History of the Tullamore ETNS
Tullamore Educate Together N.S. celebrated its ten year anniversary in 2014. It is the first and only multi-denominational primary school in county Offaly. The school was founded by a group of parents who wanted an alternative to one denominational education for their children. That group consisted of Monica Daly, Moya O’ Brien, Sharon Coffey, Bonnie Vance, Donal O’ Connor and Safie Maken Finlay. The school was housed to the rear of 12-14 Church Street, a comfortable three- classroom prefabricated building with a large yard. It was officially opened by Brian Cowen, the then Minister for Finance. The building had previously housed Gaelscoil an Eiscir Riada before it moved to its new building in Cloncollig. Monica Daly was the first Chairperson, Violet Barnell was the first teacher appointment and Fionnuala Morgan was the Principal. The school had humble beginnings and those who were involved in the early days are to be commended for their leap of faith into the relative unknown.
Monica Daly was replaced as Chairperson by Safie Maken Finlay and Cathy Lyons became Principal in January 2007. In the harsh November of 2008 the staff and pupils moved three km across town to a new eight classroom purpose built school building built under the rapid expansion scheme of the Department of Education and Science as it then was. The new building was officially opened by Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together with the then Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, also in attendance. The school enrolment has grown rapidly and it now has an enrolment of over two hundred pupils and a teaching staff of twelve, a Special Needs Assistant and three ancillary staff. The school is currently being extended to include a hall and an ASD unit.
What is an Educate School? An Educate Together School is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, it is run by a Board of Management, it follows the state curriculum and it is subject to inspection exactly like every other state primary school in the country. All Educate Together schools are co-educational vertical schools-there are eight classes from Junior Infants to Sixth Class. All Educate Together Schools are equality- based which means that irrespective of belief system, race, ethnicity, class, gender or ability, all children have equal right of access. The same equality applies to any staff member who is employed in an Educate Together School. Educate Together Schools view parents as vital partners in education. Each year the Patron Body holds an AGM whereby the Boards of Management of all ET schools are invited to put forward motions, debate them (robustly at times) and vote on them. This democratic process allows for a voice at grass roots level.
Tullamore ETNS has a diverse population with at least seventeen different nationalities represented. One hundred and ten children have an ethnic background originating in the new member states of the EU and in Asia. Whilst many of these children are Irish born, English is their second language. The most recent arrivals are from Ukraine, possibly a reflection of the unrest in that country. The remainder of the children are from the locality. There are eight members of the Travelling Community on roll. The following religious communities are represented in the school- Presbyterian, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Hindu. The children follow an ethical curriculum called ‘The Learn Together Programme’. In this programme children are educated about spiritual values and ethical principles emanating from different belief systems and religious traditions. They learn about the values, cultures and lifestyle of children the same as them and different to them. They learn to name difference with a language of respect.
The school has a vibrant Parent Teacher Association (PTA) under the leadership of Helena Wyman, Chairperson. The PTA has valuable input into the plans and policies of the school. It organises fundraising events including an annual calendar and book fair. It supports the Principal and the staff in the pursuance of school aims and objectives while positively affirming the professional role of the teachers. Finally the PTA helps maintain communication between parents and school. The school’s website, monthly newsletter and Facebook page each have parental input.
Being a school in relative infancy , Tullamore ETNS has enjoyed a lot of firsts over the last decade- its first Primary Maths and Science Award, its first Green Flag, a Fair Trade Flag, publishing a ‘We are Writers’ book, its first Student Council, participation in Eason Spelling Bee, Credit Union Quizzes, Tag Rugby and athletics to name but a few. Tullamore ETNS has grown from strength to strength over the last ten years. It is the first and only such school, not only in Tullamore, but in the County of Offaly. It is a microcosm of the Ireland in which we live today. The people of Tullamore and the Department of Education and Skills are to be commended for their foresight in delivering a choice of educational facility to the children of our town and, in providing that choice, to adapt a line of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, we make inroads into fulfilling the aspiration of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”