An Post has launched a commemorative stamp marking 50 years of free secondary education across Ireland.
A hugely significant milestone in Irish life, it was the then Minister for Education, Donogh O’Malley who announced plans for second-level education throughout Ireland in 1967.
The stamp, designed by leading designer Ger Garland with photography by Alan Betson, features Lauren Dench and Michael Duke two students of Gorey Community school in North Wexford, the largest second level school in the country.
A First day Cover, designed to accompany the stamp, includes a portrait of O’Malley who served as Minister for Education from 1966 until his death in 1968.
O’Malley joined the Fianna Fail cabinet as Minister for Health following the General Election of 1966.
He replaced Patrick Hillery as Minister for Education one years later and acted immediately to introduce the recommendations of an official Department report of the education system.
Shortly after his appointment he announced that from 1969 education to Intermediate Certificate level would be free.
It is widely accepted that the introduction of free second level education changed the face of modern Ireland fundamentally.
Reports of the time indicate that about a third of all children finished primary school were dropping out of education altogether. At fifteen years of age fewer than 50% were still in full time education. By age sixteen, only 36% were still at school.
Among the other reforms initiated by Minister O’Malley were the extension of the school transport scheme, the building of new non-denominational, comprehensive and community schools and the Regional Technical College system. Unfortunately, the Minister did not live to see his reforms introduced.
The commemorative stamp and First day Cover (FDC) are available from main post offices, from the stamp counters at Dublin’s GPO or online at www.irishstamps.ie