academic and practitioner in-put.

There is an important responsibility on school leaders to develop leadership potential in their schools and to encourage members of staff who may have an interest in leadership.

The CSL Team would very much appreciate school leaders bringing the PDSL to the attention of their staff in advance of the impending closing date.

The Continuum of Leadership Learning

The CSL Team is currently engaged in Consultative Workshops on the Continuum. The objective is to further scope and develop the Continuum in advance of its publication, in consultation with stakeholders.

Broad themes from the October 9th Consultative Forum are as follows:

Perceived Strengths and Gaps in Current Provision

  • It was generally agreed by participants at the forum that there is good professional learning available for newly-appointed principals.
  • Mentoring and coaching are perceived as significant new strengths of professional learning along the continuum.
  • A recurring theme however, is the deficit of provision prior to appointment to senior leadership roles. A second identified gap is the absence of any mandatory requirement for professional learning either prior to appointment or induction.
  • Specifically, in relation to post-appointment professional learning, a significant number of submissions stated that supports are duplicated and have developed on an ad hoc basis.
  • There is evidence in the feedback that a definite tension exists in the system in finding the balance between on the job training and the development of broader leadership capacities.


Perceived Strengths in the Proposed Continuum

  • The continuum, as presented, was perceived to be well thought out, based on current national and international research, and a significant development in supporting school leadership in Ireland as it provides a road map for the professional learning of teachers at different stages in their career.
  • A significant number of responses welcomed different forms of learning pathways, e.g. shadowing, mentoring, coaching, internships, exchanges, blended learning and collaborative learning in clusters.
  • A key strength identified was the collective, collaborative approach to developing the continuum.
  • The identification, along the continuum, of leadership at every level was widely welcomed.
  • A number of responses commented positively on the alignment of the continuum with “Looking at our School 2016”

Perceived Gaps in the Proposed Continuum

  • Barriers to engagement with professional learning were not sufficiently identified. These include time, financial support, geographical access and variable quality of provision.
  • Currently, specific areas of the continuum are significantly under-developed such as teacher and middle leadership.
  • Clarity is required around the link between leadership professional learning reform as outlined in the continuum and the Cosán Framework for continuous learning.
  • The continuum as presented, represents interrogation of professional learning and there is a need for further development in terms of depth and detail at each level.
  • There is disagreement around what constitutes teacher leadership and how this may be restricted to relating solely to organisational, administrative, and pastoral or task-based school activities.
  • A distinct tension exists in the system around the identification and selection of future school leaders.
  • Some providers emphasised that the continuum needs to recognise a variety of forms of professional learning and demonstrate flexibility in its approach to school context and the specific characteristic spirit which defines the operation of leadership practice.
  • There was specific evidence in the feedback received of the need for regular and meaningful engagement with stakeholders to further the collaborative development of the continuum.

Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance was deemed to be an essential element in ensuring quality provision along the continuum, according to participants at the Consultative Forum.

 The CSL Quality Assurance Pilot is currently underway and the learning from this will inform the process review on completion of the pilot.

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