Ashoka Ireland Changemaker Schools - Summer 2017



Welcome to the first edition of the Ashoka Ireland Changemaker Schools Quarterly (CSQ) newsletter. Here, we will take you through all of the highlights from our 15 Changemaker Schools here in Ireland, as well as documenting some key updates in the education sector across the world.

Want to know about our current schools? Go to our website.



The Changemaker Schools movement aims to connect and support innovative schools throughout the world, who believe in the importance of empowering children for the common good.

Changemaker Schools actively foster empathy, leadership, teamwork and creativity, equipping children with the skills of changemaking. No two schools in the network are the same. Teachers and school community members take a varied and diverse approach to how they empower students and how these skills are nurtured, depending on their individual school context. Below are examples of how this diversity manifests itself in our Changemaker Schools.

What unites these schools and educators is a belief and determination to empower the next generation, and to encourage all children to believe in their ability to change the world for the better.

Every child in a Changemaker School has an identity. This identity is 'Everyone a Changemaker' (EACH).




Dalkey School Project NS, an Educate together school in Dalkey Co. Dublin, is a school whose focus is on creating an emotionally inclusive environment for all of the pupils and staff members.

They nourish feelings of respect and individuality through restorative practices, a movement and massage program for the SEN pupils, world café style staff meetings for staff wellbeing and the Forest School. The Forest School brings students into their natural environment to learn history, geography, science and art. The school has made a large impact on other schools in their community and within the ETNS network, with their Forest School initiative and through the introduction of their own mental health programme, devised by their 6th class pupils.


Scoil Bhríde Shantalla, located in the heart of Shantalla in Co. Galway, is full of diversity, acceptance and influence with emphasis in their vision on the words ‘we care’. It represents 19 nationalities, 33% of their population are travellers and they have won the European Alcuin award for their work in developing positive home-school relations.

Their initiatives span from the creative to the scientific, such as the Creative Nation initative, the Uni4u programme, film making, and even robotics. They are a school with numerous achievements and awards under their belt, and a passion for all in their community, leading transformatively with their vision to combat early school leavers.


Tarmon NS, the warm hug of Castlerea Co. Roscommon, leads the way in education for schools in rural parts of Ireland. It cultivates a real familial atmosphere that is bursting with inclusion and influence.

A daily Buddy System that integrates students with SEN, honey making programmes, chicken hatching, horse riding, and a savings scheme are just a few of the initiatives run in this school. They have a strong focus on empowering their pupils to seek opportunities to innovate and create, while also putting a great emphasis on their community and culture.




On the 30th of March, 31 very excited students from Junior Infants to 6th Class set off on a mission to explore Donabate-Portrane ETNS. The aim was to share ideas and thoughts on their individual and collective dreams and what makes their respective schools changemaking.

What an amazing opportunity for our students, coming from a small rural Catholic school setting to experience one day of school in such a big, progressive, Dublin Educate Together School. There was a palpable, pulsating air of positivity as we toured the school and viewed many examples of creative and inspiring art work.

Collaboratively, we all made our mark on wall hangings of dandelions that inspired all with Gandhi's quote: Be the change you wish to see in the world. Both schools now have one wall hanging each as a reminder of the day!



On March 24th, Berndette and Carmel, two staff members of Eglish NS, visited Galway ETNS to observe and learn first-hand about the Playworks programme. It was also a great opportunity to share innovative ideas, methodologies and experiences.

Reflecting on the visit, Carmel said, "Being part of the Changemaker community has added immeasurably to the quality of education we are providing for the pupils of Eglish NS as we are now part of a valuable network of professionals sharing good practice."

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“I was surprised but grateful, honoured and humbled to receive this award. I count myself lucky to be Principal of Eglish NS and part of a very dedicated, diligent and dynamic team. A team that endeavours constantly, in the words of my Deputy Principal, Carmel, to empower students, staff and parents to become the ‘very best version of themselves’.

It is truly coincidental that the theme of this year’s conference was ‘The Power of One’, as we firmly believe in this message and constantly, creatively and conscientiously work to reinforce and realise it. From disagreements in the playground to approaching new initiatives, from cleaning the sports shed to solving a Maths problem, we ask ourselves, ‘What can I do’, with the emphasis on I. ‘Working with the resources that I have, what can I do?’ This is a very simple question but it is potentially profound and powerful. I am frequently in awe of the innovative solutions staff and students can come up with in response to this question. It’s also a question that values the contributions of everyone, thereby facilitating inclusion.” - Siobhan Fitzgerald.

"Working with the resources that I have, what can I do?"


Eglish are one of the few primary schools across Ireland who are working with the NCCA on the School Consultation stage of developing a curriculum for ERB and Ethics for all children attending primary schools in Ireland. This curriculum will contribute to the development of the child in five key areas: personal understanding, mutual understanding, character education, connection to the wider world, and spiritual awareness. Being connected to this network is a very meaningful way for the school to be actively involved in change while at the same time having their voice heard as a proud Catholic school.

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On March 3rd, the 4th, 5th and 6th class students took part in a debate with their peers in their partner schools in Spain and Poland. The topic for the debate was: “Invasion is always a bad thing."

As native English speakers, two students of Eglish NS acted as captains for the proposition and opposition. It was an amazing experience for them to observe peers in classrooms across Europe being beamed into theirs and connected with them. There were no winner - everyone’s points and views were listened to.

This was a wonderful experience for all students and teachers involved. Amongst the many benefits, it highlighted what they all share in common, how small the world is and how profoundly technology can connect us to one another.

Eglish NS travelled to Poland from the 6th to 13th of May for their current Erasmus+ project: “Invaders, how they shaped the Europe of today." The delegation, this time was made up of 3 staff members, 4 students and 2 parents. This is such an amazing and real life learning experience for all involved.

Click to watch videos from their trip:

Eglish NS Erasmus trip to Miedzyzdroje May 2017

Trudy's Trip to Poland with Eglish NS, Erasmus + May 2017

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St. Columbas GNS - a school where every child learns sign language - have been working on a project around empowerment and voice in their school. The teachers of the school are always striving to encourage the development of the ‘whole child’ – their cognitive, academic, physical and character development.

So, they have introduced an Honesty Shop - a shop without supervision, where all of the supplies and money are on display. It is run by their 4th class students, who called it Pinocchio's because"Pinocchio learned not to lie and how to be truthful." Pinocchio's was inspired by an Honesty Shop in a school in India.

The 'shop keepers' take stock each day, and replenish stock when necessary. At the end of the day, they count the shop's taking before closing up. They're really proud of their project and enthusiastically relate to the development of their project. Words such as stock, profit, inventory, float, purchase, customers, basic and luxury items, money bags and lodgements are spoken confidently.

Though in its early stages, the benefits are all too clear; the students realised that as they show that they can be trusted, they are entrusted more.

“If we can live without stealing, without cheating, without lying - we can win in life.”
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One of the parents in the school, Sharon Friel, was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease back in 2012. As her illness progressed, Sharon lost the use of her voice and now uses a wheelchair. She communicates through the use of an eye gaze device.

Since her diagnosis Sharon has campaigned for the IMNDA (Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association) and she is raising awareness through her blog. Both her and her son put together a video in support of IMNDA awareness.

Sharon has made a choice to live as positively as she can, despite the enormous challenges this illness has brought. Her warmth and good humour shines through in her blog.

This week in DPETNS, every class in the school did a ‘silence’ to experience what it is like to try to communicate without the use of your voice. The children got the chance to use an Eye Gaze device to communicate. On Friday May 19th, the whole community came together for a 'Cake Sale and Coffee' morning, raising over €2600 for IMNDA.

Sharon has inspired the entire Donabate-Portrane ETNS school community - both children and adults - with her positivity, her ability to connect with them and her unwavering zest for life.

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The Primary 7’s recently took part in a Young Enterprise program called Business Beginnings. They set up their own company called Oakers’ Enterprise – the name and logo were inspired by Derrynoose and designed by the class.

To begin with, the class was divided into six groups. Each group had the same goal - to create the perfect Easter treat. Groups designed their products, ensuring they were both visually appealing and safe for a large target market. Costs, profits, advertising, safety and sales were considered when creating their treat.

Ideas were pitched to three 'dragons’ (or judges), who then settled on their favourite – The Scrumptious Sweetie Jar. This then became the whole class product for the business, the business which would be used for future classes.

Orders were made, products were produced and then dispatched. Even two local shops sold the product - very exciting news for the young entrepreneurs.

Over 300 jars were sold, and all of the business' profits were given to a number of charities; Cardiomyopathy; The Downs Syndrome Association; and the NSPCC. A small percentage was also banked for next year’s business.

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The Social Justice and Changemaker team from Francis St. C.B.S. have worked on a collaborative art project with the recruitment company LinkedIn in this term. All classes have been discussing what it means to be a Changemaker and came up with a word which they felt embraces it. The words chosen were Succeed, Dream, Courageous, Resilient and Create.

2nd Class chose the word ‘Succeed’ which they picked from their school motto ‘Read, Lead, Succeed’. They felt that being a Changemaker means that you work really hard to be the very best you can be and that you keeping trying and never give up.

3rd Class chose the word ‘Dream’ from their school theme this year of ‘Dream Management’. They felt that Changemakers have the ability to use their imagination to dream of something they want to achieve. We then take the necessary steps to realise our dream and make it come true. ‘Small person, big dream’ is their class belief.

4th Class chose the word ‘Courageous’ as they felt to be a Changemaker you must be brave and aim high. We may fail but we will learn from our mistakes and try again until we succeed. We must face our fearsand stand up for what we believe it.

5th Class chose the word ‘Resilient’ as they felt that to be a Changemaker you must preserve at what you believe in. It is ok to fail but when we do we bounce back stronger than ever. We don’t give up, we keep on trying until we achieve our goal.

6th Class chose the work ‘Create’ which they felt was particularly relevant to them as they are setting off to create their new life in secondary school. They believe as Changemakers we have the power to create own future. We have the ability, skills and drive to create change in our lives, our community and our world.



Restorative Practice (RP) is a big part of how St Ultan’s do things. The aim of RP in St Ultan’s is to manage conflict and tensions by repairing harm and building relationships through a fair process, allowing everyone the opportunity to freely express what happened as well as their own emotions.

Improving the social and emotional literacy of the children in the school is a big focus for us, with children taking part in a daily ‘Feelings Check-in’. This check in ensures that every child is heard every day and they are given an opportunity to share experiences that are happening to them.

'Restorative Circles' are excellent way to resolve conflict and repair any harm caused. These circles are common in St. Ultan's, between classmates, teachers and even their Restorative Practice Buddies. These buddies are a group of 20 children who promote RP throughout the school by wearing RP vests on the playground and helping other children resolve any issues or conflicts through restorative circles.



In Corpus Christi, 4th and 6th class children are taking part in Roots of Empathy. This is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.

At the heart of the program are an infant and parent from the community. They visit the classroom every three weeks over the school year, accompanied by a trained Roots of Empathy teacher who coaches the students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings.

In this experiential learning, the baby is the 'teacher' who, with the help of the Roots of Empathy teacher, teaches the children how to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.

The emotional literacy taught in the program lays the foundation for safer and more caring classrooms. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. A step towards a greater sense of self-control and independence.



Galway Educate Together NS started their Junior Entrepreneur Programme in January 2017, teaching students about business and entrepreneurship.

Local entrepreneurs Eoghan Spellman, Noel Kelly and the Dough Bros. taught them all they needed to know about starting their own business. These inspiring people demonstrated what it’s like to be leaders; bringing your ideas into reality, making decisions, collaborating with others and the importance of resilience and hard work.

After pitching ideas to the 'School Dragon', the funky t-shirt printing company was decided on and the business began. Students considered logistics, and developed teams for design, finance & accounting, production, procurement, marketing and sales.

A final Showcase Day was held at the end of the programme, where the students finally got to sell their products. They really made a huge profit, and it was decided that this money would go towards their school trips.

Want to learn more? See:

Photos from the day

Videos of the Showcase Day, Production Line and Promotion Day.




What is Student empowerment and voice? Well at St. Oliver’s we have just set up “Ollies Smalltalk”. A 10 minute slot where another pupil and I, from the Yellow Flag Committee, ask people from our school questions about their jobs and life.

Last Friday, Teegan, a Yellow Flag Committee Member (The Yellow Flag is an Anti-Racism Committee in our School) and I, interviewed Marilyn Latapat-Counihan who is the Co-ordinator of KASI (Kerry Asylum Seekers Initiative).

You are probably wondering how this idea came about. Well, when a brand new extension was built in our school 2 years ago, the school installed an intercom system in every mainstream classroom, which would be operated from the school office. I came up with the idea to use the intercom by creating our own student radio station.

That was just the start! We first had to think of our layout. We looked at some ideas and finally decided on interviewing a person from our school community and asking them 20 questions varying from, “Where are you from?" , “Cats or dogs ?”, “Can you tell us a joke?”

Next we had to pick a guest. Marilyn was our first guest as she is KASI co-ordinator. This was very fitting that Marilyn would be our 1st guest, as this was predominantly a Yellow Flag idea . KASI plays an important role in our school as they run our Canteen.

The interview went smoothly bar a few technical difficulties, but we powered through and ended up with a finished product. I would like to thank Marilyn, Teegan, Mr. D’Arcy, Ms.Terry and Mr. Gogsch for helping us. From this experience I have found out that to be a presenter is a lot harder than it looks.







Isn’t it true that children and teenagers today graduate without knowing life skills such as cooking, paying taxes or bills, and generally being able to take care of themselves without a guardian?

Finland has recognised the real growing need to drop the usual education system of ‘teacher instructs student’, following the right guidelines to ensure children follow that straight narrow path that is societal conforming. Instead they’re encouraging children to be taught based on their personal and demographic needs or interests, ensuring that they will be ready for life past school.

How are they doing this? They are introducing decentralised, Phenomenon-based learning, and have in-turn dropped basic subjects, such as maths or science.

What is Phenomenon-based learning? Can we get on board?

Phenomenon-based learning involved students studying a wide range of subjects that are related to a specific topic, concept or phenomenon, taking a more interdisciplinary and decentralised approach.

For example, if students were to study the ‘European Union’ as a topic, they could look at languages, economics, history and geography. If students were to study ‘Climate Change’, they could look at science, environmental studies, economics, geography and policy. It’s a more practical approach.

This method of learning is great for both teacher and student, as it not only fosters independence and life skills in students, it allows for students, teachers and other educators to collaborate together to design lesson plans and make sure that their education is focused on what they need to learn in their lives versus what the national exam rankings say they should be.

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Are you or someone you know running an innovative project focused on changing the way children and young people are educated?

Having originally sought 100 innovations in Finland, hundrED are now looking to create a bank of 100 new global projects that are restructuring how we learn, teach, assess and lead to make it relevant, exciting and effective. These innovations can range from small, one classroom projects to huge, nation-wide initiatives. Our key criteria is that they be ground breaking, scalable and replicable.

Their goal? To become the world's leading experts in educational innovations for the younger population by 2020. All insights and best practises will be documented, packaged and shared with the world for free.

Want to read more? Check out their Global Innovations page or Submission FAQ section.

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The Irish Times special feature, 'Innovation in the Classroom' (23 March) highlighted several schools in Ashoka Ireland's Changemaker Schools network, as well as innovative education programmes like CoderDojo (founded by Ashoka Fellow James Whelton).

Click on any of the below to read more into the articles:

1. 'Schools of thought: Five big trends in innovation'

2. 'Three key elements will decide how the classroom evolves'

3. 'Innovation and the curriculum: day of chalk and talk is gone'

4. 'Fitting computers into the curriculum'

"Now, more than ever, the way students are being educated requires a fundamental rethink to prepare them for the future. While it’s near impossible to predict exactly what the classroom of the future will look like, the only thing that’s certain are the elements that will drive that change."
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This is the Summer 2017 edition of the Ashoka Ireland Changemaker Schools newsletter. Feel free to share the link widely with anyone in your network. If you would like to be informed via email of when our next edition is published, please email Moira Malone (

Find out more about our Changemaker Schools on our website, and find Ashoka Ireland on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you would like to learn more about Changemaker Schools from around the world, go to


FOOTNOTES: A big thank you goes out to all of our Changemaker Schools Change Teams in Ireland who contributed to this newsletter, providing insightful stories, materials and photographs.