A note from Paul Rowe, Educate Together CEO

Welcome to a new school year! I hope you all had a brilliant summer and are looking forward to all the exciting things that will happen in your schools this year.

2013 is shaping up to be a special year for Educate Together!

First of all a warm welcome to everyone of the 2,500 junior infants and their parents who are starting in an Educate Together school for the first time this week. We all wish you the very best and hope that you have a wonderful and happy time in our schools. If you are new to Educate Together, please keep in touch with the movement through our Website and our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Three New Educate Together Primary Schools

There is a special welcome this year to parents, teachers and children in three new Educate Together primary schools. One in Rochestown, Co Cork, another in Firhouse in Tallaght, Co. Dublin and the third in Portobello in Dublin City. The parents, staff and supporters in these areas have done exceptional work to get these schools open. Many years of campaigning have gone into these projects and it is great to see them open their doors this week.
Congratulations to Dermot Stanley(Portobello), Collette Dunne (Firhouse) and Alan Sheehan(Rochestown) on their appointments as principals of these schools. All three schools are opening in temporary accommodation this September but have full department support and active plans to grow to full two or three stream schools in permanent buildings. If you are on social media, send them a message! Portobello Firhouse Rochestown

New Buildings

During the past few months, Educate Together has taken delivery of three new school buildings with another two due in the coming weeks.

Carrigaline ETNS moved in on Monday. The new building is a full 16 classroom building set on the hillside over the estuary on the road towards Crosshaven. It is a beautiful premises on three levels. This is a huge step forward for this community.

Started in 2008 after years of campaigning, the school has been crammed into re-configured child-care facilities for the past four years. The whole school is over the moon. Send Mel Thornton and her team a message at @carrigalineetns

Portlaoise ETNS moved in last week. The new premises is part of a large campus shared with a Gaelscoil and a Church of Ireland school. Portlaoise started in an old VEC building in 2010. Our first school in Laois, Sinead Ahern and her team have been working flat out to get the school ready for more than 200 children this week.

Skerries ETNS also took delivery of the extension that has doubled their capacity this summer. Skerries was one of the rapid response schools opened in 2008 and has grown steadily since. Situated within sight and scent of the sea, Tomás Hickey and his team have had the whole summer to plan how they are going to use this impressive new space.

In other building news, Carlow ETNS is anxiously waiting for their new building to be finished (Due October 11th). Blanchardstown West ETNS is watching their new building starting in the impressive development of the campus in Hansfield that will include Educate Together’s first secondary school. Other ETNS are planning major not extensions, Galway and North Kildare to mention just two.

Saying “Thank you” and not “Good bye”.

This summer saw a number of our most impressive school leaders take retirement. Ger Ryan of Cork School Project (Cork Educate Together National School), Marie Moreau of Rush Lusk, Mary Ferrick-Byrne of Wicklow, Marie Lynham of Letterkenny. All of these principals have earned our heart-felt thanks and appreciation of years of hard work and support for the ethos Education and absolute dedication to the education of children in their care. We look forward to keeping in touch and welcoming them to our events for a long time to come.

New Faces

Apart from the three principals of the new schools, the new faces in our principals network are: Patricia Hurley (Rush Lusk ETNS), Sinead Watson (Wicklow ETNS), Mary Carron (Rathfarnham ETNS), Áine Fabisiak (Letterkenny ETNS) and Elizabeth McKennedy (Cork ETNS). So we have no less than eight new principal teachers in the network this September. I am sure that you all will join with me in wishing them the very best and congratulating them on their appointments. As well as new principals, there are approximately 100 new teachers in Educate Together this year. This is due to the tremendous growth of our developing schools many of whom are taking in extra streams this year.

Re-assignments, New schools, Second-level and Teacher Education

Over the summer, we have started work on the 25 areas in which re-assignments of patronage to Educate Together have been recommended by the recent survey process. We have also applied for patronage for six second-level schools due to open in Balbriggan, North Wicklow, Carrigaline, Midleton/Carrigtwohill, Ballinteer and Celbridge. There will also be new Educate Together primaries next year as well. Educate Together has also made considerable progress in teacher education colleges and we are delighted to announce that Fionnuala Ward, our Primary Education Officer, has now been seconded by the DES to work full-time in the national office.

Challenges and Exciting News

Despite the fantastic opportunities we have to address the scale of demand for our model of education throughout the country, the finances of our national office remain under serious threat. We will be campaigning urgently on this issue all this year and seeking a realistic level of state support for the work we do in opening and supporting new schools. I will soon be writing to all our supporters to seek their help in this. We urgently need financial and political support.
We hope that we will be announcing some exciting news about future developments of the network in the next month, so please keep an eye out for our Twitter and Facebook feeds on our and our Website future email newsletters.

Support your schools!

Once again this year, the government is preparing to cut the education budget. We have to support our schools in any way we can. We have to ceaselessly advocate for the long-term strategic importance of education and primary education in particular. Taking measures that may diminish the skill levels and abilities of the future generation of adults in Ireland is a short-sighted and foolish policy. Investment in education is the only state investment that guarantees a huge return.

Please support your local school when appeals are sent out for volunteers, for assistance with activities, for support of management and fundraising. If you find an opportunity to get involved, please consider it. It is most likely to be fun, important, really rewarding and a fantastic learning experience.

Here’s wishing you the very best for the coming school year.

Paul Rowe,
CEO, Educate Together