The Liberties, Dublin 8

In Brief

Francis Street CBS embraces the challenging realities of inner-city Dublin with an innovative focus on social and emotional intelligence, and an approach to discipline that is therapeutic rather than authoritative. From programmes as diverse as yoga and restorative justice, the boys in Francis Street learn to regulate their emotions and express themselves with confidence, all the while improving their literacy and numeracy skills.


Based in Dublin’s inner city, Francis Street CBS is a boys primary school with 145 pupils aged between 7 and 12 years. Recognised by the Department of Education as a DEIS Band 1 school, Francis Street is considered to be tackling the highest level of social and economic disadvantage impeding education. 

The Biggest Idea

Where schools in similar environments might be defined by rules and punishment, Francis Street takes the opposite approach, focusing on developing the social and emotional intelligence that confronts behavioural problems at their root.  With a school culture founded on empathy, the boys in Francis Street grow to control their emotions and express themselves with confidence as they move into their teenage years.

Life at Francis Street

For a school committed to breaking cycles of disadvantage, one might be surprised to learn that every child in Francis Street practices yoga. Not just a middle-class pastime, it is one of many methods used in Francis Street to help the boys regulate their emotions, concentrate in class and be better equipped to empathise with others. Through the ‘Friends For Life’ positive mental health programme, the boys develop coping plans for anxiety, while working with Rainbows Ireland, they learn to manage the grief that many sadly endure. This environment focused on each individual’s emotional well-being is the foundation that allows the boys to thrive as they move through the school.   

Self-expression is another critical phase for the pupils in Francis Street. Determined to stamp out bullying and reverse a culture where calling attention would make matters worse, the school adopted the policy of a ‘Telling School’. By positively re-enforcing the expression of different playground issues, but also the children’s ideas more broadly, the nature of telling on another pupil is taking on a new meaning. This is further supported by the school’s approach to discipline, where children resolve issues themselves through restorative justice programmes.

Beyond being at the forefront of social and emotional education, Francis Street is also a hive of activity, always giving students the opportunity to take ownership of different projects. The school’s student council is one of the oldest in Ireland, while they have teamed up with the new state agency Solas to support their budding entrepreneurs to take part in Dragon’s Den competitions. While some schools are moving away from such initiatives to focus more directly on curriculum, Francis Street show no signs of changing course. Indeed, the combination of their efforts on the fringes of the curriculum has helped increase literacy and numeracy dramatically, while simultaneously bringing attendance levels to their highest yet. Above all, Francis Street is a place that these young boys enjoy coming to every day.

The Leadership

Fiona Collins is the Principal at Francis Street CBS and an Incredible Years teacher trainer - a series of programmes designed to advance social and emotional intelligence. A natural innovator with an unwavering belief in the potential of all her pupils, Fiona previously organised a local group of organisations to campaign (successfully) against the closure of schools in Dublin’s inner city. Leadership runs throughout the entire staff, who have collectively implemented the multiple programmes and new ideas in the school.  Remarkably committed and talented, this group of teachers have instigated unique projects in fitness, nature and even random acts of kindness.