Educate Together has announced that it will open nine new schools across the country.
It marks the second highest total of Educate Together schools to open in a single year, with four national schools and five second-level schools due to commence teaching for the 2016/17 academic year.
"The reputation of Educate Together's equality-based schools continues to grow, nurtured by the example set by existing schools, by the satisfaction of parents and children and by the very fact that Educate Together offers a level of inclusivity, openness and innovation that is unparalleled in the Irish education system," said Paul Rowe, the organisation's CEO.
The non-government organisation was born in 1978 through the Dalkey School Project, a movement that saw a body of educationalists and parents unite, aiming to develop and support schools with "an equal right of access for the children of Catholic, Protestant and other parents, and with the cultural and social background of each child held in equal respect."
By 1984, two other equality-based schools had been established, with Educate Together affirmed as the coordinating umbrella body.
It became a company limited by guarantee in 1998, and has charitable status in Ireland.
It states to be “working towards an Ireland in which all people have access to an excellent education that is inclusive of all, irrespective of belief system, race, ethnicity, class, culture, gender, language, lifestyle and ability.”
In 2014, the organisation moved into second-level education, with the aim to grow “a welcoming, inclusive school community that enables young people to meet their full potential in society.” The five announced new schools will take Education Together’s secondary total to nine schools across the country.
“Educate Together is fresh to Irish second-level education but is not just offering something that is a natural progression from its national school ethos. The Ethical Education curriculum has been developed on how we live as global citizens in the modern world; it investigates the challenges and possibilities of contemporary life in a way that is original and enterprising,” added Mr Rowe.
“The enthusiasm of teachers, parents and students has been astounding and Irish second-level education needs this energy if it is to offer students a path of learning and living that chimes with the modern world,” he said.
Bremore Educate Together Secondary School (ETSS) in Balbriggan, Clonturk Community College in Whitehall, Cork ETSS, North Wicklow ETSS and Stepaside ETSS make up the new additions to second-level education, while Broombridge ETNS, Grace Park ETNS and Riverview ETNS in Dublin, and Castlebar ETNS in Co Mayo will add to Educate Together's network of 77 primary schools nationwide.
The organisation claimed that their “growing number reflects the desire and determination of families in these communities to establish schools where all children are equally respected regardless of social, religious or cultural background.”