Sligo School Project has its own ethical core curriculum. The document has being revised during the school year 2011/2012. A steering group provided a proposal for the document. This proposal was brought into the discussion at our annual symposium in May 2012 and changes to the proposal were made afterwards.
The Executive Committee ratified the revised core curriculum in September 2012. Here are the introductory passages of the document (principles, aims, rationale):
Core Curriculum Sligo School Project
The purpose of this booklet is to provide information about the ethical education core curriculum which is offered in Sligo School Project National School. It seeks to develop the awareness, interest and involvement of the entire school community in the core curriculum. It is a guide to present practice in the school.
The teaching of ethical education is informative and does not include denominational instruction. Pupils will be taught objectively about ethics and various religions, both those of the present and the past, their origin, cultural background, history, teachings, distribution and – where applicable – their cessation. In the same fashion the pupils will be taught about non-theistic world views.
The core curriculum covers a wide range of religious, social and ethical issues. These issues are dealt with in a sensitive manner appropriate to children of all religions and none.
The Principles of Sligo School Project
The fundamental principles of Sligo School Project determine that the ethos of the school reflects a society in which there are many social, cultural and religious strands. The principles are:
The multi-denominational principle
All children have equal right of access to the school. The religious, cultural and social background of each is equally respected.
The co-educational principle
Each child will be encouraged to develop his or her potential in a school setting that is committed to equal opportunities for girls and boys.
The child-centred principle
The child is seen to be the most active participant in his/her own education and acquires knowledge to a large extent through personal experience and active participation in his or her learning.
The democratic principle
Sligo School Project is committed to being aware of and sensitive to the needs and aspirations of its children, parents, teachers and wider school community to enable a high level of participation and partnership of all involved.
The open communication principle
Sligo School Project is committed to having a positive approach to proper and open communication among parents, teachers and the school community.
Aims of the Ethical Education
1. To enable teachers to raise awareness and appreciation of our multicultural society.
2. To equip teachers with a scaffolding for the presentation of knowledge about various religious beliefs, festivals and practises as well as world views which disbelieve in the existence of a supreme being or supreme beings, in accordance with the “Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools.”
3. To foster a sense of confidence and self worth.
4. To address emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, desire, grief, frustration, anger and disappointment with overall approval, acknowledgement for their reasons and the intent to understand them in their social origins.
5. To support the development of individual talents, and encourage initiative, independence in thought and action as much as solidarity and empathy.
6. To encourage a climate of critical analysis in all areas of school life.
7. To promote equality among the sexes and to cultivate attitudes of care and respect towards the rights of others.
8. To address the issues arising as a consequence from being in groups, large or small, voluntary or compulsory, like group think, peer pressure, mutual support and team spirit.
9. To promote a culture of conflict resolution in a respectful and open minded manner.
10. To promote an active and responsible role in caring for the environment.
11. To raise awareness towards the hegemonies role of mass media and the presentation of consumer goods.
12. To raise awareness of human rights, equality and justice in society.
Above all, the Sligo School Project is dedicated to the happiness, welfare and education of its pupils.
Rationale behind the Core Curriculum
The high aspirations that lurk between a compilation of ethical principles and aims of ethical education can easily lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Everyday life can seem so far away from these principles and aims that they appear as simply too challenging for the average person.
This take on ethical education is very understandable, however it just as easily leads to a dismissal of the principles and aims. Consequently the relevant documents – like this one which you are reading at the moment – can be put on the shelf and become dust catchers.
In practice, it will always be possible to interpret terms such as respect, democracy, equality, tolerance etc. in different ways. Therefore, a concrete interpretation in a given social situation is required. This exactly is the task of all members of the school community.
School ethos is not only what is written on paper. It is the lived practice that is the real ethos of a school. In this sense ethos requires constant attention. Likewise, ethical education can not be construed as conveying a number of categorical imperatives to be learnt by rote. Ethical education is education by example as much as it is education through academic considerations of various topics.
For teachers in Sligo School Project the art of ethical education lies in applying the aims of the ethical core curriculum to the daily practice. The following sections are meant as a source for teachers to tap into to find anchor points.
The teachers’ practice is to be understood as active engagement in a process of interpreting the school ethos together with the children. Engaging with sixth class children in a critical analysis of religious practices, or initiating a role play with senior infants on Best Friends are as much ethical education as an art project of third class on Dying or an excursion with second class to the donkey sanctuary.
Ethical education not only overlaps with other subject areas in the primary curriculum. It also permeates the entire school life in which the teacher determines topic selection, forms of presentation and scope of engagement.
With the core curriculum we wish to encourage our teachers, pupils and parents to engage in a collective effort to find those topics that are most fitting at a given time.
In the core curriculum four areas are presented to make the finding of anchor points for teachers and children easier:
belief/thought systems (infants: celebrations)
Separating these four areas is a technical fix to allow for different points of departure in approaching a topic. It is clear that in real life such a separation is never applicable. The various aspects of individual (myself) and social life (the world), thought/belief systems and material world (environment) all influence each other.
For each of these four areas a number of topical headings are identified. These topical headings are understood as a general guide for teachers, they are meant to provide the already mentioned anchor points. The topical headings follow a logic of age related development and widening horizons of the children. Some of the topical headings appear in more than one age group, some others appear at a given point in time. They are specified for four age groups: infant classes; 1st and 2nd class; 3rd and 4th class, 5th and 6th class.
It is our hope that a culture of creative consideration of ethical aspects continues to evolve as a shared practice in Sligo School Project.
A printed version of the complete core curriculum is available at a rate of € 4. If you wish to avail of a printed copy of the document, please contact the school directly.