A symposium on child-centred education at Sligo School Project 

By Sandra Irwin-Gowran, national office staff

We love to hear about events in schools that explore different aspects of the Educate Together ethos. In May, we heard of two such events. The first was an evening exploring “Our Journey Towards Greater Inclusion” took place at Monkstown ETNS in Dublin on 5th May and was jointly organised by the host school along with Dún Laoghaire ETNS. The evening was comprised of talks on topics ranging from autism, language and cultural diversity and relationship building through diversity and inclusion as well as the all-important social chats.  

The evening was chaired by Dr. Áine Hyland, one of Educate Together’s founders and the speakers were Adam Harris (Founder and CEO of AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity); Dr. Francesca La Morgia (the founder and director of Mother Tongues),and Neltah Chadamoyo (Storyteller, Artist and Energy Healer who works with the intention of healing).  

The second event took the form of a Symposium on Child-Centred Education at Sligo School Project 

On Saturday, 21st May Sligo School Project held a symposium on the topic of Child-Centred education exploring this core principle of the Educate Together Charter. The symposium was open to all and attendees included staff, parents, prospective parents, members of the school board and patron executive and I had the pleasure of attending representing the national office.  

Guest speakers included Dr. Leah O’Toole (Froebel Department of Early Childhood and Primary Education) and Professor Carl Anders Säfström (Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy). They encouraged participants to explore such questions as ‘what are children for?’; ‘how we view children?’ and ‘where do we go from here in exploring contested understandings of childhood?”. The space to tease out and reflect on such questions and concepts is all too rare in our busy schedules, so this was a wonderful opportunity.  

We had lunch in the school’s recently refurbished kitchen area where the children frequently do cooking classes. Delicious food was prepared for the day by staff and conversation continued around the lunch table.  

The afternoon’s session included a presentation from staff of Sligo Sudbury School where children from the ages of 5-18 self-direct their learning in this Democratic School. There were lots of interesting questions from participants about this model, which left little time to get deep into the topics for breakout groups; nevertheless, we got the chance to explore if student agency is really possible with a set curriculum amongst; the impact of assessment in education; and digital technologies.  

The final speaker was unable to attend on the day, in her place symposium organiser Robert Hamm from Sligo School Project summarised a paper by Amelia Hempel-Jorgensen which looked at implications of ideas about “ideal children” and “ideal learners” that are underlying educational practices in child-centred pedagogy. 

To learn more about Educate Together and the child-centred principle visit the ethos guidance platform https://ethos.educatetogether.ie/  

To create an account, you just need an email address and your school’s roll number.  

If your school is interested in exploring an aspect of the Educate Together ethos as part of your SSE next year, please get in touch via resources@educatetogether.ie This will count as part of your SSE requirements.  

Educate Together and Child/Learner Centred Education   

The Educate Together Charter is based on these four principles: 

Currently the Ethos Guidance Website provides guidance on the child-centred principle as follows: