An online event to mark the development of an Ethos Quality Framework for Educate Together took place on 19th October ‘21. It was attended by staff from the Department of Education, elected representatives, staff from the Educate Together national office and Board of Directors, staff from Educate Together schools and supporters, other schools around the country; Department of Education support services, school management bodies, patron bodies, unions, the President of DCU Prof. Daire Keogh, staff from the DCU, staff from other HEIs and various other stakeholders in education.
Over a two year period, Dr. Shivaun O’Brien, Director of Research EQI led this research which involved two phases. In the first year she engaged in expensive consultation with Educate Together stakeholders in order to develop ethos standards and statements of effective practice, based on the long established Educate Together Charter. In the second phase, Dr. O Brien supported 20 Educate Together primary and post-primary schools to evaluate their ethos through the use of the school self-evaluation process. Four training sessions were provided in DCU for the teachers who were leading the Ethos SSE process in each of the pilot schools. In addition, detailed SSE guidelines and tools were developed specifically for Educate Together schools to support them in this work.
The event was hosted by the DCU Institute of Education and the Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection (EQI) and MC for the event was Prof Joe O’Hara, Director of the Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection. The event involved a keynote speech from Prof Anne Looney, DCU Institute of Education, who spoke about the significance of the Ethos Quality Framework not only for the network of Educate Together schools but also for the Irish school system. She stated that the framework represents a developmental process and a genuine support for quality in school ethos. She said it was a real attempt to give ownership to the Educate Together school community and agency in both the articulation of the framework and how it is used. Prof Looney suggested that this work provides a challenge for the Irish school system about how we think about ethos and how it is represented.
A short version of a video, produced by EQI was shown at the event which documented the development of the Educate Together Ethos Quality Framework. The video, filmed in June ‘21, was made by Ballywire Media Production Company and included interviews with a sample of teachers who led the ethos school self-evaluation in the pilot phase as well as Dr. Emer Nowlan, CEO of Educate Together, Sandra Irwin-Gowran Head of Education Educate Together, Prof Joe O’Hara Director DCU Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, as well as Dr. Shivaun O’Brien who led the project.
Dr. O’Brien then spoke about the model of professional development that was employed in the training programme for teachers leading the ethos SSE process in pilot schools. She highlighted that the approach was based on extensive research which has been tried and tested with over 100 schools and has proven very successful.
Dr. Emer Nowlan, CEO of Educate Together emphasised the three key parts of the ethos quality framework, the standards, the school self evaluation process and tools and an ethos quality and guidance platform. Significantly, Dr. Nowlan outlined that the members of the Educate Together network voted to adopt the Ethos Quality Framework as policy for the organisation earlier this year, which was an important step for a democratic organisation such as Educate Together. Dr Nowlan emphasised that the Ethos Standards and Statements of Effective Practice serve as an important counterbalance to the trend of measuring success in education in very narrow terms such as narrow academic outcomes, including the results of exams and standardised tests.The standards and statements help to defend every aspect of a holistic education, such as wellbeing and relationships. She hopes that this development will give school leaders and staff in schools and school communities, a structure which will help them in their work to keep the focus on the students and on education in a broader sense. Overall, Dr Nowlan said that the whole process was fantastic in bringing the whole community together.
Prof Joe O’Hara concluded with thanks to all those involved in the initiative over the two years, the production of the video and the speakers at this online event.
A copy of the recording of the online event is available HERE.