Galway Educate Together National School (GETNS) operates under the umbrella of Educate Together, the representative organisation of the Educate Together schools and associations throughout the Republic of Ireland. Educate Together owes its origins in the movement to establish new multi-denominational primary schools which emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1984, when Educate Together was established, there were three schools and the organisation acted as their co-ordinating body. Galway Educate Together National School (GETNS) was set up in 1994, as Galway School Project, by a small group of parents who wished to establish a school run on the core principles of the Educate Together movement. The Educate Together movement has grown considerably, and to date there are 28 schools throughout the country. The organisation became a company limited by guarantee in 1998 and has charitable status. It has a small national office staffed on a part-time basis. All directors and committee members work in a voluntary capacity. Together, and by extension GETNS, aims to meet a growing need in Irish society for schools that recognise the developing diversity of Irish life and the modern need for democratic management structures. In particular, Educate Together guarantees children and parents of all faiths and none equal respect in the operation and governing of education.
GETNS and all the schools operated by the member associations of Educate Together are fully recognised by the Irish Department of Education and Science and work under the same regulations and funding structures as other national schools. However, they have a distinct ethos or governing spirit. This has been defined in the following terms:
- Multi-denominational i.e. all children having equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected.
- Co-educational and committed to encouraging all children to explore their full range of abilities and opportunities.
- Child centred in their approach to education.
- Democratically run with active participation by parents in the daily life of the school, whilst positively affirming the professional role of the teachers. (Source: Educate Together Charter)
Whilst the concepts of child-centredness and co-educationalism are now widely accepted in Irish primary education, what distinguishes GETNS and all Educate Together schools is their work in developing a culturally inclusive and democratic ethos. This has pioneered unique approaches to inclusion of minority opinions and faiths in the Irish context. All the schools have developed education programmes which open the eyes of children to the naturally positive contribution that social diversity and difference of viewpoint and opinion make to society. In GETNS this is part of what is referred to as the REEP (Religious and Ethical Education Programme). The REEP is unique to GETNS, but has at its core Educate Together’s guiding principles.
The other characteristic feature of Educate Together schools is that they are democratically organised and governed. This maximises the potential for building a genuine partnership between the professional, objective role of the teacher and the necessarily personal involvement of the parent in contributing to their children’s education. The management of GETNS is the responsibility of its members who through a democratic process establish two committees – the Executive Committee and the Board of Management. Parents, teachers and members of the community who are actively committed to the ethos of the school play a part in these committees. There is also a Parents’ Committee that is directly elected from the parent body annually.
Educate Together is facing unprecedented demand for places in its schools, for increased services to schools and is under pressure to open new schools in new areas. It is also being urged to promote its philosophy in the wider context of secondary education and pre-school provision. This growing demand can be attributed to objective factors in modern Irish life, namely the rapid diversification of society, economic growth, increasing population, globalisation of the economy and improved communications. It is also attributed to the increasing demand of Irish parents to participate as partners in the educational process and a wish that their children should grow up at ease with social, religious and cultural difference. At a local level, GETNS aims to play its part in meeting this demand.
R.E.E.P – Religious and Ethical Education Programme The Religious and Ethical Education Programme (REEP) is unique to Galway Educate Together National School but has as its core principles those of Educate Together, the co-ordinating body for all Educate Together schools in Ireland.
Facts, Figures & History – Educate Together started as an organisation in 1984, when the first three schools decided to set up a co-ordinating committee that would disseminate information among the existing schools and assist in the growth and development of new schools. The three schools were located in Dalkey, Bray and Glasnevin, all in the greater Dublin area
Educate Together Charter Recalling Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”
and Article 42.4 of the Constitution of Ireland:
“The state shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation”,
1.1 That many parents have a valid preference for schools in which boys and girls of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds can be educated together in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect,
1.2 That the multi denominational schools established under the banner of Educate Together are a distinctive response to the growing demand for such an option within the Irish educational system,
Educate Together affirms that:
2.1 Children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds have a right to an education that respects their individual identity whilst exploring the different values and traditions of the world in which they live,
2.2 Parents are entitled to participate actively in decisions that affect the education of their children. In particular, they have the right to decide what kind of school reflects their conscience and lawful preference,
2.3 Multi denominational schools have the right to be treated no less favourably than other schools within the Irish educational system, in accordance with their needs and their identity,
2.4 The state has a duty to take the identity of the multi denominational sector fully into account when deciding on policy that affects the establishment and development of schools,
and Commits itself to:
3.1 Support the establishment of schools which are,
Multi-denominational i.e. all children having equal rights of access to the school, and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected,
Co-educational and committed to encouraging all children to explore their full range of abilities and opportunities,
Child centred in their approach to education,
Democratically run with active participation by parents in the daily life of the school, whilst positively affirming professional role of the teachers,
in any area where the demand for such a school exists,
3.2 Promote fuller awareness and recognition of the identity of the multi denominational sector at all levels in Irish society and abroad,
3.3 Participate in appropriate structures and activities concerned with the future development of education in Ireland and abroad,
3.4 Promote a future where multi denominational education will be as freely available to parents as any other educational option they may choose.
Formally launched on 12th May 1990 at the Aula Maxima, University College Galway, Ireland.
Amended on April 17th 1999 at the first Annual General Meeting of Educate Together, Bray Co. Wicklow.
© Educate Together, 2000