Educate Together Schools: A Parent's experience

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Schools in Ireland have traditionally been given patronage by a Church or religious organization that governs the way in which the school is governed. Whilst the influence of religious teaching has lessened over the years, in particular attending mass and communion, parents can choose to have their children opt-out of the religious aspects at a religious school.

This is something the Education and Training Boards are looking at phasing out in the future and moving more schools from one singular denominational to multi-denominational. Also with the Irish population becoming more multi-cultural (of which we South Africans are adding to this!) the school system is expanding to reflect this.

Educate Together is an educational charity in the Republic of Ireland which is the patron body to "equality-based, co-educational, child centred, and democratically run" schools. It was founded in 1984 to act as the patron body for the new multi-denominational schools. As of 2019, Educate Together is the patron of 90 national schools in the Republic of Ireland.

Educate Together schools seek to "guarantee equality of access and esteem" to children irrespective of their social, cultural or religious background. Educate Together schools seek to be "learner centred" in their approach to education, and are intended to be run as "participatory democracies, with respectful partnership between parents, pupils and teachers"

As of 2019, there are 17 second-level schools (high school) operating with Educate Together involved as either patron, co-patron or partner. These second-level schools aim not to 'teach to the test' but to instead develop their students' skills in creative and critical thinking, communication, teamwork, research and leadership.

  • Equality-based All children have equal access to the school and no one religion or worldview is given priority over another within the school.
  • Co-educational All children are encouraged to explore their full range of abilities and are provided with equal opportunities regardless of their gender or identity.
  • Child-centred Our child-centred approach means that we put children at the heart of all policies and practices and involve them in decision-making where appropriate.
  • Democratically-run We run schools on a democratic basis, encouraging active participation by parents and students in the daily life of the school whilst positively affirming the professional role of the teachers.

Some of the key ethics taught at Educate together are:


  • Moral and Spiritual
  • Equality and Justice
  • Belief Systems
  • Ethics and the Environment


  • Values
  • Making Moral and Ethical Decisions
  • Beliefs and Worldviews
  • Different Teachings and Perspectives
  • Diversity in Ireland
  • Migration
  • Power and Participation
  • Gender Equality
  • Development Education

Now, that flowery lovely language may mean something to you and may want you to be involved or choose not to be looking at these kinds of schools. But I urge you, as a parent of two children in Primary at an Educate together where we have at least 10 South African families at our school, to have a look and see if there is an ET school in your area. The way in which they deal with our children, how the children react to teachers and the way they encourage our children to deal with each other, is a breath of fresh air.

There is a level of mutual respect that is quite amazing to watch. The way the teachers are encouraged to communicate is not one of “I’m the teacher you will sit down and listen” but more to question and think more laterally, how do we benefit everyone not just ourselves? This may not be so much at the early years, but is introduced in small ways and by the time late primary and secondary begins more and more lateral thinking and questioning evolves. Project based learning bringing in various subjects (maths, history, art, geography etc) into a project, moves away from more traditional teaching where from this time to this time we do math and this time to this time we do geography, and those subjects often remain separate from each other, they seek to look at things more holistically.

The aspects that some South Africans may or may not like, are:

  • No school uniforms. Some people like the structure and uniformity of tradition school (particularly coming from SA where uniforms, assembly, formal discipline like detention is what we are used to) and coming to a school where children wear whatever they choose, and can have long hair, short hair, coloured hair may be disturbing. The flip side to this is encouraging self-expression and there is no reason why you can’t choose to wear the school tracksuit each day. The school tracksuits are there for people who want to have them for school outings, and for PE. Children are encouraged to be whoever they choose and to do so within the framework of self-respect. Part of the schools very charter is that no child is left out, acceptance and inclusion is everything.
  • No school fees but may be additional costs. “As a registered charity, the national office receives state grants which cover less than half of our operating costs, so we must generate funds from other sources to continue to do the work that we do. The maximum salary in the Educate Together national office is the CEO’s, and there are no bonuses paid. No Educate Together Director receives any remuneration whatsoever from the company. Educate Together has only one fully State-funded position, a seconded post from the Department of Education.” However, each parent is asked to assist with costs. As such there is a yearly Voluntary contribution (at our school that was EUR70 for 2 children last year). We also buy all our own stationery and school books. For more on the costs of children see HERE
  • Discipline may be handled differently to what you may have experienced before in South African schools. “The concept of promoting positive behaviour should be based upon an empowering approach, which nurtures a culture of self-discipline among children, rather than behaviour which is tailored to please adults. An atmosphere of co-operation and mutual respect should be created as part of the philosophy of the school. All adults throughout their interactions with children should use communication strategies which foster co-operation, respect, tolerance and encouragement." This approach has given our children tools which they carry to our home life not just school. We have a duo of extremely caring children who operate from a place of empathy. We carry the school’s ethos as much as possible in our home. That’s not to say we don’t have grumpy normal tantrums and children slapping each other from time to time, of course we do. We just have tools at home to handle them differently. School rules include:
  • Calling teachers by first names. Calling teachers by name instead of by title may be controversial for some parents coming from our background. However, it enforces the idea of democracy and that children have a voice, also that respect comes in from respecting humanity rather than respecting someone simply by title or position.


  • Do your best
  • Be fair
  • Be safe
  • Look after people in school
  • Look after things in school


  • Put your best effort into your work
  • Be fair and honest with classmates and teachers
  • Play and work safely
  • Respect people in our school community
  • Respect property in our school community

I have been very involved in our ET primary school since my son started in junior Infants in 2016. I get involved in social events at the school, fundraising events, the Parents Association, and now involved in part with motivating for an Educate Together Secondary School in East Cork. Our school is approximately 560 children, in a brand-new building which opened in 2018-2019 year from where it was previously in pre-fab buildings and prior to that at a rugby club where our school began a decade ago. We are now the biggest school in the East Cork region. Our popularity has grown massively and you rarely hear a bad word between parents of children at the school or outsiders speaking of the school. I proudly will tell you about the amazing friends I have made there so from a parent perspective no matter what school you go to I strongly encourage involvement! Oh, pfft, yeah! the kids have made good friends too, like they matter, huh? I jest! My children love our school and leaving the area for cheaper rentals or work will absolutely be vetoed by them!

The classes are small approx. 20-25 pupils per class, and we represent about 44 nationalities but a large Irish majority (a rumored figure as we have a yearly cultural day and that was the number flagged about the last few times we had the event before Covid came and took away our celebrations!) They celebrate their culture and teaching about culture with pride! Diversity and inclusion!

There will be a teacher in each class and very often a teaching assistant, and where needed SNA’s in a classroom. Our school also has a special needs department catering to a large range of physical and learning challenges and again the school ethos of integration and inclusion is very much part of these children’s educational needs.

Go raibh míle maith agat  (Learn together to live together)


If you have an Educate together school in your area, I strongly recommend you have a read of the websites, look for the school’s website or Facebook page. Also, there are many committees looking at opening more schools around the country… get involved in motivating for one HERE


Important links: 


  #MapMyMove- Our coaching Services - Confused or lost and need some direction, book a session with us to help untangle the confusion and work out your route of immigration

   Educate Together Schools

   Primary School Ethics

   Secondary School Ethics

   Educate Together schools more diverse with effective inclusion - ERSI study

   Schooling in Ireland - The basics on how school works and the grades

   Enrollment at School - How to get your child in to a school

   Homeschooling - Curriculum and how to Home School

   Types of Schools - The different types of schools in Ireland

   Supports and transport - Special Needs supports and Transportation to school

   Third-level Education (Tertiary) - 3rd Level Education for children or adults

   Pre-School - How pre-school works in Ireland

   ECCE and Childcare in Ireland - The Early Childhood Care and Education and Childcare/ Aftercare

   The Cost of children in Ireland - Everything relating to the costs of bringing up children in Ireland

   Children with Special Needs

   Educate Together Schools - A specific type of schooling system available across parts of Ireland

    Child Benefit, HRC1 form and Operational Guidelines on Habitual Residence - Looking deeper at Habitual Residence, Child Benefit and HRC1 form

   Resources for this topic- Education related - Links to child benefits, childcare, ECCE, preschool, homeschooling, National school, secondaary school and third-level education

   Resources for this topic- Special Needs People related - Links to getting assistance with various special needs and disabilities, adults and children

   Admin before the move

   Admin once you're in Ireland


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