Galway City, Co. Galway

In Brief

Galway Educate Together National School (GETNS) aims to meet a growing need in Irish society for schools that recognize the developing diversity of Irish life and the modern need for democratic management in schools. The primary school emphasises inclusive and holistic education through programmes including an Autism Unit, a Mental Well-Being initiative and the Ashoka Fellow organisation Playworks. GETNS is an influential school that is comfortable being showcased and ready to co-create and share methodologies.


In 1994, a group of parents established Galway Educate Together National School (GETNS) to educate their children with the core principles of the multidenominational Educate Together network. The primary school, which is governed democratically, now serves 300 students in its modern facility on the edge of Galway City with innovative, child-centric education techniques.

The Biggest Idea

The school has a strong focus on active and experiential learning through initiatives that range from the filmmaking programme to Playworks, a programme developed in the United States and piloted in Ireland for the first time at GETNS. This is an example of the school’s openness to try new ideas and share them with other schools, through its connections with nearby schools and also the Educate Together network across the country.

Life at GETNS

In the GETNS aquarium, residents like Barry the butterfish and Patricia the prawn are not simply a spectacle. In the last couple of years, the 6th class has helped create lesson plans for other classes, with the aquarium at the center. These range from explorations of the types of animals in the aquarium for younger children to lessons about ocean biodiversity for older students. The use of the aquarium as a focal point that brings learning to life is indicative of the active learning that GETNS encourages in its students, and the involvement of older students in building curriculums is just one of the many leadership opportunities available at the school, which is itself a leader in innovative educational initiatives.

Students also get to lead important work through the Student Council and the Green School Committee. On the playground, students can promote respect and fun by becoming “junior coaches” through the Playworks programme, an initiative by an American Ashoka fellow that promotes healthy and happy play, which GETNS was the first school in Ireland to implement. Just as the junior coaches set an example for other students by leading games, GETNS has been very open pioneering Playworks in Ireland and sharing its experience with other schools. The school has strong links with the broader community, including the local Catholic school as well as Educate Together schools across the country. Parents, too, are well-integrated into the school community; they receive a thorough weekly newsletter, and there is an active Parent Association.

Naturally, the community fostered within students is also strong, and inclusiveness is a core principle. GETNS has an Autism Unit and a Mental Well-Being initiative to ensure the comfort and success of all its students. Students get to cultivate community through their active learning, which includes working in the school’s organic garden and engaging in other outdoor programmes, as well as participating in collaborative, creative projects such as writing and producing films. New ways for students to learn and grow together are always arising at this innovative school.

The Leadership

Principal John Farrell actively encourages children and staff to innovate and leads implementation of new ideas. He has a very supportive team of staff to help promote this ethos throughout the school. The staff is training up to provide future ‘Life Skills for Young People,’ and Principal Farrell and his team are very articulate on the importance of children developing an adaptive skillset.