In Ireland there is progressive legislation on children's participation in the education system. The Education Act 1998 advocates that school boards should involve students in the school and establish student councils in second-level schools. Since the publication of this legislation progress on realising students' participation in schools has been slow. In 2006 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Ireland strengthen its efforts to enable children to express their views in schools and other educational institutions. The National Strategy on Children and Young People's Participation in Decision-making (2015), the first to be produced internationally, commits to facilitating children and young people's voice in the development of education policy, the running of schools and in other areas of school policy. This paper presents and discusses the results of qualitative participatory research with children and young people aged between 7 and 17 years, teachers and school principals, and parents, on their attitudes towards and opportunities for participation by students in schools in Ireland. The data reveal that students are keen to participate in school but recognise that their opportunities to do so are inadequate, that teachers understand participation very differently from students, and that parents have little knowledge of their children's participatory experiences in school. It concludes that effective participation in schools requires policy, practical and cultural change.