Ahascragh, Co. Galway

In Brief

Eglish National School’s small staff provides a broad and active education tailored to the needs of its students. Committed to enabling each student to achieve their fullest potential at their own rate, Eglish offers many opportunities for children to be proactive in their learning, ranging from outdoor education and a public speaking programme to events that encourage entrepreneurial skills and foreign exchange through Erasmus: a gamut of activities that embody core values of creativity and inclusivity to encourage students to develop their sense of self and place in a diverse world.


Established over a century ago in 1899, Eglish National School serves 45 students in rural County Galway, 70% of whom are from the Travelling community and a third of whom have a special education need. Three class teachers are supported by the rest of the school’s small staff to provide a curriculum that emphasises creativity and inclusivity.

The Biggest Idea

Empowering students is a strong theme at Eglish National School, and helping them develop their communication skills is a key part of this. The “LET’s Stand” programme gives children public speaking practice, and students are generally encouraged to have open conversations, while teachers build a learning environment where everyone’s voice is heard and respected.

Life at Eglish

Cultivating community begins at the smallest scale at Eglish National School: students raise chicks, rescue ducklings, maintain an ant farm and an algae/shrimp ecosystem. They recently raised butterflies and released them into the school’s sensory garden, where flowers are also planted, and in a nearby polytunnel, they grow vegetables, which are mostly tended to by children with special education needs.

These opportunities, in addition to fostering empathy and providing a therapeutic outlet for children, reflect the type of personal responsibility and active involvement in the community that is central to Eglish. 70% of students are from the Travelling community, and inclusion and acceptance of diversity are important tenets of the community. To actively engage in this community, students make and sell crafts at the “Bring and Buy” sale, they join committees to act as leaders in important school planning and senior students even get to lead school assemblies. Recently, students wrote, produced and acted in an award-winning play, and the work of the Energy Committee earned the school a “Green Flag.” These are just a few examples take active roles in the Eglish community.

One especially important way that Eglish empowers its students is by focusing on communication skills. While technology is an important part of the curriculum (students even learn to code), there is also an awareness that modern technology can encourage passivity at the expense of communication. Classrooms have “conversation stations” and public speaking is developed through the “LET’s Stand” (Listen, Evaluate, Talk, Stand) programme, which gives each student the opportunity to speak in front of an audience at least 10 times a year on topics that interest them.

Finally, as Eglish empowers students to discover their voices, it also brings them in contact with broader world, bringing in the perspectives of foreign educators and giving children opportunities to learn abroad through the Erasmus programme. In all these ways, Eglish is preparing students to use their unique perspectives to be active members of the global community.

The Leadership

Siobhan Keenan Fitzgerald has been an innovative principal, ensuring that the over 100-year-old school prepares students for the modern world. She believes in identifying students’ unique strengths and interests as a foundation for their education, and she wants Eglish’s children to become excellent communicators and leaders. She has developed the “LET’s Stand” programme due to her belief in the importance of oral communication to self-development and broader success in the world, and it has taken hold in the school, encouraging students to let their voices be heard and become forces of change in the world.