Speech by Minister for DSP Leo Varadkar at official opening of Hansfield Educate Together N.S.

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Friday 17th June

Good morning.

It's a real privilege for me to be here today to officially open Hansfield Educate Together National School. 

There is so much building work going on at schools in Dublin 15 that the area sometimes seems like one big school construction site. In the past five years, there has been massive investment in school buildings with nine new schools and others rebuilt or substantially extended.  There are least four new schools in D15 going to construction in the next year and more in planning. 

On a personal note, I'm delighted to be in this particular school today. I have a strong connection with this area, living not too far away, and my constituency office is only across the road in Ongar.

I can remember when this was a rural area, dotted with horses, big houses and stud farms. In recent years it has been transformed into a new, vibrant and exciting community.

Like any community, there are challenges and real problems. But these are more than outweighed by all the good things.

The history of planning in suburban Dublin is not a good one. Typically, new homes were built and occupied, but the parks, community centres, medical facilities, shops, crèches, playgrounds and schools only came many years, even decades later, if at all.

The story of Ongar and Hansfield is more encouraging. The train station is open. Medical, childcare facilities and shops are located nearby, as are several modern community centres with sporting facilities. 

Connolly Hospital has been substantially upgraded and in a few months' time, work will begin there on the new three storey satellite centre for the new National Children's Hospital, which will include an urgent care centre. The new Rotunda hospital will follow in a few years' time. 

The National Sports Campus is well advanced and really worth a visit. The Indoor Arena will be finished later this year.

We have two state-of-the art secondary schools nearby including Ireland's first ever Educate Together secondary school.

This new Educate Together National Together school is the latest welcome addition to the tapestry of our rapidly developing neighbourhood. 

As you know, yesterday was Bloomsday, when people around the world celebrated James Joyce, probably our greatest ever writer.
You might have seen some of them
dressing up in old costumes and visiting famous places around Dublin. 

We know that Joyce had a pretty tough time in school. He didn't like the atmosphere, or the way he was treated. He tells us about it in his book: 'Portrait of the Artist'.

Joyce was unlucky - there weren't any Educate Together schools in his day.  

I think Joyce would have loved the Educate Together philosophy. And he would have enjoyed the sort of education provided here, and especially your vision for an 'education inclusive of all, irrespective of belief system, race, ethnicity, class, culture, gender, language, lifestyle and ability.' One in which no child is an outsider. 

Personally, I really support the Educate Together approach where children stay together throughout the day and are not split during school hours. I remember when I went to primary school, one of the other boys in my class who was a Baptist, stayed behind when we went down to the church or read in the corner on his own when we received religious instruction. I didn't like it then and the fact I remember it thirty years later says something in itself. 

Anyway, getting back to Joyce. Believe it or not, Joyce was a school teacher. He taught English, so he could look after his family while writing his books.

He must have been an unusual teacher for the time. He liked to travel, resist authority, encourage students to develop their own ideas, their own voices, and their own independent spirit.  In other words, he recognised the importance of putting the student first, and respecting and celebrating different identities.  

You can see this philosophy in his writing. And it's the same philosophy that you see at Hansfield ETNS, which makes it such an inspiring place. I think it should set an example for everyone, when we think about the sort of society we want to live in.

So what sort of a school do we have here? Well the National School has come a very long way since it opened in September 2011 with just six pupils. This September there will be 376 enrolled. 

You have a wonderful multi-cultural school. It's probably one of the most diverse schools in Dublin West. I know that your families have roots in Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as Ireland. Let's run through just some of those countries: Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Pakistan, and China.

This diversity is a huge bonus for the school, and I know that Hansfield ETNS celebrates all of these cultures throughout the year.
Diversity is increasingly seen as a strength not just in education but also in Government and in industry. One only has to visit IBM up the road or Facebook or Google in town to see how diverse their workforce is and has to be to meet the challenges of the modern world and the global village in which we all live.  

I also want to mention the two outreach classes for children with autism. These Realt Aras classes, the home of our stars, are the pride and joy of the school. 

Politics today is so often about fear and division.  Today we hear too much about building walls to keep people out and not enough about building bridges.  Instead of idealism we are given negativity, instead of optimism we are offered fear. 

Education is a light we hold to dispel darkness.  Through education we can transform lives, provide hope, opportunity and a 'fair go' for everyone. And it starts at the very beginning, here at primary school.  

Students here benefit from the Learn Together curriculum, and study concepts like equality and justice, different belief systems, and ideas about ethics and the environment.  In other words they will be educated to be thinking citizens, and to think for themselves.   We need more people like this in the world of tomorrow 

The secret of Ireland's success has always been its people. Ireland as a nation is a more multicultural and vibrant country than ever before. We continue to cherish our traditions and celebrate new ones.

In some ways, Ireland is now truly a global nation. Our people are our ambassadors, from China to Chile. You will find Irish people in pretty much every country around the world. In turn, our people and our culture persuade people to visit Ireland on their holidays, whether that's someone from Japan hoping to learn the fiddle and speak Irish, or the CEO of a multi-national corporation. And when they visit, they find both the Irish traditions, as well as the rich diversity of our new multi-cultural nation.

When I look around me today, it reminds me that I can be proud of Ireland, and be hopeful about the future.

Before I finish, I want to make a special mention of a few people who are here today.

They include:
*    Bernie, the school secretary, who, I am told, is a mother to everyone in this community. 
*    Architect Bobby Moore from Todd Architects. 
*    The CEO of Educate Together, Paul Rowe, without whom none of this would be possible and for his organisation's pioneering spirit. 
*    The representatives from the Dublin 15 Primary Schools Principals, and the Barnwell Residents Association.
*    The representatives from the Parent Teacher Association, who are constantly organising initiatives that define the school's spirit;
*    The school's five SNAs who facilitate learning on a daily basis;
*    The teaching staff who foster and nurture learning, both academically and socially;
*    The Chairman and the Board of Management, Brian Campion, for their supportive role;
*    The School Principal, Fergal Collins, who does so much work front and centre and even more behind the scenes;
*    And of course the children, who make this school such a fantastic learning environment.

That's why I feel so privileged to be here to celebrate today with you. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to do so and it gives me enormous pleasure to declare Hansfield Educate Together officially open.


Last modified:17/06/2016