Educate Together

In Ireland, the fundamental operational policies of State-funded primary schools are determined by their “Patrons” In most cases (98%) the patron is the local bishop of either the Roman Catholic or Anglican Church. However, in Educate Together schools, the patron is a company whose legal basis obliges it to operate schools that guarantee equality of access and esteem to children “irrespective of their social, cultural or religious backgrounds”. This is the fundamental difference. Educate Together schools are also “parent initiated schools”. They are set up by groups of parents who wish for this type of school in their locality. As a result there is a high level of parental participation in the operation of the school. The corporate nature of Educate Together as a patron means that all its actions are bound by its legal articles. Each school is a member of the company and so there is transparency, accountability and democratic involvement by the school communities in the decisions it makes as a patron. You can see the fundamental legal basis of the Educate Together movement in the Educate Together Charter.
Educate Together was carefully chosen as the name of our organisation to reflect the coming together of children of different social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The term was first used in the 1970s together with the concept of “No Child an Outsider”. It also reflects a commitment to co-educationalism, with girls and boys being educated together. We hope that the name reflects our commitment to inclusion and equality in the running of our schools. In the Irish language our name is “Ag Foghlaim Le Chéile”.
Not at all. Our philosophy is multi-denominational. The idea is to provide a school environment in which the spiritual background of all children in respected whatever their viewpoint. Our Ethical Education Curriculum has a specific strand which educates children about the main religious faiths in the world (this includes non-theistic and humanist viewpoints). This programme aims to inform rather than instruct. It teaches children “about” religions rather than that one is “the right way to think”. Our school boards are not permitted to promote any particular faith. We feel that specific religious formation is the responsibility of parents and religious organisations outside school. Within the school we aim to ensure that no child has to be set apart as a result of their religion. However, to assist any group of parents who wish to do so, our school boards facilitate the organisation of voluntary doctrinal instruction classes outside school hours. Many parents with deep religious convictions choose our schools and find that their viewpoints are fully respected.
In education, “Child-centred” means that teaching is carried out according to the developmental interests of the child. The curriculum in Irish National Schools has been formally child-centred since 1971. This means that the teacher in the class is committed to addressing as far as possible the individual needs of each child. It must be understood however, that this is always resource dependent. The current size of classes and lack of resources provided by the State often make the full realisation of this ideal impossible. In terms of the Educate Together Charter, our commitment to Child-centredness means that the Board of the school must take the educational interests of the children as its fundamental priority. In a school context, it is important to understand that the Board’s commitment is to all the children in the school whose interests must be considered equally.
It would be hard for us to call ourselves “Educate Together” if we had separate schools for girls and boys! Although most primary schools in Ireland are now co-educational, that was not the case when we started in the 1970s. In today’s terms, our commitment to co-educationalism means that Educate Together is committed to encouraging children to explore their full range of opportunities irrespective of gender. We have learnt that this means much more than simply putting girls and boys in the same classroom and teaching them the same programme. We have to develop programmes to counter gender stereotyping and inequity in all aspects of school life. We think that encouraging an ability amongst children to have respectful relationships between girls and boys is a vital part of preparing them for their a future in a society where hopefully there will be increasing equality between genders.
Educate Together National Schools are funded (or under-funded) on an exactly equal basis as other National Schools in Ireland. The State pays the teachers and a series of grants to the Board of Management mainly determined by the number of children attending. Unfortunately these grants never cover the real costs of the school and the school has to run fund-raising programmes to make up the difference. Educate Together’s legal charter prevents our schools discriminating on the grounds of social background, so all our fundraising programmes are voluntary. Together with other management bodies, Educate Together is campaigning for the State to reverse the long standing under funding of primary education in Ireland and radically increase the grant per child (the capitation grant) paid to schools.
All national schools in the Republic of Ireland must teach all the same subjects. All schools are subject to inspection by the Department of Education and all must follow the national curriculum. You will find that teachers who apply to Educate Together schools are highly motivated and give much of their personal time developing school plans and activities for children. Staff attend functions and meet with parents regularly. All our teachers have many skills/academic and music qualifications in addition to their teaching degree and the majority of staff attended school/3rd level in Gaelscoils or in Coláiste Mhuire Marino.

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