President Michael D Higgins has joined primary school principals in calls to reduce the red tape that holds them back from teaching the arts.
He said many children would be unable to take part in extra-curricular activities such as sports and drama if it were not for school heads giving up their own time.
"It is my wish, as patron of the association for the promotion of creativity and the arts in education, that teachers be allowed to deliver their generous talents to these activities and that no bureaucratic requirement ever impedes their capacity to do so," Mr Higgins said.
Members of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) gave the President a standing ovation after he spoke at the group's annual conference. Mr Higgins, a supporter of the network, was applauded as he praised head teachers for their work with pupils,
He said Ireland was lucky to have so many dedicated head teachers who not only complete their work to a high standard, but become involved in a broad range of extra-curricular activities for their pupils' benefit.
The President paid particular tribute to school choir activities, but warned there was a danger during times of economic austerity that these essentials may not be protected.
"May these teachers always be free to do these activities that are much more important than any exercise in quantification," he said.
Mr Higgins added: "Without the dedication, commitment and generosity of our teachers many children would not be able to partake in sporting activities, choirs and drama productions, after school clubs, local community work and so many other activities which can awaken undiscovered interests, build a spirit of teamwork and co-operation, and prepare children to become active participants in their communities and societies in later life."
The President echoed calls from IPPN director Sean Cottrell, who said hours of form-filling was jeopardising principals' ability to lead their schools effectively. He urged the Government to reduce the red tape burden imposed on principals by prioritising funding for school administrator posts to free up their time.
"In other countries, resources to employ administrators are ring-fenced, making sure that principals can do what they are best at - focusing on the quality of teaching and learning," Mr Cottrell said.