Frustration Leads to Parent’s Petition to Minister Over Second-level



Over 6,000 signatures will be presented to Minister O’Keeffe at the Dáil at 11:45 on January 28th by parents who are frustrated with the unnecessary delay in allowing Educate Together to establish its first second-level school. Parents from Educate Together schools around the country will deliver a petition of over 6,000 signatures to Minister Batt O’Keeffe, calling on him to allow Educate Together to open its first second-level school. This is evidence of the growing demand for Educate Together second-level schools, and the increasing frustration felt by families who feel that their right to choose this specific ethos at second-level is being ignored.

Ever since the first Educate Together primary school opened in Dalkey thirty years ago, pressure has been mounting on Educate Together to expand its successful model to second-level. With 56 national schools around the country and the number of pupils approaching 10,000, parents are becoming more vocal in their campaigns.

However, there is much more to this move than supporting parents. Educate Together believes that reform of second-level education is overdue and that this move presents an ideal opportunity to pioneer a new approach. Irish society has been undergoing huge social, economic and demographic change in recent decades. Calls for a different approach to education – one which can better prepare young people for life in 21st century globalised Ireland – have come from bodies as diverse as the Combat Poverty Agency, Google and Forfás.

Speaking about this move, Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together, says

Over the past 30 years we have proved our capacity to efficiently open high-quality primary schools and to support those schools to deliver Educate Together’s unique, equality-based ethos. Far from there being any extra cost to the system in allowing us to proceed to second-level, this move would bring significant added value to a system in need of innovation.

Speaking about the benefits this move offers, Emer Nowlan, Second-level Project Manager with Educate Together said

The need for second-level education that promotes innovation and creativity, responsible citizenship, and social inclusion and cohesion has never been greater. Since Educate Together has proven its capacity to deliver on exactly these qualities, the time is right for parents’ voices to be heard.

Trinity College has completed an extensive feasibility study and we have an exciting second-level project underway which is drawing on best practice in Irish schools and elsewhere. We are keen to implement the Educate Together ethos at second-level and are ready to open schools, either in partnership with other providers or on our own. There is great support for this move from parents, teachers and other interested parties in Irish education and we look forward to the opportunities that it presents for our organisation and for the system as a whole.

Of particular note is the wide geographical dispersal of the petition signatories, with the four corners of Ireland represented. The range of signatories is also impressive – as well as many parents, the following have signed: Prof Sheelagh Drudy, Chair of Education, UCD, Prof Áine Hyland, former Professor of Education UCC, Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Colm O’Gorman, Irish Director of Amnesty International, and the Dublin Multicultural Resource Centre.

Educate Together applied to the Minister for Education and Science in December 2007 to be registered as a patron of second-level schools, based on its outstanding track record at primary level, and on the positive results of an extensive feasibility study carried out by Trinity College Dublin. Since then the only response from the Minister’s Department, and from numerous parliamentary questions, has been that the matter is under consideration. A full year later, national school communities who are campaigning for second-level schools are becoming increasingly frustrated with this response.

Educate Together has lodged an application to open a second-level school in Waterford in September 2009 and similar applications are being lodged to open a schools in other areas in 2010. One will be in the Lucan area, where there are now 5 Educate Together national schools.

Petition Text: We, the undersigned, call on the Minister for Education and Science to register Educate Together as a patron of second-level schools as a matter of urgency, and to facilitate families who wish to exercise their right to choose a second-level school with Educate Together’s specific ethos.

The petition will be handed in at 11:45 on January 28th at the Dáil. Preceding this there will be a Press Conference at Buswells Hotel at 11:00am

Contact: Amy Mulvihill for more information or to arrange interviews / photos – 01 429 2500