In September 2015 Rathfarnham Educate Together NS will be 25 years old. Started in Crumlin in 1990, under the name South City School Project, the school was set up under what was then a relatively new model of school provision in Ireland, the Educate Together model. The ‘project schools’, as they were first known, were set up as an alternative to denominationally run schools, with the introduction of a ‘core curriculum’ which would help children to understand the different traditions and ways of thinking that they will meet in their environment in what was becoming a more open society. Educate Together schools tried to ensure that no child was an outsider no matter what their tradition, belief or background. From the start the term multi-denominational was defined as “all children having equal rights of access to the school and children of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds being equally respected”. As has been commented many times, the story of Educate Together is a story of ordinary people from a variety of different backgrounds – religious, cultural and social – working together to provide an educational system where their children can be educated together. There were many debates, discussions and indeed tensions in the working out of a system where different traditions were to be equally respected. However, the airing and sharing of views and attitudes was important to the Educate Together movement and this managed to resolve many of the conflicts which arose.
And so to 2014. Rathfarnham ETNS has a long tradition of honouring the different traditions, cultures, belief systems, family and social backgrounds of its student body. In our school all children are cherished equally and we actively work to ensure that all children feel included and can play an active part in their school community. This year, in our annual Winterfest celebration, we aim to explore, through music, song, dance, drama and spoken word, some of the rich diversity of our school and its wider community. For children diversity has to be real – we cannot just say we believe in diversity and reject certain ideas or people. Diversity means talking about and learning about ways that are different to our ways and accepting these as they are. In our celebration of Winterfest this year this is what we aim to do, to embrace diversity in its many forms, whether it is diversity of culture, religion, beliefs, diversity in music and arts, diversity in nature or just simply the reality of the diversity of human life that dwells in any village, town or city. In the words of our final song,
“Everyone belongs where they can sing their song”.
We hope that Rathfarnham Educate Together is one such place.