In November 1999,Educate Together (the umbrella group for all Educate Together schools) called a public meeting in Swords. The purpose of this meeting was to establish the demand for a Multi-Denominational School in Swords. From this meeting grew the Swords Educate Together Association (SETA) one month later in December.
The association worked tirelessly from that point and in February 2000 organized a public launch of its pre-enrolment list. In order for this to happen fundraising activities had to be organized and leaflet drops had to be co-ordinated for the residential areas of Swords and Donabate. The pre-enrolment lists were very encouraging – well in excess of the required 17 Junior Infants to open in September 2000.
The next step was to find temporary accommodation. Premises were found – approved by the Department of Education and Science pending minor adjustments. And then the worst happened! In June 2000 the landlord pulled out of the arrangement and the Association – totally devastated! – decided to postpone opening for another year. This had huge implications for pre-enrolment lists etc. and landed the Association back at a starting position.
Determined,the association regrouped in September,2000 and early in 2001 approached Swords Celtic Football Club who agreed to rent their hall to the school for 2-3 years. Approved by Fingal Co. Co. and the D.E.S. things were now looking much more positive. The lease with Swords Celtic was finalized in May.
The Association now needed D.E.S. approval to advertise for the post of Principal Teacher. This came through in the last week of June. The advertisement was printed in the Irish Independent in late June and interviews took place in the third week of July.
Gerard Kelly was appointed Principal Teacher. For the rest of the summer everyone worked night and day turning a soccer club into a school for young children. To say that this task was intimidating is an understatement. A soccer hall had to be partitioned and two classrooms furnished and kitted out for the first teaching day in September. Would you believe that this was done inside budget –£5000 from the Department of Education and Science. It was all hands on deck.
The school opened on September 3rd 2001 with 17 Junior Infants and 2 Senior Infants – a truly wonderful day for everyone involved!! Well,not for everyone – limited space meant that we had to restrict admission to Infants. This was a huge disappointment to many parents who had dedicated two years to getting the school open. Their children were now beyond Infants and could not participate in the school.
As the school was opened with Temporary Recognition,the D.E.S. grant aided 75% of the rent. The balance of 25% had to be fundraised.
We were privileged in January 2002 to welcome President Mary McAleese to our school. Not only was it a great celebration of the success of Swords Educate Together N.S. five months after opening,it also affirmed and encouraged everyone associated with our school.
Our school was granted Permanent Recognition by the Department in November 2002. This meant that our rent was funded to 95% but it also placed the onus on the Board of Management to continue to find suitable temporary premises for up to 7 more years.
In September 2002 our numbers rose to 22 Junior Infants,23 Senior Infants and 7 First Class children. Pre-enrolment numbers for the 2003-2004 school year grew to over 90. This meant that we would require enough rooms to take on 2 Junior Infant classes in order to satisfy demand.There was no further space available to us in Swords Celtic F.C. The Board of Management had explored every possibility in Swords and the surrounding areas in an effort to secure bigger accommodation. It was decided that the only way we could expand would be in prefab buildings on a site. Although there was a zoned Primary school site in Applewood Village,Swords the D.E.S. were not in a position to purchase it.
The Board of Management and the parents campaigned with Local Councillors and T.D.’s to highlight our plight and to gain the support and assistance of Fingal County Council in securing a suitable site. In early March 2003 Fingal County Manager,William Soffe,Michael Galvin,Fingal Co. Co. and Cllr. Michael Kennedy facilitated a meeting between Gerry Gannon of Gannon Homes,representatives of Swords Educate Together N.S. and Gaelscoil Bhrian Boróimhe (who had a similar accommodation crisis as our school).
At this meeting Gerry Gannon offered to make available 3 acres of his land for 2 years 11 months for a rent of €200 per year. This site was to be a shared campus for both schools. In addition to this Gerry Gannon offered the services of his architects Conroy,Crowe,Kelly to assist us in drawing up plans for the site and applying for planning permission. Gannon homes would provide a 400 metre access road to the site,all services,a smooth-surfaced play area and fencing around the perimeter of the site.
The schools approached the D.E.S. and met with the Planning Unit in Tullamore. At this meeting the D.E.S. were given full details of Gerry Gannon’s offer and shown plans for our prefabricated school building. It was agreed that we should seek tenders for the contract and forward them with our recommendation to the Planning Unit. We set to work immediately. All tenders were returned to the D.E.S. for consideration.
On 25th June we received notification from the Planning Unit that it would not be funding our project. On appeal,this decision was reversed. The agreement was to initially rent the building and within one year to purchase it.
Unfortunately,due to the time delay it was now apparent that there was no possibility of having the buildings ready for occupation for September 1st. In addition to this,when work began on the access road,human bones were unearthed!! The project was further delayed while archaeological investigations took place. In desperation we turned to local businessman,Eamon Weir,who is one of the owners of Swords Business Campus. Thankfully,Eamon rescued the situation by offering us the use of one of his business units while we awaited completion of our new building.
Again,it was all hands on deck to move from Swords Celtic to Sword Business Campus during the month of August. Against the odds we were able to open in September but the conditions were most unsuitable with 95 children and 4 teachers,all working in one open plan space. Finally at the end of October the wait was over. Once again,school Mid-Term went on hold as everyone did their bit to ensure that we would be ready to open our new building after the break. At last the day came when we were able to open the door to a real school building. For most of our 95 pupils this was the first time they had ever been in a purpose-built classroom! It was a once in a lifetime moment.
The Minister for Education and Science,Mr. Noel Dempsey T.D.,officially opened our school in January 2004. We now have a staff of 13 teachers,4 special needs assistants,a secretary,a cleaner and a caretaker. Additional school staff will be recruited for September. Three teachers dedicate their time to children with special education needs and to children requiring learning support.
Our future pre-enrolments are growing by the day,with a growing number of children already pre-enrolled for 2010. We need to extend the building by 2 classrooms per year over the next four years in order to satisfy demand and to grow to a 16 mainstream class school.Since opening in September 2001 we’ve grown in confidence and pride. The parents,who worked so hard,against all the odds,to open and develop the school and the parents of the children we teach are an inspiration. Not to mention the children themselves! We have a wonderful mix of continents,countries,cultures and belief systems all equally celebrated under our banner of:
Our motto is:No Child is an Outsider.
What Motivated the Parents?
The parents who worked so hard to open this school wished to send their children to a national school that is multi-denominational,child-centered,co-educational and democratically run.
The school is fully recognized by the D.E.S.,it is non-fee-paying and it operates under the same rules applying to all national schools. With its unique ethos and democratic structure,our school offers tremendous opportunities for parents,teachers and children.