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, six are 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.