The first Waldorf School in Ireland was founded in the 1980s and there are currently seven schools in the country. Waldorf Schools in Ireland may be subsidized, but they have to make significant compromises regarding their curriculum. The small Waldorf School being established in Dublin for several years has chosen to be independent of these compromises. It is therefore entirely dependent on parental contributions, which puts it in strong competition with the country's many Catholic and few state schools, which are free for the children. For "Waldorf Worldwide" the founding team tells us what hurdles they had to overcome and what support they received.
When did the desire to start a school arise?
The desire to found the school has existed since the early 1990s. At that time the decision was made to build a primary school outside Dublin, in rural Kildare. Since 2015, parents from Dublin have also tried to integrate a primary school into our Dublin-based kindergarten. Our school was founded in 2017 with a first class of eight children. In the last school year 2018/2019 we had a second class with two pupils. Now, in September 2019, however, we have an entrance class (5-7 years) with 14 children, and a combined second, third and fourth class of 10 children, so we are clearly on the upswing.
Why is the establishment of a Waldorf School particularly important at this location?
Dublin is Ireland's capital, and we think that educational alternatives are particularly important in the country's current climate. 96 per cent of all schools in Ireland are still run by the Catholic Church and the few state schools are completely overcrowded.
What are the particular obstacles that had to be overcome to found the school?
Our biggest challenge is that we don't get any state support. We fully depend on parental contributions and donations, which currently cover the teachers' salaries, but make the purchase of materials, toys, and the maintenance of the building very difficult.
Which difficulties do you still encounter after founding the school?
In Ireland hardly anyone knows Waldorf Schools, so we have to do a lot of public relations work. Church and state schools are free, so we have to repeatedly explain ourselves and justify the fees. Our kindergarten receives state support and parents only have to pay a small amount. This makes our kindergarten very popular and we have a long waiting list. So at the moment we are trying to make sure that the kindergarten families stay with us for the primary school.
Which special moments, which joys do you encounter during your founding work?
It gives us great joy to see how the children thrive and sometimes even participate in the founding work. They see the school as "their" school. The older children were allowed to stay up in the evening to listen to a radio interview with one of our mothers about our school, and were also present when we had a meeting with a landscape gardener. We involve the children in the work as much as we can. We were also very happy about the items donated by German Waldorf Schools and the donations of the Friends of Waldorf Education - a second grader wanted to donate us his pocket money. This gives us the feeling of belonging to a large, generous community.