Educate Together AGM Calls for Action on the Educational Nneeds of a Diverse Society

This Saturday the country’s 31 multi-denominational national schools are gathering for their annual meeting in the award-winning North Kildare Educate Together School. The sector will review its progress in the past year, elect its Board of Directors and set its policy objectives for the coming 12 months. The theme of this year’s meeting is Striving for Excellence in Inclusion and it marks an important step in the continued progress of this sector of Irish education.

Educate Together remains the fastest growing sector in Irish education. This year, 4 of the 7 new schools recognised by the Minister are Educate Together schools, in 2003, the ratio was 6 out of 10 and 2002, 7 out of 11.

In his presentation on the Annual Report, Paul Rowe, CEO, will review the solid progress of the sector, not just in establishing new schools, but in providing support and training for the voluntary committees that run the schools, the increase in capacity of the sector as a whole, the production of the first national multi-denominational ethical curriculum programme and the success of Educate Together schools in pushing forward the standards in new school design.

Paul Rowe, CEO will be calling for the State to take positive action to address its growing human rights liabilities in primary education – especially in the area of religious ethos; to provide core funding for providers of inclusive education and fast track proposals for the delivery of urgently needed new schools. He will call for new measures to assist new and developing schools including specific support for the Principal teachers of such schools. He will be calling for the State to recognise the contribution of the volunteers upon whose shoulders the entire management of our primary education depends and take decisive strategic action to redress the historical under-funding of primary education. He will also stress that the development of the Educate Together sector is not in competition with denominational providers but is a vital initiative to provide choice where no choice exists. The provision of this choice will benefit the system as a whole and will be to the long-term benefit of all sectors.

Educate Together will highlight the difficulties experienced by voluntary groups of parents who have been addressing the need for such schools in the past 25 years. The obstacles faced by such groups have significantly increased in the immediate past. Currently, even in areas in which all parties agree there is a need for a new school, the state still has no mechanism whereby a school can be created and it depends entirely on voluntary community initiative.

The increase in requirements in applying for new schools is imposing a serious restraint on the process of providing urgently needed new schools in the country and compounding social disadvantage. To supply the necessary professional reports in a proposal can cost a start-up association up to €25,000, this coupled with the all the varied expenses of the opening process is putting an intolerable burden on voluntary groups of parents who are simply advancing their constitutional rights and the urgent educational needs of their children. The overall costs involved in presenting an application are now exceeding the €30,000 estimated last year. It is inevitable that costs at these levels will militate against the provision of Educate Together schools in areas of social disadvantage. Educate Together are making the strongest possible representations that these costs are borne by the State in all successful applications. Irrespective of success in this negotiation, we need to provide the necessary funds to support new schools in areas where local communities will not be able to raise this level of funding.

AGM 2004 Striving for Excellence in Inclusion North Kildare Educate Together School. Clane Road, Celbridge Co. Kildare, Public Sessions 12:45 – 17:00.