Is it good enough to expect parents to just be glad their child has a school place? With the ever increasing demand for secondary places locally, parent Paula explains Why Any School Place is Just NOT Good Enough, and why providing an alternative choice in secondary education in Kildare South will ensure the needs of all children in the area are met.
Our Primary School Choice
I teach at third level by profession and have a keen interest in learning and the development of multiple intelligences within an individual.
I have a fundamental issue with any level of segregation in the classroom (by sex or religion), as I believe that a rounded and balanced education can only happen if the learning environment reflects society.
I also feel strongly that the formation of any faith is a deeply personal choice. I have the utmost respect for one’s individual choice to choose their faith, and in the dedication and commitment required to by those who practice any religious faith. But I don’t believe that the formation and practice of any one faith should happen within a generic education system designed for the whole population, irrespective of faith.
So for these reasons, when my eldest child was born, the local, single sex, Catholic school was not an option for our family. Neither my husband nor I had experienced single sex education at any stage in our educational lives, nor had we any intention of christening our child (and her subsequent sister and brother). So we immediately began to explore our options.
I firmly believe that children (particularly primary school children), should be educated within their locality. And so, we were fully supportive of Educate Together’s bid for a new primary school in our locality, which subsequently opened a year before our eldest child was due to go to school. This gave our family the choice we were looking for.
And by having this choice locally, all children in this area have the option to attend the school that is right for them and their families, the schools that meet their needs.
What Choice Do We Have for Secondary?
With news of the shortage of places for secondary education in Kildare South, my concern is now focused on the next stage of our children’s education.
Again, the only local option is aligned with a faith based ethos which we believe can only generate inequalities for children not of that faith, within that system, despite best efforts of staff.
These inequalities often go unnoticed; I for one thought that my ‘Church of Ireland’ peers at school were lucky to be sent to the library during religion to do their homework. I never saw the isolation from their perspective as I do now, and I certainly don’t want that for my children.
It is also the norm for faith based organisations to participate as guest speakers in other subjects in faith based schools, and it would be both impractical and unethical to keep removing children of alternative faiths or none, from classrooms, and isolating them as ‘different’ during such times.
So What Are Our Options Now?
My motivation to continue with the Educate Together ethos has grown beyond the non-denominational status of the school, having experienced the ethos at primary level via our children’s development and being part of the Parents Council.
I now fully appreciate, value and celebrate the meaningful equality between students and staff that the use of first names and the no uniform policy creates. I have no doubt that the experience of such equality has underpinned the development of self-confidence I have witnessed in my children which enables their growth and learning within the school environment.
The involvement of parents on a day-to-day basis both within and outside of the classroom setting has greatly contributed to the development of a nurturing ‘whole of school community’ which supports the growth and learning of the children and indeed the staff. As a parent and indeed a teacher myself, I have been particularly impressed by;
- the integration of learning across the curriculum
- the use of debates and presentations from such a young age to challenge the children to critically think and make their own sense of information they are exposed to
- the availability of a range of extra-curricular activities on site directly after school
- the recognition of all learning environments within and beyond the school boundary
- the genuine focus on the health and well-being of the children, which again is across the curriculum and integrated throughout the school day
I believe that the current shortage in school places at secondary level in Kildare South is a real opportunity for the Department of Education and Skills to meet the diverse needs of all families in Kildare South by providing an alternative choice to what currently exists in the area.
My fear is that an ‘any place will do’ attitude is adopted, and that existing schools will continue to be extended, creating schools of 1000+ capacity in which so many children, and too often those most in need, will be lost.
A new school also has the potential to meet the needs of children on the Autism spectrum, another diverse need that is crying out for a new school in the area.
ANY place will NOT do
I don’t believe there is any parent in this country who would say that ANY place will do for their child. We all want what is right for our children.
I firmly believe that by providing an alternative choice in secondary education in Kildare South, ‘the rising tide will lift all boats’ and that the needs of all children in the area will be met.
The Department of Education and Skills has a chance to avoid the ‘scramble for places’ that too many families have experienced in recent years and all the stress and worry that comes with that.
The Department of Education and Skills has a chance to be proactive, and make a considered decision that meets the needs of ALL the electorate and children in Kildare South.
I am glad to add my voice to the campaign to encourage the Department of Education and Skills to take that chance, not just for my children, but in recognition that the Ireland of 2016 is wonderfully multicultural and diverse and because our education system needs to adapt to reflect this reality.
I am writing this on the eve of Proclamation Day to celebrate its centenary year. The Proclamation envisioned,
‘…religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…’.
It would be wonderful to see this beautiful vision realised now, with respect to the education of ALL our youngest citizens.
With thanks to Paula Carroll for providing this content piece.
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