Monktown Educate Together: The first decade
A group of parents who were seeking multi-denominational, child-centred education for their children, but were unable to secure places in existing schools, met to look at the possibility of opening a new school in the South County Dublin Area. A steering committee was formed under the Dalkey School Project (DSP) which already served as patron for the school in Glenageary, according to the rules for National Schools.
The first half of 1997 saw negotiations with the Department of Education, the formation of a pre-enrolment list, the holding of public meetings, the beginning of a search for a suitable premises and a substantial fund raising effort. A lease was negotiated for the Monkstown site and planning permission and approval to open the school were received. Financial problems were temporarily overcome by fund raising, donations and interest free loans from the DSP Grandparents.
The DSP, now acting as patron for the school, appointed a temporary Board of Management. Mrs. Mary Stuart was appointed as Principal shortly thereafter.
1st September 1997
A single portacabin with two classrooms was erected on the site in August and hard work and dedication by parents and supporters resulted in the almost miraculous opening of the school on September 1st 1997. At the end of the day 59 children were on the rolls, ranging from Junior Infants to 2nd Class. By mid-term enrolment had risen sufficiently to warrant the appointment of 1st and 2nd assistant teachers with 71 children attending the school in its first year. The pioneering students and staff are commemorated in the “Helping Hands” Quilt.
The school was officially opened by Florence Armstrong, the founding Principal of the DSP-Glenageary National School. The ability to embrace Art, Theatre, Song and Celebration, which has become such a hallmark of the school, was already in evidence in the first year with a Christmas Concert, a visit to Aras an Uachtarain and a production in April with the help of Artist in Residence, Tara Derrington, of “Springtime in Letterland”.
The first permanent Board of Management was appointed.
In September 1998 the school opened for its second academic year and shortly thereafter the Department of Education granted permanent recognition to Monkstown Educate Together National School. A second 2 classroom portacabin unit had been placed on site and enrolment rose to 125 pupils leading to the appointment of a further teacher and also some ancillary staff.
Over the next three years the school grew rapidly to an enrolment of 217 pupils. The 3rd and 4th portacabin units were put in place for the 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 school years respectively and six new mainstream teachers were appointed. School life continued apace. In November 1999 the revised Religious Education Program was launched. During that year the school established a link with St. Patrick’s National School, Ballinahinch, Co. Down. Children from the school sang in the Hallelujah Millenium Choir in November. Marian Palmer from DlIADT worked with the children on science and we also had visits from illustrator Korky Paul and naturalist Éanna Ní Lamhna.The year culminated with the performance of “Beyond the Rainbow” in the spring term, a performance orchestrated by Eleanor Dawson, which encapsulated the Educate Together ethos of togetherness, equality, unity and understanding.
The mainstream teaching staff was joined by additional staff who provided Special Educational support to the growing school community and a permanent, partially voluntary school secretary. The second Board of Management of the school was appointed. Children from the school participated and won awards in the Pushkin Creative Writing Project. We were also lucky enough to again have an Artist in Residence as Jane Barker led the “Me, Myself, I” project which was displayed in DunLaoghaire. The school enjoyed a visit from Tom Day, Principal of the Park Day school in California. In April 2001 the school was visited by politician Mary Hanafin and the idea of permanent school premises, never far from our minds, was highlighted.
September 2001 was the start of the 5th academic year. The school passed a Department of Education General Inspection in November with flying colours. The partnership of the school with St. Patrick’s National School in Ballinahinch and another school in Huelva, Spain was facilitated by the Commenius European Education Project. Projects, presentations and reciprocal visits greatly enriched life for the entire school community. Drama classes began in school and a number a number of in-school and after-school activities were well established. Councillor Niamh Breathnach visited for a tree planting ceremony in the grounds and the children particularly enjoyed time with percussionist David Boyd.
As the school entered its next phase it continued to grow with 243 pupils on the rolls by September 2003. During the 2002/2003 school year a 5th portacabin was placed on site and the outside play area revamped in order to facilitate the expanding school community. In that year Eleanor Dawson, as artist in residence, worked with the children on “Soundscapes”. Poet Anne Fitzgerald was also in residence and children from the school produced a poetry book “Colours of the World”. Another group worked with Anne the following year producing “The Compass”. The Commenius Project activities continued with a highly successful Spanish Day and culminated the following year with the production of the video. “How we celebrate”. In 2003/2004 the school was visited by Noel Dempsey, Minister for Education for the launch of “Science Challenge”. The school was involved in the Primary Science initiative over these years. The third Board of Management of the school was appointed in late 2003.
The academic year 2004/2005 was the 8th year of the school and to renew and celebrate our Ethos the “Forward Together” Conference was held in November 2004. This was a milestone event focusing on ethos, equality, participation and partnership, child-centred education and planning for our new school.
This dream took the first steps towards reality in January 2005 when now Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin announced that Monkstown Educate Together National School was included in the new schools building list with the DLIADT site as proposed location. The ongoing and tireless work of the site committee had played a major role and we were happy to move the focus towards real plans for our permanent premises. School activities continued as always with the children participating in the FIS film project and the primary science initiative. The school received awards in both areas. The Green School program also began in school this year. In the summer term 6th Class students visited Colaiste na Rosann in the Donegal gaeltacht for the first time, a trip so successful it as been repeated ever since.
In 2005/2006 plans towards the New School continued. The Kill Avenue site was agreed and a New School forum was held. The school again participated in the FIS film and Primary Science projects. The school was also awarded its first Green Flag. The whole school celebrated in the spring with the memorable production “Kaleidoscope” under the guidance of drama teacher Emer Casey.
In the following school year 2006/2007 planning permission was granted for the new school and we celebrated with a Sponsored walk to the new school site, “stepping Out”. Sports activities had continued to grow and flourish during the years with children participating in numerous activities and fielding teams in basketball, soccer, hockey and athletics. The 4th and current Board of Management of the school was appointed in 2006.
This brings us to the current year which marks a number of milestones. The school celebrated its 10th birthday in October with child-centred celebrations. The school pioneers and all of our school community are taking great pleasure in watching the new school premises materialise on the Kill Avenue site. It is with considerable regret that we will say goodbye to our Principal Mary Stuart when she retires in June. She has been a driving force and the embodiment of all the good things the school stands for and will be greatly missed. It is indeed the end of an era. Nonetheless it can only be with great pleasure, joy, excitement and anticipation that we look forward to moving on to the next phase of the History of Monkstown Educate Together National School. We hope you will join us!