What are Community National Schools?

Community National Schools (CNS) are state, co-educational, multi-denominational primary schools underpinned  by the core values of Excellence in Education, Care, Equality, Community and Respect. They give equal opportunities to all children in the communities they serve. They were established in 2008 and are managed by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs).

Why is there a need for Community National Schools?

The establishment of the Community National Schools was part of the State’s response to an increasing diversity in Irish society. Because of this, there is a growing demand amongst parents for the State to provide more choice of school types other than single-denominational models. There is also a growing demand in Ireland for publicly-managed primary schools as up until now, they have been publicly-funded but privately- managed. The development of the Community National Schools answers both demands and represents a very exciting and welcome evolution in Irish education. With a long history of excellence in primary education acknowledged world-wide, the Irish State is yet again breaking ground with this new model of primary school that recognises and celebrates the identity of all children equally.

Who owns these schools and what difference does it make?

Local ETBs are the patrons of Community National Schools. ETBs, formerly VECs, are statutory authorities with responsibility for Community National Schools, over 270 second-level schools, and a wide range of adult and further education training centres and services. They have developed an excellent reputation for their provision of inclusive, innovative, high quality education that meets the needs of the entire community.

Having ETBs as patrons is significant for Community National Schools, as ETB schools benefit greatly from a broad range of supports and services that are not available to other schools. ETBs provide governance, educational, administrative, financial, Human Resources and Information Technology (IT) supports to schools. This has a direct impact on the children and families attending these schools, as it allows school leadership to focus  on their primary task of leading teaching and learning. This ensures the highest standard of excellence in our schools. ETBs can also provide a valuable service to the parents of children attending CNSs through their adult education programmes.

So, what will my child experience in a Community National School?

Like all primary schools, Community National Schools follow the Primary School Curriculum, (DES, 1999). However, a significant aspect of the model is its unique ‘ethos’ or ‘characteristic spirit’.

The Community National School characteristic spirit is centred around five core values


Excellence in Education

In terms of ‘Excellence in Education’ your child will be provided with a child-centred education that caters for their intellectual, physical, cultural, moral and spiritual needs. They will have the highest calibre of teacher who will challenge them at their level and guide their learning in a manner appropriate to their individual needs. Children in CNSs experience the curriculum in the most innovative, stimulating ways to enhance their love of learning.


Our schools provide a safe physical and social environment that reinforces a sense of belonging to the school community and wider society. They strive to enable every student to realise their full potential regardless of any aspect of their identity or background. In CNSs children learning in an environment that nurtures their well-being and personal development.


In Community National Schools, all students are given equal opportunities for enrolment in line with the Education (Admissions to School) Act 2018.  Once enrolled, our schools strive to provide all students with equal opportunities to engage with the curriculum and school life. In all aspects of school life all members of our school communities are treated equitably regardless of their race, gender, religion/belief, age, family status, civil status, membership of the Traveller community, sexual orientation, ability or socio-economic status.  


Children attending Community National Schools experience a school environment that encourages parental involvement in all aspects of school life as well as benefit from the support and expertise of the wider community. Children will also enjoy the resources available in the community to enhance their educational experience. Children attending CNSs also see their parents provided with opportunities for adult education through in school through the ETB.


Our schools promote a fully inclusive education that recognises the plurality of identities, beliefs and values held by students, parents and staff. We prepare open-minded, culturally sensitive and responsible citizens with a strong sense of shared values. 

These five core values are closely inter-related and are collectively unique to the Community National Schools.