I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about Educate Together schools. For me, it’s great that so many teachers seem to be interested in a patronage that has such a small representation in the primary education system (58 schools out of several thousand).
Because they are relatively new, it’s natural that there are misconceptions. Like previous posters have said, in theory they are very similar to any primary school, the notable difference being the patron body. It wasn’t long ago that children in primary schools didn’t wear uniforms – it seemed to just become the norm in the last 20 years. Calling teachers by their first name isn’t unique either (as pointed out by a previous poster).
I’m not sure if the following is helpful but it might clear up some of the more common misconceptions about ET.
They’re all multicultural – Not all ET schools are hugely multicultural and some are. However, an ethos of welcoming and celebration is central whether 100% of the children are of the one cultural background or there is a mixture of cultures.
They’re middle class – 25% of ET schools are DEIS. There is a vast mix of families that go to ET schools and children simply learn together.
They are full of foreigners/hippies/special needs – see above!
They don’t teach religion – we do. We just don’t teach it as truth. Every child is given the opportunities to learn about different faiths and none in a child-centred way. Children who wish to celebrate their own faith are welcome to do so but this is done outside of school hours. As Catholic sacraments are the most common rite of passage for children in my school, we work with the local parish and children have lessons outside of school hours. We all celebrate during assemblies, etc.
Parents are interfering – I think that this is one of the biggest mindsets that’s difficult to change. In Ireland, the thoughts of parents coming into schools is generally frowned upon. Therefore when you have a completely open door policy on parents coming in, you are going to welcome a few parents who don’t understand the line of professionalism. However, it’s only a very small percentage of parents who are like this. 99% of parents are amazing. They come in, drop their kids off, might have a quick hello to the teacher, might stay for a coffee, might meet with other parents in the school to organise an event – and never in an inappropriate way. I always make sure that when we are talking about parental involvement that we focus on these parents rather than the ones who cause problems. Equally, if you then take the view of keeping all parents out, it’s harder to get the pleasure of their help, their volunteering, etc. And you still get the odd inappropriate parent. There’s ways of helping parents to understand how parental involvement works. It can be difficult for some parents who share the same misconceptions about parental involvement in ET schools but this can gently be changed very easily.
Children are badly behaved – I’m quite surprised that this is also a common thought for ET schools. A well thought out and planned behaviour policy works just as well in ET schools as it does in other schools. In my school, we have excellent structures in place and 90% of children follow them. I have taught in several schools in my career and behaviour standards are generally only as good as the behaviour policies in place.
A new one for me – they are not hierarchal – Personally, I hate hierarchies. However, I realise that schools, by their definition and structure, have hierarchal tendencies. Hierarchy or lack thereof is not one of the things that makes an ET school so I can only speak for myself. I like to challenge the concept of the traditional hierarchy and genuinely believe that all people in the school should feel empowered in the running of the school – that’s management, staff (all staff), parents, children and the wider community. As the principal, my job is to take all these different cohorts and make decisions based on the vision of the school. Children give their views both informally and formally. For example, we have children’s committees for Green School but also a committee that take part in our display in the front of the school. They are led by a member of staff and sometimes parents or board members. All staff in my school are welcome to contribute to school policies. Although we, as teachers, are the only ones qualified in making school plans, it’s often interesting to get challenged by people who aren’t. At the end of the day, I should be able to justify anything in a school plan to anybody. I would feel that every member of my staff feels that they are entitled to give their opinion about everything from the cleanliness of the toilets to the way we teach decomposition.
Anyway, I hope this helps the OP in their dreams to becoming an ET teacher. I really really love working in an ET school.