Wednesday 20 March 2019

Fermoy Educate Together NS's principal welcomes the first batch of new pupils

Bill Browne

The principal of the newly opened Fermoy Educate Together National School (ETNS) has said she is relishing the opportunity of being at the helm of a facility that she promised would "encompass an environment of inclusivity and equality".

Aideen Maher was speaking as she formally welcomed the first cohort of junior infants to the school, which for the time being is temporarily housed at the Fermoy Community Centre on Ashe Quay. 

It is planned that the school will move permanently to the former Gaelscoil de hÍde premises on McCurtain Street in 2019, where it will operate on a shared basis with the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB). 

The opening of the school represented the long-awaited culmination of a process that commenced in 2011 when the government established the forum on Patronage and Pluralism within the primary sector. It's aim was to increase diversity and inclusiveness through the reconfiguration of Church buildings and schools, with parents in 43 areas, including Fermoy, consulted on their school patron of choice. 

While parents in Fermoy selected the Educate Together model, progress during the intervening years was slow due in part to what Educate Together said was the Department of Education's insistence that it be a 'no cost' process. 

Last year the campaign was re-energised following the publication of the government's Action Plan for Education, in which Education Minister Richard Bruton committed to commence discussions with existing and prospective patrons where "a desire for patronage reassignment has already been expressed." 

That process finally yielded results for Fermoy last June, when it was announced the Educate Together school would open in time for the new term. 

Ms Maher promised that the uniqueness and individuality of each and every student that passes through the doors of the school would be "carefully nurtured". 

"I really value the importance of relationships and thus involve parents and the wider community as partners in education. Such involvement has a positive effect on pupils attitude behaviour and learning," she said.

Prior to completing her post-graduate diploma in Educational Leadership in 2010, Ms Maher had a long career in nursing within the clinical, managerial, and educational sectors. She now has more than eight years' professional teaching experience under her belt and was a member of the team that helped set up Castaheany Educate Together NS in Dublin in 2005. She has worked at a total of five Educate Together schools in Dublin and Cork, her most recent posting being in Midleton. 

"Our school [in Fermoy] will offer parents and children an active learning environment where children are confident, happy and engaged in child-centred learning," pledged Ms Maher.

"This nurturing setting will encourage children to reach their full potential to the best of their abilities and empower them to think freely and become confident, critical thinkers," she added. 

Fermoy ETNS manager Niall Wall said he was delighted to welcome Ms Maher as principal. 

"Her knowledge and understanding of the Educate Together ethos and the Learn Together curriculum is second to none, and I'm sure that Fermoy ETNS will be a huge success and massive asset to the local community," he said. 

There are still places available for Junior Infants. 

Parents interested in this and subsequent years should visit or call the Educate Together national office at (01) 429 2500.