One year on – reflecting on 5 new Educate Together second-level schools
Laura Dooley is Educate Together’s Second-level Education Officer
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since five new Educate Together second-level schools opened. North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School, Clonturk Community College, Bremore Educate Together Secondary School, Cork Educate Together Second-level and Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School joined Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School, Kishoge Community College, Ballymakenny College and Celbridge Community School to bring the total number of Educate Together second-level schools in the country to nine. It’s been a fun-filled and action packed year for first year students in each of the new schools and each school has an impressive list of achievements to prove it!
Inquiry based learning
Embracing the cross-curricular and action-focussed essence of Ethical Education, a number of the schools adopted an inquiry based learning approach to specific topics and strands within the Ethical Education curriculum. Inquiry or problem based learning involves suspending the traditional timetable to allow students to develop a question they are interested in investigating. Some of the topics explored through problem based learning in schools this year include Gender Equality, Social Justice, Democracy and Sustainable Development. At North Wicklow ETSS, students and staff celebrated their inquiry based learning by hosting a World Café and showcase of learning in the area of Education for Sustainability. Over 100 guests attended and were treated to the culinary creations of the students who used ingredients they had grown and foraged as well as produce donated by local supermarkets which otherwise would have been thrown out! It was fantastic to see the students acting as advocates for sustainable practice and encouraging members of the community to become involved.
Each of the schools worked hard to support student participation and embed democracy through an active and engaged student council and student assemblies with regular consultation with students around decision-making. Students from the schools had an opportunity to attend the Ethical Education Conference last November and students from two of the schools, Bremore ETSS and Stepaside ETSS, participated in the first ever #StudentMeet.
Reflecting the student-centred principle of the Educate Together Charter, many of the schools have adopted the restorative practice model. Restorative practice focuses on building relationships between teachers and students and supports an inclusive and respectful school environment.
Along with academic achievements, the schools have supported a holistic education experience through a focus on social and sporting activities. The five schools worked together to create the “Rising Cup” bringing students together to participate in different sports with games hosted by different schools throughout the year.
Technology as a tool for learning
The schools have also embraced 21st Century Teaching and Learning with students and teachers embedding the use of personal devices in classrooms. Teachers have been involved in creating their own content and have worked with Trinity College, UCD and DCU to develop their professional capacity in this area.
It’s been great to see that throughout all these activities and celebrations the dedication to Ethical Education and the Educate Together Blueprint and ethos in schools has been paramount.
Real stories from the Educate Together community
Educate Together’s schools mean so much to the lives of the children and young people who attend them, and to the communities that they are a part of. You can read, watch and listen to real stories from the students, staff and families involved in the Educate Together school movement on this page and at the links above. Do you have an experience from an Educate Together school which you would like to share? Share your story: firstname.lastname@example.org