What is Educate Together?

Educate Together is the patron body of the growing network of schools in Ireland that are run according to the Educate Together Charter. It is an independent NGO that runs schools that guarantee equality of access and esteem to children “irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background”, are learner centred in their approach to education and are run as participatory democracies, with respectful partnership between parents, pupils and teachers.

For over 35 years Educate Together has been working to establish inspirational schools for children in Ireland. Schools that teach to the highest standards of education through an ethos that guarantees every child equality of esteem, regardless of their social, cultural or religious background. These principles of equality have been the foundation for every Educate Together school that has opened since the Dalkey School Project was established in 1978.

From that first school, which brought new thinking to Irish education, the Educate Together network has grown. The growth in the Educate Together school network continues to be driven by parental demand. Demand for places in established Educate Together schools continues to be high while many thousands of parents in other parts of the country have expressed interest in an Educate Together school for their communities. In addition to opening and operating primary schools, Educate Together has campaigned successfully for a new model of second-level education. The first Educate Together second-level schools opened in 2014.

Tyrrelstown Educate Together is the largest school in the Educate Together network.

What is an Educate Together National School?

In an Educate Together school, no child is separated because of his or her religion or belief system.

The schools operated by the member associations of Educate Together are fully recognised by the Irish Department of Education and Skills and work under the same regulations and funding structures as other national schools. However, they have a distinct ethos or governing spirit. This has been defined in the following terms:

  1. Equality-based i.e. all children having equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected.
  2. Co-educational and committed to encouraging all children to explore their full range of abilities and opportunities. Boys and girls learn and socialize together in the school environment. This approach delivers the best educational and social development for children.
  3. Child-centred in their approach to education. Educate Together schools are committed to active learning techniques that encourage children to interact with their peers and teachers while they learn. Educate together schools are focused on helping each individual child reach its full academic and social potential.
  4. Democratically run with active participation by parents in the daily life of the school, whilst positively affirming the professional role of the teachers.

Whilst the concepts of child-centredness and co-educationalism are now widely accepted in Irish primary education, what distinguishes the Educate Together schools is their hard work in developing a culturally inclusive and democratic ethos. This has pioneered unique approaches to inclusion of minority opinions and faiths in the Irish context. The schools have developed education programmes that open the eyes of children to the naturally positive contribution that social, religious and cultural diversity and difference of viewpoint and opinion make to society.

The other characteristic feature of these schools is that they are democratically organised and governed. This maximises the potential for building a genuine partnership between the professional, objective role of the teacher and the necessarily personal involvement of the parent in their children’s education.

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What is Learn Together?

The Learn Together ethical education curriculum is taught in place of religious instruction in Educate Together schools. The ethical education curriculum can be described as follows:

An education which helps learners to develop critical awareness and understanding of moral decision-making, and a heightened awareness of social, ethical and moral issues and standards. 

Ethical Education nurtures respect for a person’s right to hold and practice religious and other beliefs. It involves an exploration of the infinite variety and richness of humankind, and the creation of intercultural spaces where values can be articulated and critically examined. Ethical Education focuses on questions of equality, justice, sustainability and active citizenship. It helps learners to develop spiritually and to think critically, and empowers them to make a difference.

The Learn Together Mission Statement:

To promote a philosophy of education in which no child is considered an outsider; which promotes the fullest development of ability irrespective of gender, class or stereotype and which encapsulates this ethos in a democratic partnership uniquely combining the involvement of parents with the professional role of teachers.

There are four strands in the Learn Together, detailed below.

Strand 1: Moral & Spiritual

The general aim of the strand is to help develop in children a critical knowledge, understanding and awareness of right and wrong and a heightened awareness of social, ethical and moral standards through reflecting on the meaning and purposes of life. The strand should encourage and develop the individual on the journey to inner discovery and empower the child to make informed moral decisions.

Strand 2: Equality & Justice

The general aim of this strand is to develop in children a critical knowledge, understanding and awareness of issues relating to human rights, equality, culture and diversity, social justice and social inclusiveness and to empower them to make a difference.

Strand 3: Belief Systems

The general aim of this strand is to develop in children a critical knowledge, understanding and awareness of the teachings of religious and non-theistic belief systems and how these systems relate to our shared human experience. The emphasis will be placed on an exploration of the infinite variety and richness of humankind through nurturing a respect for a person’s right to hold and practice individual belief systems and through creating spaces where values can be articulated and critically examined.

Strand 4: Ethics & the Environment

The aim of this strand is to develop in children a knowledge, appreciation and respect for their environment and to empower them to take an active role in its stewardship.

For more information, visit the Educate Together website.