Applying to Educate Together and Community National Schools

Hi everybody!  My name is Ciara (@ciarasclassroom on Instagram) and I am a primary school teacher with a deep interest in multi-denominational, inclusive education in Ireland.  In Ireland, we have two types of multi-denominational primary schools; Community National Schools (CNS) and Educate Together National Schools (ETNS).  Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work in both of these types of schools and really enjoyed teaching in both.  Below, I’m going to give you a brief overview of CNS and ETNS, the ethos’ and some helpful hints for applying/interviewing for positions in these schools.

Educate Together National Schools

Educate Together is the fastest growing sector within education in Ireland at the moment.  Interestingly, these schools are under the patronage of Educate Together themselves.

Important info when applying to ETNS schools:

These schools are multi-denominational and coeducational.

Learn Together is the ethical education curriculum used instead of religious instruction.  Learn Together is split into 4 sections/strands; ‘Equality and Justice’, ‘Morals and Spirituality’, ‘Belief Systems’ and ‘Ethics and the Environment’.  The messages and content within Learn Together are central to the school ethos and are hugely important in day to day school life in ETNS.  If you have an interest or experience relating to any of these 4 topics, try to mention it in your application/interview!  (For example, Green Schools Committee.)

There is a huge emphasis put on the importance of equality.   Students, parents and staff are all treated equally regardless of religion, culture, social background, ability, gender, sexuality etc.  This also connects with the huge value they put on inclusion and representation for all.  As a teacher, you would be encouraged to ensure that you have representations of lots of different types of people, types of families and backgrounds in your library, displays and resources, so that all students feel represented and valued equally.  When applying to an ETNS, make sure you can discuss some ideas for how you would promote equality in the school/classroom and how you would make sure that all are included and represented.

All staff members in ETNS schools are called by their first name.

‘Student Voice’ is so important in ETNS schools! Students are often involved in committees and in the decision-making process in these schools.  Try to include some reference to ‘Student Voice’ in your Standard Application and/or at any interviews for ETNS; particularly how this may inform your teaching or decisions.  Personally, in my ETNS classroom, I allow the children to vote on things or make decisions as a class on a regular basis.  I also ask them for their feedback, thoughts, and ideas a lot, and then use their responses to inform my teaching.

Children do not wear uniforms in ETNS schools.

There is generally a lot of parental involvement in school life, in the classroom and in decision making.  When applying/interviewing, you should be able to discuss the benefits (and challenges) of working closely with the parents.  It would be a good idea in your Standard Application to mention any ways you have or would like to involve parents in your classroom.

Faith formation takes place completely outside of school.  The school has no involvement in sacramental preparation or other religious teaching.

Most ETNS schools hold regular school assemblies. Each class takes turns of hosting/leading the assembly.  This usually is based on a particular theme taken from the Learn Together curriculum. This year, our themes included Friendship, Children’s Rights, Love, Anti-bullying, Equality, Peace, Recycling, Deforestation, Pollution and many more.  We also had a Winter Show (no Nativity in ETNS schools), at which each class put on a performance about winter festivals and celebrations from all over the world.

Sample questions for ETNS schools:

  • How would you contribute to our school ethos?
  • How would you involve parents in your classroom?
  • Why do you want to work in an ETNS?
  • What does inclusion mean to you?
  • How is ETNS different from other types of schools?
  • How would you ensure that ‘Student Voice’ is heard in your classroom?
  • How might you contribute to our school assemblies with your class?

Community National Schools

Community National Schools are the newest types of school in Ireland.  They are under the patronage of the Education and Training Boards (ETBs).

Important info when applying to CNS schools:

These schools are multi-denominational and coeducational.

The cornerstones of the CNS model are ‘Multidenominational’, ‘Equality-based’, ‘Excellence in Education’ and ‘Community-based’.  These are key to the CNS ethos!  Try to make reference to these in your application/interview.  If you can, try to give examples of how you have/would keep these in the centre of your teaching.

Community is very important to Community National Schools.  It is one of the cornerstones and is key to everything they do.  When applying/interviewing, make sure you make reference to the importance of family and the local community in the lives of students and that by working together, you can provide the best possible education and opportunities for the students.  CNS schools also really value getting involved in the local community and getting the community involved in the school.  In your application, try to show how you could help facilitate this and some ideas of ways you would continue to build relationships between the school, families and the wider community.

Goodness Me Goodness You (usually just called GMGY) is the ethical education curriculum used instead of religious instruction. GMGY is broken down into 4 strands; ‘My Stories’, ‘We are a CNS’, ‘Thinking Time’ and ‘Beliefs and Religions’. These are subdivided into 14 ‘elements’ (note: very new curriculum so it uses the same terminology as the Primary Language Curriculum).  GMGY is split into a junior and a senior curriculum.  The junior curriculum has been very recently changed as it needed to be altered to fit the developments/changes within the CNS ethos over the past couple of years.  These changes relate specifically to faith formation.

Up until last year, CNS schools were multi-denominational schools who also offered faith formation and religious instruction as part of the school day.  This meant that children could make Communion and/or Confirmation and preparations for these would take place during school time, if families expressed an interest in this.  Now, CNS schools have decided to have faith formation take place outside of school hours. A child can still make their Communion/Confirmation through the school but the lessons and preparation takes place after school hours, in the school and led by one of the school’s teachers. This is a very important change/development to be aware of when applying to a CNS school; multi-denominational but facilitates faith formation and religious instruction after school hours.

Individuality is really valued and celebrated in CNS schools.  This includes all aspects of the child and the child’s life e.g. culture, nationality, religion, social background, ability, talents etc.  The children are encouraged to share and celebrate what makes them unique and special.  Your classroom should be a warm and welcoming place where children can share their life experiences in a positive way.  Through GMGY, children often do family projects at home and present these in class.  There are many celebrations in CNS schools e.g. Intercultural Day, Identity Week, Winter Assembly, which help to celebrate individuality throughout the school.

If you are applying to a CNS, the process can take a bit longer than in other schools and it usually takes at least a week to hear back after an interview.  This is because they need ETB approval before contacting the successful candidate(s).

Sample questions for CNS schools:

  • How would you contribute to our school ethos?
  • Why do you want to work in a CNS?
  • How is a CNS different from other types of schools?
  • What role has community played in your life?
  • How would you build a relationship and regular communication with parents?
  • Would you have an interest in running an after-school club? If so, what type of club?
  • How could you involve parents and the wider community in your students’ learning?

Best of luck with the applications and interviews! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on Instagram (@ciarasclassroom).