John Lonergan's School Principles

2012, 45 minutes

Every August, tens of thousands of teenagers in Ireland receive their Leaving Cert results, and celebrate having completed their secondary level education. But forgotten in this celebration, there is always a small percentage that doesn’t get to Leaving Cert or even Junior Cert level, and fall out of the education system entirely along the way.

John Lonergan travels around Ireland looking at the way we educate our children, while exploring why the ‘One Size Fits All’ approach to the way we teach does not work for everyone, and attempts to find out what happens when children leave the system and what is be being done to keep them in it.

“Children don’t drop out of school, they fade out”

John meets educators, parents, children who have remained in school and people who have left, and finds out why these things happen. He meets Jamie and Aisling in the Life Centre in Cork, a centre that provides education for those who have dropped out of the system. Aisling was bullied because of her disability. Jamie couldn’t handle the class size. Both are back on track now.

He meets young people in Moyross who are part of the Garda Youth Diversion project. These young people dropped out or weren’t accepted by schools. Riding bikes and quads in the Diversion project helps steer them away from possible trouble.

Among these young people we are surprised to find a talented rapper, Nathan, who treats John Lonergan to a performance written specially for the occasion.

‘One size fits all system of education has to change’

John visits a DEIS secondary school in Clondalkin and find “history makers” there – young people who are the first in their family to complete the Leaving Cert. We film their graduation, which is a sight of pure joy for the students and their families. Gareth has a cert now to prove he finished school.

Lonergan’s unique philosophy on giving second chances and treating people with respect, as well as his message about the importance of creating a just, inclusive and cohesive society is shared throughout his journey. Best known as the former governor of Mountjoy Jail, Lonergan is a realist and understands that this is a complex and challenging area to explore but feels it’s a very important one to discuss as it has a huge impact on the lives of thousands of children, families and on society in general.

“Never humiliate people…humiliation damages people and they never forget it”


Absorbing and thought provoking

This was a reminder, if any were needed, that one of the primary goals of any civilized society should be to make sure it’s citizens have access to a decent education.


John Lonergan's School Principles from Wildfire Films.


Editor Patrick Hodgins
Producers Adrian McCarthy
Martha O'Neill
Director Anna Rodgers



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John Lonergan's School PrinciplesWednesday, August 29, 2012