History of DWEC
In response to the significant expansion of the west Dublin suburbs in the late 1970s and early 1980s teachers in the area saw the need for a teachers’ centre to cater for the needs of the area.
The existing Dublin centres were situated in Drumcondra and Blackrock and they catered for the full Dublin area since the early 1970s.
Several teachers from the west Dublin area were on the management committees of these two centres, among them Peter O’Loughlin [Blackrock] and Terry Dolan [Drumcondra]. The directors of the two centres encouraged the concept of a west Dublin centre.
The profile of inservice courses and activities was heightened by the INTO (1980) Report on Inservice Education and Training of Teachers and there was an additional impetus and expectation with the Department of Education’s Report of Committee in Inservice Education in 1984. The report of this committee and the efforts of local teachers and teacher union branches stimulated the development of new centres, Tralee, Portlaoise and Dublin West, in the mid-1980s.
Initial Years: 1985-1988
The teachers, members and officers of the three teacher unions, set up a Steering Committee at a meeting in the West County Hotel, Palmerstown in early 1985. The seven Branches of ASTI, INTO and TUI were represented and committed an initial grant to the Steering Committee to set about the task of organising a teachers’ centre. This comprised of three tasks: putting a management structure in place, seeking recognition from the Department of Education and organising courses.
The meetings of the Steering Committee took place in Coláiste Chrónain [now Coláiste Chillian] on the Nangor Road. Mr Jerry Cronin, the Co Dublin VEC CEO, facilitated this temporary accommodation. Their two immediate tasks were the drafting of a constitution and organising courses for July 1985.
Courses were also organised for Autumn and the submission for recognition as a teachers’ centre by the Department was completed by December. A delegation comprising Des O’Dowd, Noel Maher and Seamus O’Neill met with Department of Education in January 1986 to present the case for recognition. The prevailing economic situation, the delegation was told, caused the delay in official recognition, and then only as a part-time centre, until 1988 in fact. Funding for this intermediate period was course participant fees, continued support by the union branches, and course grant-in-aid by the Department of Education.
By September 1986 the essential features of the West Dublin Teachers Centre were established. The first AGM in November 1986 adopted the constitution. The centre operations had moved to Old Blessington Road, to accommodation provided by the Co Dublin VEC. The centre office here was the location of weekly meetings of the officers who managed the immediate work of the centre; of the monthly meetings of the committee and also the administrative effort to mount the increasing number of courses put on in the meeting rooms in the Old Vocational School or in adjacent schools. Sixteen courses and a Public Lecture series were organised in 1986 – seven in ICTs alone. Committee members took responsibility for co-ordinating each of the courses. Nineteen courses and a Public Lecture series and 16 courses were organised for 1987 and 1988 respectively: no small achievement for a voluntary committee without any administrative or full-time support. The Drumcondra education centre supported west Dublin by taking course bookings.
The key priorities of the professional support for schools and teachers in the area were established in these years: ICTs, pupils’ learning support needs, arts and physical education, local history and social and behavioural aspects of schooling in west Dublin. The Write-a-Book project was commenced in the 1988-89 school year.
Recognition brought with it funding by the Department of Education by way of imprest to cover administration as well as course costs. Funding also enabled the centre to appoint directors for centre work. One was appointed for each level: Des O’Dowd for primary activities and Noel Maher for post-primary.
New developments, along with the continuation of course provision, took place in the following years. The centre office opened on two nights of the week. The levels of service support to schools in the area was increased by investments and call in facilities: a photocopier, the video library, a lamination service commenced and booking and enquiries by employing, with the aid of the FÁS community employment scheme, a secretary.
Attention to the needs of principals received attention as well. A support group for post-primary principals was established and courses for principals in the use of ICTs in school administration took place.
Along with overseeing these developments the management committee set itself its next objective – achieving full-time status with a full-time seconded director. Two centres were to have received this in 1990: Waterford and West Dublin. In the event, the west Dublin appointment was postponed until 1991.
In the three years to full-time status the West Dublin Teachers Centre achieved considerable status in the Dublin area. It had a course profile similar to the other Dublin centres. It could provide a range of services to teachers, including two evenings. It had created a profile for itself in ICT courses. It had commenced Water Safety and Resuscitation courses under Michael Murphy and with the National Safety Council. The management committee had notable successes to its record and it was to achieve, by 1991, full-time status.
Full Time Status: 1991
A full-time director, Don Herron, took up post in Autumn. The main work of the centre as outlined above continued and the balance of administrative and organisational responsibility shifted from the committee. Over the following years new trends in in-service programmes were developed in
- behaviour management, counselling skills and classroom support strategies
- whole school development planning for all levels
- induction programmes: newly qualified and those appointed to various posts in schools
- courses for principals.
A second dimension receiving further development in this next phase was the expansion, for some years, of the video library and the development of the centre’s library linked to the in-service post-graduate needs of teachers and based on schools’ developmental priorities. Involvement in publications and resource materials took place: in languages, school planning and in support of the National Safety Council’s preparation of teaching materials. Space always limited the much desired resource and development plans of the centre’s management.
Greater collaboration with other institutions and developmental projects was facilitated during this phase: involvement with EU transnational programmes in multicultural education and traveller education that brought together teachers from various jurisdictions. Student teacher training placements from Slippery Rock University expanded the centre’s involvement. Its links with the in-service division of Trinity College Dublin meant courses for teachers and principals were brought within reach and were adapted to the needs of the area.
Expansion: National Programmes
The most significant expansion in the inservice provision through education centres came with the development of national programmes. The Leaving Certificate programmes of 1995 meant a significant increase of work going through education centres, increased staff employed and a higher profile for the education centres among the schools its served. This was repeated with the Relationship and Sexuality Education programme, again administered by the centres.
The locating of the Civic, Social and Political Education inservice and support service in the west Dublin centre necessitated the acquisition of the pre-fabricated offices in the rear of the Old Blessington Road site with the approval of the Co Dublin VEC. These five small offices, along with the original accommodation in the main building has been the location of the centre to date.
The west Dublin centre had been serving the Kildare area offering parallel courses in Naas. In time, the development of the nucleus of a committee to set up the Kildare education centre was established.
Other programmes for management and administration by the centre in the late 1990s included the Employee Assistance Scheme for teachers in the Dublin area, the inservice support for the Teacher Counsellors, the Substance Misuse Prevention Programme for primary schools, the Primary Curriculum Support Programme and the Primary School Sports Initiative. The Primary Curriculum Support Programme is administered from leased accommodation. Staffing for all the centres activities rose from one full-time person in 1991 to 85 [including secondees] in the last school year; the financial turnover from £25,136 in 1991 to £2.84m in 2000.
The aspirations of the management committee in their submission for full-time recognition, whole school courses, meeting for principals and courses directed at language and reading difficulties and assessment were achieved. Along with the local programme emphasis in the 1990s the significant impact of state funding and directed inservice has had the greatest impact on teachers / education centres.
New Building: Planning & Arrival
The building programme of education centres commenced in the mid-1990s. The DWEC was to be built on the site of the [then] Regional Technical College, Tallaght. The outline plan was adopted by the management committee in 1996 and 1997. It was in 1998 that Coady & Associates commenced the design and 2000 that building commenced.
Central to the planning process was anticipating the future in education and Irish education in particular so as to maximise the layout of space. The main features were meeting and professional learning opportunities for teachers, a flexible ICT facility and a research emphasis. An advisory service was anticipated also in having flexible work stations available. For the centre’s staff there was the aspiration for suitable and modern administrative accommodation and facilities.
The new Dublin West Education Centre building opened October 3rd 2002.