Rolling out Educate Together
My Education Week: Emer Nowlan Head of education and network development, Educate Together
Monday morning brings renewed determination and self-discipline. I maintain a good level of productivity until around lunchtime. Then begins the drift away from thesis writing towards any number of distractions – irrelevant but fascinating journal articles about school completion patterns in Vietnam, the latest gems of educational innovation on the #edchatie Twitter stream, my inbox – until eventually I find myself once more engrossed in the day job even though I am supposed to be on study leave.
It’s a job I love. I’m responsible for teacher education and network development with Educate Together, and there is never a dull moment. I work with a fantastic team of committed people, and if we’re not busy opening new primary schools (five last September), we are working with the the Department of Education and Skills on future provision, developing new in-service courses or meeting with local campaign groups.
The really exciting bit is developing a new type of second-level school.
Five o’clock – creche pick-up time – finds me lost in research material for the new postgrad course in ethical education we are running with St Patrick’s College. Maybe playing hockey later will help clear my head for thesis-writing tomorrow.
A good writing day, so when I bump into my supervisor at University College Dublin at lunchtime I can look her in the eye. My PhD research is with second-level students from Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese backgrounds. The importance of school ethos and the hidden curriculum is coming through strongly, as well as the different ways racism affects students’ lives, in and out of school. The research is a great way to step back from the day job and put things in perspective.
There is good media interest in tomorrow’s public meeting for an Educate Together second-level school in Dublin city. The announcement last summer of the first three Educate Together schools – set to open in 2014 in Blanchardstown, Drogheda and Lucan – has meant an increase in interest from parents in other areas, and we have to carefully balance (stretch) our limited resources between planning for new schools and supporting families in other areas who also want them.
I turn on Morning Ireland on RTÉ to hear a parent talking about why she wants her children to continue their education within the Educate Together ethos at second-level. They interview Paul Rowe, our CEO, and he talks about the kind of schools we are planning, the ethical curriculum, the focus on key skills and critical thinking, the integrated learning experience and students taking responsibility their own learning. He manages to get it all in. Great coverage, and a quick check shows that the story is doing well in the print and online media too. Good. Now back to the thesis.
Tomorrow’s strategy session is postponed. Coming towards the end of our current business plan, we are working on our strategy to 2020. We will continue to work on meeting the ever-increasing demand for Educate Together school places at primary and second level. We must also keep an eye on quality across a rapidly growing network and provide development and support for teachers on our ethical curriculum. (The main focus is still on faith-based religious education in the colleges of education.) Sustainable income streams are critical too, as less than 10 per cent of our funding is provided by the State.