Historical records

Guide to sources on education

Commissioners for National Education

The Commissioners for National Education (National Education Board) were established in 1831 for the purpose of administering a fund of £30,000 placed at the disposal of the Lord Lieutenant for the education of the poor in Ireland. Their powers were based on a set of instructions drawn up by Chief Secretary Stanley and were not defined in any enactment.

Granted a charter in 1845, the Commissioners were empowered to make grants to existing schools for the payment of teachers and the provision of equipment and also to provide for the building of new schools, to appoint and pay inspectors and to establish a model school for the training of teachers.

Only one model school was first contemplated, a central model school in Dublin which was established in 1833. From 1845 onwards, local model schools began to be established; managed by the local inspectors, their teachers were directly appointed by the Board. The Royal Commission on Education (1868–1870) found that the model schools were an unduly expensive method of training teachers and their use for this purpose ceased from about 1883 onwards, the schools continuing to function as ordinary schools.

The Board was brought to an end in 1922 when its functions were taken over by the Minister for Education, whose department was established by the Ministers and Secretaries Act of 1924.

The published reports of the Commissioners can be consulted online at the Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland or in hardcopy in the National Library of Ireland.

The complete ‘List of Teachers Employed by the Commissioners of National Education on 31 March 1905‘ can be viewed here.

Record series

When researching a particular school and the records we hold about it, you will need to consult the index cards in our public Reading Room, in the first instance. They break down what materials there are per school, broken down into the following ED-series. After that, you will consult the finding aids for the relevant series, in order to decide which record(s) you wish to see. All records are stored onsite; some are only given access to on microfilm.

ED/1: Applications for grants, 1832–c.1890

These are applications made to the Commissioners for grants for the building of schools, payment of teachers and provision of equipment. They sometimes include correspondence. Applications are made on printed forms and were originally bound in volumes arranged by county. As many of the volumes were in extremely poor physical condition, they have been disbound and the application files within each volume have been put into individual archival folders. The records are undergoing conservation on an ongoing basis, so some files may be temporarily withdrawn from public use from time to time.

ED/2: Registers, 1832–1963

These are primarily minute books of all proceedings taken in connection with each school. Each school is given a folio number, and at the head of each folio are particulars of the school, as follows: roll number, location, relation if any to religious house, date of establishment, date when taken into connection by the Board, particulars of lease, patrons, controlling committee if any, number and dimensions of schoolrooms, and various particulars relating to the financing of the school. In addition to minutes, the registers may also contain material relating to school finances, attendance, and abstracts of reports by inspectors. Registers for the period 1832–c.1900 are accessible. Those for the period thereafter are inaccessible.

ED/3: Registers, District Model Schools, 1845–1881

As for ED/2

ED/4: Salary Books, 1834–1960’s

These volumes contain details of payments to National School teachers.

ED/5: Salary Books, District Model Schools, 1862–1919

As for ED/4

ED/6: Salary Books, Model Schools, 1862–1919

As for ED/5

ED/7: Newspaper cuttings, 1854–1923

Bound volumes of contemporary newspaper cuttings relating to matters of educational interest. Most of the volumes are indexed.

ED/8: Miscellaneous records (1861–1912 – not available)
ED/9: Files, 1877–1924

These are case files relating to individual schools, dealing with a wide range of subject matter, from routine maintenance to disputes between teachers and managers.

ED/11: Records relating to teacher training colleges and Irish colleges, 1906–1922

These records relate to the administration of teacher training colleges and the recognition, inspection and administration of Irish colleges.

Registered files of the Department of Education, 1922–

This series is a continuation of ED/9 above. The files are listed in date order.

National School registers and roll books

The National Archives has accessioned a small number of registers and roll books from individual schools. The registers are a particularly valuable source of information, giving details of the pupils’ home addresses, parents’ occupations and an account of pupils’ academic progress and attendance record. Lists of roll books and registers –  arranged by county – can be consulted in our Reading Room.

1. Rollbooks and registers received from the Department of Education
2. Rollbooks and registers received by private accession


The registers provide details of the pupil’s name, date of birth, religious affiliation, residence, occupation of parent or guardian and also details of the last national school attended.

Daily Report Books 

The daily report books provide details on attendance at the school – class by class and day by day. These note the discrepancies between the numbers listed on the rolls and the numbers in actual attendance. They also list grants made to the school.

Roll books 

The roll books list the attendance of named pupils. They contain the date of birth of the pupil, the date when entering the relevant class, the number of the pupil within the school and within the relevant class.

While these are the most commonly donated record classes, other record classes also exist:
  • District Inspectors’ Observation Books
  • Organisers’ Observation Books
  • Corporal Punishment Books
  • Religious Instruction Certificates (for members of the Church of Ireland)
  • Special Roll Books

ED/1, ED/2, ED/3, ED/4, ED/5 and the National School registers and roll books cannot be photocopied, due to the fragility and size of the volumes. Photographs of these records may be taken by readers in consultation with the Duty Archivist.


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