Educate Together Blog

Educate Together Blog

2016 In Review: Onwards and Upwards!

Paul Rowe, CEO, Educate Together

Thank you to all our supporters, staff, parents and pupils for a wonderful 2016! I hope you have a super winter break with family and friends and that 2017 will be another great year.

2016 saw Educate Together pupil numbers exceed 23,000 pupils for the first time and the total of our schools in Ireland reach 90. With your support we are playing our part in making equality-based schools available to more parents and children than ever before and addressing this fundamental deficit in the Irish education system.

We've had many highlights this year but a few in particular stand out. 

In May, we were delighted to welcome President Higgins and his wife Sabina to our AGM. Both were founding members of our school in Galway.  An tUachtaráin made a most moving and profound speech to our delegates and guests:

“As a society, we owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who support, promote and commit to Educate Together, a democratic concept that embraces the input of children, parents, teachers, and supporters to enable the highest level of partnership and participation in its school. The vision at the heart of Educate Together is one which empowers future generations to constantly strive to make our society a more equal one for all citizens.

September saw the opening of no less than five new Educate Together second-level schools. Bremore ETSS (Balbriggan, Co. Dublin), North Wicklow ETSS (Bray), Cork ETSSClonturk Community College (Whitehall, Dublin 9) in partnership with City of Dublin ETB, and Stepaside ETSS (Co.Dublin). These were joined by new primary schools: Gracepark ETNS (Drumcondra, Dublin), Broombridge ETNS (Cabra, Dublin), Riverview ETNS (Walkinstown, Dublin 12) and we were delighted to finally see the opening of Castlebar ETNS in the centre of the town.

Speaking of school buildings, we made good progress with the Department in providing new permanent buildings or major extensions for our schools. Ashbourne ETNS, Broombridge ETNS, Hansfield ETSS, Kilcolgan ETNS, Powerstown ETNS, Tullamore ETNS, Wicklow ETNS, and Ballymakenny College all moved into new or augmented homes.

In November Educate Together was granted patronage of four new second-level schools: Malahide Portmarnock ETSS will open in 2017 and will be followed by schools in Limerick, Firhouse, Dublin and Dublin South City in 2018. We are looking forward to Principal recruitment and opening enrolments in 2017.

We made big strides in teacher education, with more student teachers than ever before having the opportunity to study our model and the Learn Together curriculum in college. Our second Ethical Education Conference in November focussed on the theme of ‘Raising Student Voices’, and was a huge success. The conference had many firsts, not the least of which was a the StudentMeet in which students in our primary and second-level schools presented their projects to each other and the delegates.

2016 was also a year of transition for the national office. We started in January with an Emergency General Meeting, after the challenges of 2014 and 2015 had  stretched our finances to the limit.  With hard work and the outstanding support of our members, we have further diversified and increased our income streams, and we are facing into 2017 on a firm financial footing. The whole movement is grateful to those school communities and individuals that have provided financial and other supports during the year.

In September, Director of Oscar-nominated ‘Room’, Lenny Abrahamsson helped us launch our Educate Together 120 major investment drive to finance the development of the next 30 schools. Increasing provision of Educate Together schools means a lot to Lenny who had this to say: 

“I’m thankful that, through Educate Together, my children can enjoy a school experience so much warmer, more inclusive and ultimately healthier than I had as a child, in an environment that teaches them to be open and sensitive to others while feeling confident enough to express themselves freely. I look forward to a time when every child in the state has the same opportunity.’”

 2017 will see the roll-out of this Campaign, led by our new Fundraising Manager, Eimhin Walsh Please look out for it and get involved if you can. 

The year saw some big changes in personnel in the National Office. We said goodbye to Louise Daly, Ruth Doggett, Amy Mulvihill, Jarlath Munnelly and Sarah Williams,. We wish them all well in their new careers in the public service and elsewhere, and thank them for their outstanding contribution to Educate Together over many difficult and exciting years.  At the same time, we welcome Sandra Irwin-Gowan, Adelaide Nic Chárthaigh, Adrienne Flynn, Jennifer Buttner and Paddy Monahan, all outstanding people who bring a range of skills and experience and new perspectives to our work. In the office, Jessica Simpson was also  promoted from Assistant to Officer level.

A major achievement during the year came after the General Election when the new programme for government announced the objective of establishing a network of “400 multi-denominational and non-denominational schools by 2030”. This was the result of our lobbying efforts together with many new advocacy groups and supporters. The year ended with the announcement of a new structure of grants to support the work to open new primary and second-level schools. This has been a core objective of the organisation for many years

While 2016  saw the beginning of a revival in the Irish economy, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the continuing crisis and international shame in Syria and other parts of the world has led to some uncertainty and apprehension.For this generation of children and young adults in our schools, the values of our educational model and ethical curriculum have never been more important. The National Office team is looking forward to working with you all to make 2017 an even more successful year.

Wishing you all a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!

 

Address: Educate Together, Equity House, 16/17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7, Ireland - Charity Number: CHY 11816