A NEW school, unlike any other, opened its doors in West Cork during the pandemic.
The West Cork Sudbury School enrolled its first students in Glengarriff in September 2020 with the principle of providing democratic self-directed learning.
‘Some said it was a crazy year in which to have opened a school, and at times it certainly felt so,’ Jessica Mason told The Southern Star.
But the team at the new West Cork Sudbury School (WCSS) – the third of its kind in Ireland – have come to the conclusion that it is needed now more than ever.
‘Education has certainly been seen in a new light over the last 12 months or more,’ said Jessica, ‘as nearly all parents have found themselves homeschooling at some point.
‘The Leaving Cert process has been re-examined and assessed on a new basis and brought up the question of what are we educating for and how?
‘It has also highlighted the need for choice and diversity in education as opposed to a one size fits all approach to schooling.
‘At the Sudbury school,’ Jessica said, ‘we are all teachers, there is no set curriculum, and the students and staff have equal say in the running of the school.
‘The students choose how they spend their day, and can request lessons – or clubs as they tend to be called – or spend the day fully immersed in the art room, strumming guitars in the music room, or having philosophical discussions around the kitchen table.’
To some it may sound like a utopian dream, or total chaos, but following the success of the Wicklow and Sligo Sudbury schools, the WCSS’s culture and community is establishing itself and taking root.
Not only has the school managed to overcome the difficulties of opening amidst the uncertainty of Covid-19, and the associated restrictions, it has managed to be fully self-funded.
‘As a school that does not teach the curriculum it does not receive any State funding. And in order for WCSS to be accessible to families of all incomes it became a charity in December of last year,’ said Jessica who hopes the restrictions will one day be lifted.
With the end of the school year looming, Jessica said the school is taking time to reflect and assess how it wishes to evolve, including its relocation to Coomhola.
For more information check out the website or email: [email protected].