Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Voice of the Child

‘The Voice of the Child’ is a term that is frequently used in educational terms today. Long gone are the days when children were to be “seen and not heard”. Today it is widely recognised that children and young people have a voice and that this voice has to be listened to in matters that concern them. In its statement of values and commitments, Educate Together reiterates its commitment to:

  • Placing the child at the centre of the educational process
  • Empowering children to take an active role in society and in the stewardship of the environment
  • Working in a democratic way that embraces the input from children, parents, teachers and supporters to enable the highest level of partnership and participation

In all of these commitments there is an onus on Educate Together schools to actively seek the participation of children in their own learning and to ensure that they have a voice, that they are listened to, that their opinions are actively sought and that they are allowed to give expression to their thoughts and ideas in a supportive, encouraging environment.

In all of our classes you will see, at various times, children planning together, investigating, sharing thoughts and ideas with their teachers and peers, making decisions about their learning. Very often they themselves are the best sources of information on their own learning and the best place to go for advice on how to make improvements. In our recent survey for school self-evaluation a lot of very interesting insights were provided by the children which will inform our school improvement process. John Mac Beath, an international educationalist who recently spoke at a principals’ seminar on school self-evaluation, believes very strongly that change in schools needs to start with the children. He talks of a process of “bottom up development with top down support”. Children are the future and their views are important, therefore we should explicitly invite children’s views all the time.

Young children are wiser than many might think; under the appropriate circumstances they have the capacity to express their views powerfully and often simply.

(Christensen & James, 2000; MacNaughton et al, 2003; Moloney, 2005)


From its inception Rathfarnham Educate Together was committed to listening to children’s voices and giving them an active role in the school. The first Student Council was formed in November 2003 when this was a very new idea in primary schools, and this is one aspect of our school life that has survived and grown in strength year on year. We have added more committees over the years and we now have four distinct areas of school life where children’s voices are actively sought and their views listened to at committee level. The Student Council is always decided by a peer vote, after students have been given an opportunity to present their ‘manifesto’ and make a speech. Many students make posters and actively canvass support, others put great effort into their speeches. The student council vote is also an opportunity to experience the democratic process in action, where there have to be winners and losers. During their year the members of the student council perform various tasks which sometimes involves liaising with outside agencies, and they have meetings with the Chairperson of the Board of Management, giving them a sense of the overall issues involved in running a school.

Some of the other committees require different skills such as making an application, which involves being able to highlight their own skills and attributes that would make them successful in a particular role. The role of the Green School Committee in our school ties in very closely with the ET commitment to allowing children to take an active role in society and in the stewardship of our environment and is a committee which those who have a natural aptitude in this area strive to join. The ICT Committee is comprised of a group of students who are talented in the use of ICT and who wanted to put these talents and skills to use for the good of the school. Their first project is to re-launch the Kid’s Blog and also to encourage greater use of the website in each of the classes. The Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, who have received training in this area, are fully committed to making sure that we have a happy school where bullying is not allowed to take root. They have a number of ideas for this year and are actively working on the yard to ensure that children are playing happily and that no-one is excluded.

We are very proud of these students who have put themselves forward on the various committees and their work is invaluable to the smooth running of the school. Thanks is also due to the staff members who give up lunch breaks, etc, to work with the various committees.

Below is a list of our present committee members.

RETNS Student Committees 2014-2015

Student Council

6th class

John MacAvin (Chairperson)

Rebecca McConnell

Daire Begley

Maedbh Duff-Hogan (Junior Infant and Senior Infant rep)

Alex Cunningham (1st and 2nd class rep)


5th class

Sorcha Collins O’Regan

Holly Bond

Oscar Loftus


4th class

Billy Conroy-Roche

Ellen O’Callaghan


3rd class

Christopher Admirand

Caoimhe Comerford


Green Schools Committee

2nd class

Eve O’Callaghan

Daisy Tammemagi


3rd class

Eibhlín Barry

Jack Johnston


4th class

Catherine McCready

Jessica Needham


5th class

Maryam Butt

Hannah Leslie


6th class

Popi McHale

Theo Pierce


ICT Committee

Joey McCann, Toby Whelehan, Cian Callanan, Ian Kirwan, Niamh Cunningham, Sam Van Gelderen, Joshua Wynne.


Anti-Bullying Ambassadors

Rodiat Runsewe, Sam Doran, Yanis Benchabir, Ellen Sweeney, Zoe Taylor, Sara Benali, Molly Ryan, Gabrielle Pichot, Jarvis Hodkinson, Leo Faulkner.



Internet Safety Workshops


It is almost inconceivable to children today that there was once a world without internet and mobile technology. Today this technology is all around us and is even used by very young children. While we may have begun to take children’s access to the internet for granted, it would be a mistake to do so as it does pose some very real dangers for children. Our job as educators and parents is to equip and prepare our children to use the internet safely and appropriately. Children need up-to-date information and advice so that their use of internet technology will be a safe and enjoyable experience. To this end we have organised a series of workshops for 4th– 6th class on November 18th. That evening the workshop presenters will facilitate a talk for parents on the topic. The seminars for the children will include topics such as cyber-bullying, social media and future reputations.

The core focus is on delivering important, easy-to-remember advice that can help children adopt a safer approach to the Internet from the moment they leave the session.

The company, eSafety, has been working in schools for five years, and last year delivered talks to NPC (National Parents’ Council) and IPPN (Irish Primary Principals’ Network). The seminar for parents aims to provide parents/guardians with an understanding of how young people are using the internet and other technologies and to provide information on basic safety which can help identify potential risks in this ever-evolving area and hopefully guide children to safer online interaction.

While internet trends and popular websites/apps come and go, the messages are the same, “that it is crucial for children to be educated on how to use the internet in a safe and responsible manner and that they begin their online experience with a comprehension of good internet etiquette and an awareness of the dangers which exist online”. (eSafety website)

ESafety talk for parents will take place in the multi-purpose room at 7.30 pm on Tuesday, November 18th.

Development Education

Over the next six weeks we will be delivering a Development Education programme to all classes. This programme has been developed for and piloted in Educate Together schools by ChildFund Ireland, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs through Irish Aid.  One of the ET schools involved in the project was Belmayne ETNS, who formally piloted the programme, targeting all levels from Junior Infants to Sixth Class students, and gave feedback. Lesson plans were developed in consultation with teachers and resources were included for each level. It was felt that the programme was a great success and that it feeds into all aspects of the Educate Together ethical education curriculum. The programme is now being rolled out, initially to a small number of primary schools, one of these being RETNS.


The programme itself is delivered initially through a short 20 minute workshop for teachers by ChildFund Ireland staff, giving a brief outline of the programme. ChildFund Ireland then conducts two brief sessions with the children – initially to establish their baseline knowledge and later to monitor learning. The programme is delivered by teachers themselves and is incorporated into a number of different subject areas.  The programme has been designed at four different levels –JI/SI, 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th.  Each level centres on an individual child of the appropriate age and describes different aspects of his/her life, family, school, play, chores etc. At each level various teaching resources are provided, primarily  through the ChildFund website (including videos, lessons plans, articles, stories etc), including a box containing photos of the child’s life, games, toys and other artefacts, which is loaned for a number of weeks while the programme is being implemented in school. The programme aims to introduce global development and social justice issues to primary school children in an interesting but relevant way so the children will identify with the child in question.


An additional aspect of the programme is the information for parents on each of the countries being studied, which is available on the ChildFund website,