The Galway Educate Together Second Level School Startup Group came together in early 2012. It is made up of parents from all five of Galway’s existing Educate Together primary schools in Claregalway, Kilcolgan, Newcastle, Knocknacarra, and Tuam.
Its purpose is to promote and gather support for the establishment of Galway’s first Educate Together second level school, prior to making an application to the Department of Education and Skills for patronage when they next decide to open a new school in Galway.
The Galway Educate Together Second Level School Startup Group complies with The Governance Code for the Community, Voluntary and Charitable Sector in Ireland. A statement of the Code’s principles can be found here and more information can also be found at www.governancecode.ie.
Why does Galway need an Educate Together Second-Level School?
County Galway currently has five Educate Together Primary Schools. The first was founded in 1994 in Newcastle (as the Galway School Project) by a group of parents seeking an alternative to denominational national schools. Claregalway Educate Together was set up in 2005, Kilcolgan Educate Together in 2008, Knocknacarra in 2014, and Tuam in 2015.
The children attending these schools experience a primary education based around the four key principles of the Educate Together ethos; equality-based, co-educational, child centred, and democratically run. But, as yet there is no equivalent second level choice for students who wish to maintain and further this ethos in their secondary education.
The overwhelming majority of Galway’s secondary schools are Catholic Voluntary schools, privately owned and managed under Church patronage. As such they are denominational (Catholic) and that is reflected in the ethos of the schools.
Of the 11 second level schools in Galway, only three are functionally co-educational, and of these one is Irish language medium. As a result, there is huge pressure for places in the co-ed schools and every year children from co-ed primary schools seeking a similar experience for second-level fail to secure places and have no option but to attend single gender schools.
It is widely recognized that there are problems with second level education in Ireland. Third level institutions and employers have pointed out the deficiencies in rote learning and the narrow emphasis on exam performance at the expense of skills needed for life in the 21st century: critical and creative thinking, problem solving, communicating, leadership and working with others. These skills are fostered in the Educate Together primary schools and need to be furthered at second level.
Since the Education Act of 1998 all second-level schools are required to have a Board of Management. The Board is made up of representatives from three key groups- patron body, parents and teachers. Educate Together has expanded involvement in decision-making to include students themselves. The leadership, management and structure of an Educate Together second-level school will facilitate, support and develop student participation in school affairs.
Why Do We Need To Campaign Now
Change in Patronage
In 2011 Educate Together received recognition as a second-level patron following a ten-year campaign. This means Educate Together can now apply for the patronage of any new post-primary school announced by the Department of Education and Skills.
On 24 February 2012, Educate Together submitted applications to the Department of Education and Skills for the patronage of post-primary schools in:
- Greystones, Wicklow (2014)
- Lusk, Dublin (2013)
- Drogheda, Louth (2014)
- Dublin 15 (2014)
These applications were supported by thousands of expressions of interest from parents in those areas, and decisions on the applications are expected this month.
The decision to allocate a new post-primary school is determined by two key factors:
- Demographic need
- Parental demand
Demographic trends in Galway suggest that a new school will be needed within the next 5–10 years. When it is, we want to be ready to establish it as the first Educate Together post-primary in the West of Ireland.
Ireland is no longer a racially and religiously homogenous country. Neither is it one with clear, traditional paths from the world of education to work. Our children’s education needs to reflect their changing world and equip them to meet its demands. The ability of our current second-level system to achieve this is being increasingly questioned, and the Blueprint for Educate Together Secondary Schools is widely recognized as a best practice model for change in Irish post-primary education. A sample of recent quotes makes this clear:
“Increasingly, I am hearing alarm at the extent to which our second-level system is producing students who learn to the test; who in ever greater numbers are not learning to think for themselves; who receive spoon-feeding at second level and expect the same at third.’”
– Tom Boland, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority
“Change is urgently required… An overhaul of the current over-crowded, rigid and subject-based curriculum is long overdue. The current system does not encourage the types of creativity, flexibility, independent thinking and appetite for learning that are so critical in later stages of education and work.”
– Tony Donohue, Head of Education Policy, IBEC
“This comprehensive blueprint [for Educate Together Second-level Schools] is both visionary and realistic. It is an excellent document which will provide an invaluable guide and support for founders, parents and teachers in future Educate Together second-level schools.” “Many students weaned on rote learning in the Leaving Cert are entering higher education without adequate skills, including numeracy and literacy, to cope with the very different demands of college. Overall, there is a serious deficit when it comes to critical thinking, problem solving or self-directed learning.”
– Professor Áine Hyland, Former Professor of Education, University College Cork.
“This [the Blueprint for Educate Together Second-level Schools] is, in effect, a blueprint for a new standard in second level education – a standard that places equality at the heart of school practice and policy. In this school, diversity is a resource, stereotypes are eliminated and young people are empowered to participate constructively in our diverse society. Educate Together will serve us all well in bringing this blueprint into fruition.”
– Niall Crowley, former CEO of the Equality Authority
What can you do?
An Educate Together second-level school in Galway would give enrolment priority to primary school students from ALL of Galway’s national schools. We are asking parents of ALL Galway children for their support for choice in second-level education by filling out an Expression of Interest Form.
To help you make an informed choice, we’ll also hold public information events soon which we will advertise on our website, and around Galway. It is never too early to be interested in this issue, so please support us even if your child has yet to start primary school.
We’d also be happy to meet with your schools, sports clubs, community groups, or speak to you one-on-one about why we think Galway would benefit from an Educate Together second-level school.
Galway needs choice in education. Please help us achieve it.