On this date in 1975, a meeting was held in Ross’s Hotel Dun Laoghaire at which the formal documents for the founding of Educate Together were agreed.
After a period of intense discussion in the previous six months, a group of determined educational pioneers had gathered in the hotel with the aim of establishing the Dalkey School Project. It is on the documents of this meeting that the words “Educate Together” were first used as a name, a headline and an object. The meeting ratified the constitution of the Dalkey School Project and stated its aim as:
To develop and support in Ireland the establishment of schools which are multi-denominational (i.e. with equal right of access for the children of Catholic, Protestant and other parents, and with the cultural and social background of each child held in equal respect), co-educational and managed under a system which is predominantly democratic in character, wherever and whenever there is viable local support for such a school.
Subsequent papers articulated the core principles of the Educate Together movement that are now detailed in the Educate Together Charter:
Multi-denominational i.e. all children having equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected
Co-educational and to encouraging all children to explore their full range of abilities and opportunities
Child centred in their approach to education
Democratically runwith active participation by parents in the daily life of the school, whilst positively affirming the professional role of the teachers.
The group that met in Ross’s Hotel that day made an extraordinary contribution to the development of the Irish education system.
In the short period of a couple of years, it was recognised as a patron body for a school in Ireland and, in Dun Laoghaire in September 1978, established the first Educate Together school. Its legacy today can be seen in the thriving network of 60 Educate Together primary schools, the internationally acclaimed “Learn Together” ethical education curriculum and the movement’s current Blueprint for Educate Together Second-level Schools.
The key achievements of this group were:
- To qualitatively transform the role of a patron of an Irish school from being a hierarchical religious structure to one that is corporate and democratic in nature and to do this without the need for a single change in the rules governing national schools.
- To prove that it is possible to successfully operate a school in Ireland that treats children of all religious and cultural backgrounds equally
- To prove that parental involvement in the process of education can be managed constructively as a genuine partnership between parents and teaching professionals.
- To establish a model of school that has been easily replicated and able to scale up to meet contemporary demand in Irish society.
Key people involved in the group included the late Bill Hyland, then the chief statistician in the Department of Education, his wife now retired Professor Áine Hyland, Micheal and Pat Johnston and Desmond Green. These pioneers were honoured by the President of Ireland with the Founders Award at the 30th Anniversary of Educate Together in September 2008.
Today the whole Educate Together movement celebrates their initiative and courage and tomorrow the movement will formally apply to open its first second-level schools.
Educate Together – No Child An Outsider