Many of us spend up to 14 years of our lives in a classroom. But few of us rarely see how a school is run. This is the story of the creation of a brand new school. And shows us the parts of school life that students never see.
What is it like to establish a secondary school from scratch in Ireland today? And what happens when this school is located in the heart of one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country? Who runs the school? And how?
This two-part observational documentary follows the principal, teachers, parents and pupils of Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School in the west Dublin suburb of Ongar over 18 months as they prepare for the opening of a new secondary school and welcome the school’s first ever students through the school doors in August 2014. The documentary then follows the historic and eventful first year in the life of the school until the last day of term in May 2015.
Will the school open in time? How will it fill 12 full and part-time positions from almost 700 applications? Will all the necessary systems and facilities be in place for the school’s first students? Should the school have a uniform? Will part-time teachers need to supplement their income? How will the school accommodate those students who don’t yet fully understand English or speak it fluently? How will the new school Board of Management perform and how will it work with the new Student Council? In a school where both students and parents have a voice and are actively encouraged to participate, how are decisions made and issues resolved, such as the ongoing and potentially divisive question of the need for a school uniform?
As the Educate Together Charter promotes ‘a learner-centred approach, where the needs of the student are considered first in all decisions’, the answers to these and other questions are sought democratically through the full participation of teachers, students and parents.
How then, at the end of this historical first year in the life of Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School in Dublin 15, will the principal, teachers, parents and the students themselves assess the success of the year and their time at school?
A Different Class gives us an insight into life in a new school at the centre of a contemporary Irish community.