WHAT MAKES AN EDUCATE TOGETHER SCHOOL DIFFERENT?
In an Educate Together school a daily period of time is set aside for the ethical education curriculum, which is delivered in addition to the National Curriculum. This program is called the “Learn Together” curriculum and is published by Educate Together. It defines the core values of all teaching and learning in the school. It is subject to continuous review and development in our schools and decisions to change are made at Annual General Meetings of the sponsor.
THE 'LEARN TOGETHER' CURRICULUM
The programme is divided into four strands: Moral and Spiritual Development, Justice and Equality, Ethics and the Environment and Belief Systems. The curriculum specifically addresses the Educate Together ethos and it is here that the values that the school seeks to model in its ‘characteristic spirit' are articulated and explained in greater depth.
MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
The aim is to help children develop a critical knowledge, understanding and awareness of right and wrong. Teachers aim to develop a strong awareness of social, ethical and moral standards through reflecting on the meaning and purpose of life. The strand should encourage and develop the individual on their journey to inner discovery and empower the child to make informed moral choices.
EQUALITY AND JUSTICE
The general aim of the strand is to develop in children a critical knowledge, understanding and awareness of issues relating to human rights, equality, culture and diversity, social justice and social inclusiveness and to empower them to make a difference.
ETHICS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The school develops in children a knowledge, appreciation and respect to their environment to empower them to take an active role in its stewardship. The environment is defined to include concepts of social, economic, political and environmental sustainability.
Children are expected to participate in study of environment and social issues in their own community and take appropriate action. This may involve setting up an eco-school committee, visiting the elderly, surveying waste, traffic or water use in the area, setting up mini social enterprises and making representations to the local council or political representatives.
This strand explains and explores the major belief systems and life stances in the world in an educational manner, teaching children about these faiths and beliefs without endorsing any particular one as religious truth. This strand of the curriculum is usually very important to ensure that children of all backgrounds feel fully part of the school.
Particular care is taken to represent non-theistic, humanist, atheist and personal life stances as equally valid as traditional religions.
During the year, an Educate Together school may mark - in an age appropriate way - festivals such as Chinese New Year, Easter, Hindu festival of lights (Diwali), Harvest Festivals, Samhain (Halloween), Darwin Day, Ramadan and Eid, Hanukkah and Christmas.
The program allows the school to explore the similarities and differences with the older celebrations that underlie many of these festivals. Examples would be how Celtic festivals and practices underpin the way that Easter is celebrated in Britain or the solstice-based festivals that occur in many religions around the end of the year.
It is normal that the events and ideas in the Learn Together curriculum become integrated into the whole school program, involving drama, art, music, history and geography and also in many cases, parental and community participation. This may mean exploring wider cultural themes such as cuisine and family celebrations. The range of such activities within an individual school will be determined through careful consultations with the school community. The educational aim of this work is to model positive information about the diversity of humanity in a respectful atmosphere, which highlights rights and responsibilities.
CONSEQUENCES OF THIS TYPE OF CURRICULUM:
When this model of school ethos is conscientiously implemented, no child is ever placed in a position in which they feel themselves an outsider in the school program because of their family or individual identity. The approach minimises the situations in which parents or children feel they need to remove themselves from aspects of school life.
It maximises the schools ability to address the religious rights of all families with out favour or discrimination.
Responsibility for religious formation of children is assumed to be that of the family and religious organisations, while the responsibility of the school is to provide a safe, caring and respectful environment for all children. This encourages children to have a strong and secure contact with their own identity and comfort in interaction with people of different faiths and persuasions.
The human rights of teachers and other workers in the school are addressed as staff are never placed in a position in which they may be required to put forward, as religious truth, viewpoints that they may not themselves hold.
From an educational perspective, the inclusive nature of the Educate Together ethical program permeates and influences all teaching in the school. The focus is on an explorative approach to learning that is managed and facilitated by the teacher. Children are encouraged to gain personal understandings in a creative and supportive learning environment. They are encouraged to evaluate information, form judgements and articulate these judgements in supportive, respectful and safe environments.
Educate Together schools promote an approach to education which is based on the core values of mutual respect, self-esteem, dignity and critical awareness.
The child is formally recognised as a participant in the education process and valued as part of the learning organisation that is Educate Together. Participation in school affairs and listening to the voices of the children is part of the democracy that underpins the school. This core value of partnership aims to nurture a deep appreciation of the concept of participation and rights in society, organisations and the world
The approach taken to ethical education in Educate Together schools aims to directly promote the life skills that are essential to a generation of children, growing up into a diverse and varied social environment. Their adult experience will be genuinely global in scope.