Blueprint for Educate Together Second-level schools Launched with Support of Leading Educationalists

With over 10,000 pupils now attending it’s 56 primary schools nationwide, Educate Together is working towards opening its first second-level school. Today in Dublin, Professor Áine Hyland has launched Taking the Next Step – a Blueprint for Educate Second-level Schools, saying it is both visionary and realistic.

The vision of second-level education which this Blueprint outlines is one in which students are the architects of their own learning. In a radical move away from the traditionally hierarchical structures of the Irish second-level system, Educate Together second-level schools will operate as truly democratic learning communities, empowering students, teachers and parents to work together towards educational aims in an atmosphere of equality and respect.

The Blueprint draws on national and international research to show how, by integrating 21st century teaching and learning strategies comprehensively and purposefully into the curriculum, and by assessing not only what students learn but how they learn, Educate Together second-level schools will nurture critical thinkers, problem solvers, effective communicators, creators and innovators.

Like their primary counterparts, Educate Together second-level schools will incorporate a comprehensive Ethical Education curriculum. The Blueprint spells out how this will result in an inclusive, intercultural learning environment where second-level students will critically interact across viewpoints within a common language of respect. Drawing widely on current Irish and international research, the Blueprint outlines how providing an integrated approach to curriculum at junior cycle will improve teacher-student relationships, ease primary-secondary transition and provide a more relevant, connected learning experience for young people.

Speaking about this development, Emer Nowlan, Second-level Project Manager for Educate Together said: “It is exciting to see the second-level aspirations of our school communities taking shape and we have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have had from people working in education at all levels. It seems we are coming to this at a time when there is a real appetite for a new approach.”

Launched on the last day of the State examinations, the Blueprint is critical of the narrowing of learning opportunities which results from ‘teaching to the test’ in second-level schools, especially at junior cycle. Speaking about this, Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together said: It is time to re-examine the value of the Junior Certificate in the light of the pressure it places on students and teachers to ‘cover’ large amounts of content – restricting the time available for deeper engagement and more practical, relevant learning experiences.

The hugely positive response that Educate together has received to its plans for second-level education is not surprising, given the increasing frequency with which business leaders, academics and others raise concerns about the relevance of the current second-level system. Just last Saturday Tom Boland, head of the Higher Education Authority added his voice to many before him in saying: 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 (Irish Times, 13/06/2009).

Educate Together first wrote to the Minster for Education and Science in December 2007 outlining its plans to open second-level schools. It formally applied to become a patron of second-level schools in March 2008 and has since lodged applications to open schools in Waterford, Gorey and Lucan, but has had no response.

Professor Áine Hyland is launching the Blueprint in The Morrison Hotel, Dublin at 4:30pm on Friday 19th June.

Contact: Emer Nowlan for more information

Taking the Next Step – a Blueprint for Educate Together Second-level Schools
Comments and Quotes, June 2009 – permission given for publication.

This 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, stereoptypes 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

The Blueprint for Educate Together Second Level Schools is a visionary and exciting plan for a new development in Irish education. It is firmly based on research and on innovative thinking from major Irish and international policy documents and educational research. It also draws on the philosophy and insights and experience of Educate Together’s primary schools. It establishes a holistic and creative model for Irish second level education.
Professor Sheelagh Drudy, Chair of Education, UCD

This comprehensive blueprint 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… This blueprint provides a compelling case for recognition. There is no excuse any more for the Department’s prevarication.
Professor Áine Hyland, Former Professor of Education, University College Cork and co-founder of the Dalkey School Project

Very impressive and enlightened….a long overdue development.
Dr Jim Gleeson
Senior Lecturer, Department of Education and Professional Studies, University of Limerick

A thoughtful and well-argued document. It has great clarity and coherence in its conceptual basis and the arguments are strongly rooted in principle/values and evidence. What is central to the realisation of children’s rights is the link between voice and influence. The integration of the concept (of student voice) and its actualisation in real terms throughout the document in teaching and learning, governance and school design suggests its coherence and strength as a concept within the blueprint.
Dr Fionnuala Waldron, Chair of Human Rights Education, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra

I find this visionary approach to second-level education most exciting. We have to break the mould of cloze-thinking, the pre-eminence of the high-stakes test, and start a process of genuine learning. As we see our society undergoing seismic changes – socially, ethically and economically – we need to re-examine and re-focus our value system. This blueprint offers that prospect, but Educate Together will need all its strength, resolve and resources to bring this about! Derek West, Arts Administrator for Creative Engagement, National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals and former
Principal of Newpark Comprehensive School

This is a revolutionary document amalgamating the best from current systems provision. There is a holistic approach to the development of the child as a unique human being while allowing him/her to grow in an environment that respects individuality and difference.
Rose Tully, National Parents Council (post-primary)

The publication of Educate Together’s Blueprint for Second-Level Schools marks a truly exciting and ambitious expansion into the landscape of Irish second level schools. It offers a vision for change that not only provides a framework for schools to meet the requirements of the 21st century but that also provides hope to many students who for a number of reasons currently do not feel part of our education system.
Sandra Gowran, Director of Education Policy, GLEN – Gay and Lesbian Equality Network