New Research from TCD Shows High Demand for Educate Together Second-level Schools

Educate Together News Release 26th January 2008

Parents want respect and balance at second-level

New research from Trinity College Dublin shows high demand for Educate Together second-level schools.

A feasibility study carried out by the the school of Education in Trinity College Dublin indicates strong demand for second-level Educate Together education. The results of this study were presented at a General Meeting of the organisation this Saturday, 26th January. The report strongly recommends that Educate Together proceed with its project to establish a second-level school, with the research team concluding: It is our considered view that Educate Together can, should and must make this happen.

One strand of the research surveyed the scale and nature of the demand for Educate Together second-level schools among parents of children currently attending Educate Together primary schools. Of these, an overwhelming 90% of parents indicated that if the opportunity existed they would send their children to an Educate Together post-primary school. Emer Nowlan, second-level project manager at Educate Together’s national office, was not surprised by these findings as she is in contact with a growing number of parent and community groups around the country who are actively campaigning for Educate Together second-level schools.

When parents look at the second-level schools that are available to them, they see a sharp contrast between the ethos of their primary school and that of the post-primary schools in their area. They are used to an environment where everyone’s background is equally respected and where pupils, parents and teachers all particpate in every aspect of school life and they want to choose a post-primary school with the same ethos.

When I ask parents what it is they value most about the Educate Together ethos, most talk about the atmosphere of respect which exists in the school. To exclude anyone from any part of the curriculum or of school life would be unthinkable. They are concerned that in many post-primary schools, denominational activites are a normal part of school life and they don’t want their children, or anyone else’s, to feel excluded.

The research provides a strong endorsement for Educate Together primary schools. An overwhelming majority of parents said that the Educate Together ethos was noticeable in the day-to-day running of their children’s school and that it could be seen working in practice. In partiular parents were happy that their children were treated with courtesy and respect and they felt that Educate Together schools provide a balance between academic development and social well-being. It is this balance and this respect that parents want to see carried through to second-level.

While schools sometimes blame parents for an overemphasis on exams and exam results, here is a group of parents who believe strongly that there should be more to post-primary education than merely the acquisition of points. When asked to rank the characteristics of a second-level school in order of importance, parents placed the school has a reputation for looking after the pupils’ social and emotional development’ above the school has high academic standards. Furthermore only 35% of parents agreed with the statement Academic results are the best indication of a ‘good’ school, with 40% of parents disagreeing and 25% neutral.

A second strand of the research involved consultation with people deemed to be experts in the field of second-level school management. This consultation offers fascinating insights into the day-to-day realities of running second-level schools. There was broad agreement that for this new type of school to truly realise its ethos; to remain child-centred and democratic and yet offer the innovative curriculum which is proposed; it should have between 600 and 800 students. It was also felt that the principal of such a school would need to have a democratic approach to leadership and that it would not be difficult to attract teachers who shared the Educate Together philosophy.

The results of the research will be presented to the Members of Educate Together today, 26th January, in the Mont Clare Hotel, Merrion Square. The day will also include workshops and a panel discussion session, involving Dr Áine Hyland, former Professor of Education at UCC, Dr Emer Smyth, lead researcher on the ESRI/NCCA study of students in second-level education, Dr Carmel Mulcahy, Head of Education Studies at DCU, Dr Aidan Seery, TCD and Micheal (sic) Johnston, founding member of Educate Together and chairperson of Newpark Comprehensive School.

Such was the interest in this meeting from around the country, limits had to be placed on the numbers attending from each school. This reflects the growing demand among parents everywhere for Educate Together second-level schools. For these parents, this project is about asserting their right to choose a second-level school for their children which is multi-denominational, co-educational, child-centred and democratically run. For the Irish education system it is history in the making.

Saturday’s meeting is for members of Educate Together and invited guests. Interviews can be arranged with panelists and participants, by contacting Emer Nowlan in advance.

Photos of the event will be distributed by Press22.

Contact: Emer Nowlan for more information