Finally - a school we can call our own...

Cork Educate Together Secondary School has been waiting for a permanent home for six years. JENNIFER HORGAN catches up with the principal and students following news of a fresh planning bid
Finally - a school we can call our own...

Pupils at Cork Educate Together School form wording ‘ET Go Home’ as part of their campaign to get a new school. They also recorded a song - A School Of Our Own - which can be seen at or see

EXCITEMENT is building at Cork’s Educate Together Secondary School (CETSS).

Principal Colm O’Connor is delighted to report that the Department of Education’s plan for a permanent school site will be re-submitted shortly. This is a significant step in the school’s six-year wait to secure their own grounds.

CETSS opened in 2016 with the promise of appropriate facilities; and there was understandable disappointment when a 2018 planning application was rejected. Ever since, they have grown unhappily accustomed to temporary accommodation, first in Mahon and more recently at Griffith College, Wellington Road.

This second bid looks promising.

“We are very optimistic that planning will be granted as the Department’s engineers have had regular pre-planning meetings over the past two years. Changes have been made to satisfy complaints from the first-time round,” said Mr O’Connor.

“The plans also fall within the city bounds this time which should make a difference.”

Student Voice

Students in the co-educational, multi-cultural school shared their feelings with The Echo. They expressed their delight at the thought of securing standard school facilities, enjoyed by most other schools in the city.

TY student Sophie Murphy said: “It will be good because we would have a PE hall instead of having to walk up the massive hill, which takes away from our PE time.

“We would have a fully equipped music room, and for someone like me who really loves music, this would be a huge thing.”

Junior Cert student Aidan Wills said: “It will mean that we have the facilities to study our subjects to the best of our abilities.”

Ana Roseno added: “Having an actual school to go to would be super convenient; the drive to school won’t be as long as it is right now.

“I’m excited about not having to wake up at exactly 6 in the morning to get ready, and I’m glad I won’t be very stressed in the mornings, because I know I’ll get there in time.”

Her classmate Olan Hennessy O’Flynn echoes the sentiment: “The location for the school is in Douglas so I won’t need to get up really early to take two public buses just to get to the school on time.”

A Better Fit

The Educate Together students have high hopes and definite plans for their new school.

“We could decorate the classrooms in a way that is inspired by our ethos and have more sustainable ways of living in school.

“Most of us wouldn’t have to drive and take buses to school anymore and we could be freer to join clubs that might last for longer and are always on. We would just be able to live our dreams of going to a bright, happy school that feels good and refreshing to walk into every day,” says Caoimhe Kelleher.

For Transition Year student Leah Sabbe, the current set-up is particularly problematic.

“I have bad asthma, and the walk we take to our PE field is quite taxing on my breathing. Not only that, but since my asthma is triggered by cold air, I’m unable to participate in PE class most of the time.

“If we have our own school, we could have an indoor PE space and then I’d be able to join in with PE.”

Positive Atmosphere

Some come across as philosophical when reflecting on their school experience so far.

Antonia Wlodarz muses: “I think a building isn’t what creates the community of CETSS, but we need a space of our own so that we can learn and get the fullest experience that we can. Modern facilities such as a sports hall, library, and outdoor spaces will help grow our school, both physically and socially.

“I’ve noticed that both students and teachers are struggling under the limits of what’s possible in our small space, and I think that we can achieve our fullest potential when we’re given the tools, the help we need.”

Katie McCullagh gushes at the prospect of a new building.

“Having a school of my own would be an almost life-changing experience. What I mean by this is that I have been in my ‘school building’ for three years now and I am completing my Junior Cert. I appreciate all the work the teachers put in, trying to make this place feel like a school building for all students, but it isn’t the same; it’s very hard for us to move around with such little space. We as a school don’t get to do as much as other schools because we don’t have our’dream school’.”

Whatever their current situation, there’s a warmth in the community that’s hard to miss and is set to travel with them.

Katie adds: “Building a new school in a very accessible location that people can walk or cycle to, would mean a lot, not just to myself but to all students, teachers, and of course Colm, whose efforts everyone in school admires. He has been putting in the most work for years, working hard to get a school for all of us.

“Students are of course deserving of this, but Colm deserves it the most. We all respect and appreciate everything he does for us.”

First year Síofra Murphy says when the new school is completed, “our school could not be better”, adding: “I would have so much more energy every day because I would not have to get up at 6am. I would have so much more time to do things that I enjoy. This school is as close to perfection as it could be in terms of people and ethos but the one thing missing is the building. We need this building!”

Art Activism

With this sentiment in mind, the students recently made their way to a recording studio in Cork city to record their own version of Somewhere Only We Know by Keane. Their version is A School of Our Own.

A TY group made an accompanying video. Music teacher Colin Kirwan, who plays the piano on the track, describes their energy as ‘an inspiration’.

“Music is a great way to get the message out there. They worked really hard on the rehearsals and recording process, even though many of them will never see the new building,” Kirwan adds.

At the end of school last week, they gathered, all 370 students and dozens of staff, to create a suitably hopeful photograph. A drone captured the group’s formation into #ET Go Home below.

They’re keen to settle into their new home as soon as possible. CETSS promises to enhance its local community once they find this hoped-for ‘school of their own’.

Principal O’Connor assures The Echo that “the schools will offer the families of Cork South suburbs a dynamic school community. The school will provide families with a multi-denominational, co-educational, digital school, as well as releasing a large site for a new public park.”

It could be a happy ending for everyone involved.

“There is now light at the end of the tunnel for the students who travel from Douglas back and forward across the city, every day. We thank the Department for their efforts and look forward to the delivery of a state-of-the-art school in the short term,” concludes O’Connor.

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