17 Aug 2022

Carrick lady helps set up new democratic school

Carrick lady helps set up new democratic school

Founders and staff members of Sligo Sudbury School Gayle Nagle and Maura Duignan.

A new democratic school in Sligo opens today, Thursday, September 6 with a philosophy that will be alien and strange to many.

Sligo Sudbury School will have no classes, no teachers and no set curriculum. Everyone, no matter what age, has an equal vote in the running of the school.
Carrick-on-Shannon native Maura Duignan is one of the founding parents of the school and she will be a staff member in the school that opens on Thursday, September 6 with 17 children starting. The school facilitates free learning for children aged 8- 18 years.

Children are free to choose their own learning goals and pursue them at their own pace, while participating in a community of self-governance and justice where each member’s voice is equally valued and heard.
Children will arrive to school from 8.30-10.30 and will be free to move about the school buildings and outdoor spaces and associate with whom they please. There will be no assigned spaces or age groupings and no assigned lesson times. Children will leave the school from 2.30-4.30.

Adult members will be on site at all times and will be there to ensure students’ safety and to perform tasks that are necessary to keep the school running efficiently and legally.
They will also be available to facilitate learning or discussion, or to support students with accessing the resources they need.
Classes in specific subjects may be offered when children request them but will have no formal or higher status and will continue for as long as is constructive.

There will be multi-purpose spaces which will evolve and be purposed and re-purposed over time and with the changing needs and fashions of the community and the wider culture. Some well established schools have dedicated spaces for Art, Cooking, Science, Gaming / Technology, Music & Music Production, Carpentry, Metalwork, Libraries, Gardening, Food production, etc.
Maura Duignan, daughter of well-known Carrick-on-Shannon photographer, Sean Duignan, has been homeschooling her two sons since 2012. Aged 12 and 8 she said the rigid timetable of traditional school didn't work for her family.
She said democratic/Sudbury learning promotes “engagement, responsibility and self awareness. We live in a changing world and we need to learn to adapt and encourage lifelong learning.”

Maura explained while they won't facilitate state examinations they will help students work towards taking the exams externally if that is what they choose to do. Maura said there are a number of options open to students through QQI, A levels, apprenticeships, etc.

Maura was educated in the traditional way in Carrick-on-Shannon before going onto university, to travel and work in UK, Italy, Australia and the USA.
Sligo Sudbury School is an Independent School and will register as such with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
As the school does not follow the State Curriculum, they do not receive any State funding and do not follow any religion; all and no faiths are accepted. The school will instead be financed by donations, fundraising and individual membership contributions.

The Sligo school will be the second democratic school in the country; another Sudbury school is in operation in Wicklow.
Maura said they have had a huge amount of interest and hope to hold a number of open days throughout the year to show the school in motion. She said they have converted an old school with a large outdoor area into a modern facility and are excited to get started with their first students this week.
For more information visit:

Also read: Keep your child out of hospital this September

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