For years, staff and leaders of Educate Together schools – and everybody else in the Educate Together network – has seen the need for guidance and support for schools in achieving the atmosphere of an Educate Together school. In 2019, the first steps were taken towards the creation of a resource for this very purpose.
Dr. Shivaun O’Brien led a pilot School Self-Evaluation project with 20 schools from across the Educate Together network – trialing a set of Statements of Effective Practice in the area of ethos, that she had compiled following an extensive consultation process involving stakeholders from across the network.
Simultaneously, I started working on compiling guidelines around good practice, viewed through the lens of the four principles of the Educate Together Charter. I consulted guidance published by other organisations, such as the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Inclusion Ireland, IDEA, and the NCCA. I delved into the archives to gain an understanding of the history of Educate Together, and the decisions and discussions that have brought us to where we are today.
I started visiting schools, and combing school websites, gathering examples of some of the wonderful work taking place in all of our schools. I took part in CPD sessions organised for teachers and school leaders in our network. I worked with newly appointed principals to gain an understanding of the unique challenges of building an Educate Together school from the ground up. I asked lots of people, lots of questions – aiming to gain an understanding of the kinds of topics the members of Educate Together would want to see addressed in this guidance.
Over the course of a year, four Advisory Panels convened to discuss the content and detail of the draft guidance. I shared my work with a group at a National Members’ Forum (NMF) in November 2019, and principals took part in a workshop based around the guidance in March 2020. Excerpts from the draft guidance were shared in the Ethical Education Matters newsletter, and staff and boards of management were invited to engage more deeply with ethical questions in each of these newsletters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on my planned activities for 2020 – I intended to run focus groups with students across the country during the final term of the year, as well as to host workshops at this term’s National Members Forum and the AGM. Student consultation is now taking place in a much more limited form – via a number of online video conferences, and it is my hope that the guidance can be discussed again at a NMF in the future.
The Ethos Guidance will be published this summer as an online resource, available for school leaders and boards to consult, to support them with the day-to-day logistics of running an Educate Together school, as well as with some tricky subjects that sometimes arise. Login details for this members-only space will be shared with schools in June or July.
Ethos Guidance Officer