West Cork Sudbury School

West Cork Sudbury School is part of a movement towards a very different model of education, where students have an equal part in the democratic running of the school itself and where they decide what, when and how they learn.


What is your goal? 

Our aim is to provide an alternative to the mainstream, one-size-fits-all, education system.  

We have set up a self-directed, democratic school for 5-18 years of age, where children and teens’ voices are heard, and where all types of intelligence are acknowledged and celebrated.  

The practice of leading and participating in the running of the school gives youth a voice and helps to create contributing members of society. Regular practice in conflict resolution helps create individuals who can work side by side with people who are different to them, to accomplish goals and create outcomes that better their communities.  

When youth can help direct and take responsibility for their education, it creates self-motivated, creative, and life-long learners. 

How have you been working towards it? 

Five of us came together two years ago and met regularly studying self-directed and democratic education. We held monthly information meetings open to the public in different areas in West Cork.  

We opened our doors in September 2020 with an initial intake of 22 students and a full waiting-list. We have a full trustee board and have taken on volunteers.  

We have a website, complete with information and blogs where people can find out more about the daily running and ethos of our school. We keep our Facebook page up to date and continue to update our waiting list.  

We keep ourselves informed through continued training in areas such as conflict resolution, mindfulness, LGBTQIA+ Awareness, inclusion, autism and PANS, mental health, and more. We continue to reach out to the community such as Tidy Towns, The Simon House, artists and musicians, The Circus Factory, and lengthening our Skills Bank with individuals in the community who have volunteered their skills. 

How has being a member of The Wheel helped? 

Becoming a member of the Wheel has helped us feel connected to a wider organisation, giving us a portal to a wide range of information and access to courses and workshops we can utilize to become more informed members of a charity organisation. 

How can people support you? 

People can support us by researching self-directed, democratic education and Sudbury Schools in general.  

Our communities need an alternative to mainstream education and to lobby the government to make these schools more accessible to all.  

Our school is curriculum-free and therefore receives no government funding.  

We volunteer most of our hours, provide a low fee which leaves the founders and volunteers to fundraise the rest of the costs.  

You can 'like' our fb page and spread the word.  

You may also visit our website at www.westcorksudburyschool.ie and become a patron. https://www.patreon.com/westcorksudburyschool   

WCSS is also taking one-off donations and supplies.  

Thank you! 

Do you have any success stories to share? 

We have seen children and teens who were initially so shy in their interviews, lacking the confidence to speak for themselves, who were overwhelmed with anxiety, completely turn around in the matter of a week being in the West Cork Sudbury School. We see children whom at their previous schools were bullied and isolated, now running, laughing, and playing with peers of all ages; taking part in school meetings; expressing themselves loud and clear and asking for what they need. One child told his mother that this was the first place he felt like he 'belonged'. We have seen youth with diagnosis, having been marginalized in previous schools, shine with their abilities in the space they are given. We have had such positive feedback from parents and grandparents emotionally telling us how their child or grandchild has grown in confidence and how happy they are to come to school each day.   Our positive view on 'conflict as opportunity' has given teens who were previously labeled 'bad' a new view on themselves, supporting them to turn around and make new and positive choices in their lives, taking responsibility for their actions.  In Sudbury Schools students are responsible for and direct their own education.  

Billy is a 10-year-old student who came into the school not knowing how to read. He was actually afraid of it because of how it had been taught to him in his previous school. We did not push him to read but just gave him the space to do what he wanted. This student would spend most of his school hours in the 'Art Room' making incredible clay figures and the rest of his time in 'Nature Club'. He is an incredible artist and very scientific with his love for animals and nature. One day Billy just started reading on his own!   

Clara, one of our older students, is passionate about horses. She decided to take a course in Equine Therapy, got a volunteer job at a small care farm who offer therapeutic riding and the caring of animals to help with emotional, mental, physical, and educational health challenges. She was able to find these in the space that WCSS gave her; as she explored and grew through boredom and outgrew friends who no longer were aligned with her values. Clara is also valuable in creating enthusiasm when leading the younger ages in drama.    

One of our students has taken charge of his mental health, asking for what he needs and taking initiative to set up clubs he finds beneficial to himself and others. He asked his mom, '' Is it just me or is my brain expanding?''   

Some of our younger students have taken a great interest in joining committees in the school, one being 'TP' (Transformative Practice), our way of dealing with conflict in the school. These students have completely astounded us with their mediation abilities and creative solutions.  

One great success story coming out of our TP is with a young girl, Saoirse, who was very reactive with her anger. She would lash out at others physically and verbally and was brought to TP often. Instead of the shame and blame of the punitive system we offered her the space to come up with some of her own solutions to address this unacceptable behavior and hold herself accountable. Her idea was that she draw how she was feeling and share it with a facilitator of her choice. The physical and verbal abuse was addressed so quickly and we were so impressed with her ability to calm herself down and take ownership of her feelings.   

Several of our students have joined the School Meeting Committee leading and facilitating school meetings with dedication; creativity; organisation; and humor; making the meetings so much more interesting than the facilitators ever did! One of our students brought his idea of a school shop to the school meeting. The idea and budget were approved, and the students all enjoyed what the shop had to offer.    

One of our students has used the space to practice and learn the guitar. He is now playing along with one of our facilitators and has quickly learned in just a few months. At Sudbury School we are lucky to be able to support our students’ wishes and needs.  

We were privileged to have a well-known author and speaker come to our school and talk about gender awareness. She was invited by one of our students and was welcomed with a seven-layer rainbow cake.   

Our gymnastics club was lucky to have someone come down from the Circus Factory in Cork and teach some circus skills such as diablo, juggling, and tumbling.   

There are so many success stories and we are confident there will be many more to come!   

Where can people find you on social media? 

Website: www.westcorksudburyschool.ie   

Facebook: West Cork Sudbury School   

Twitter: @WestCorkSudbury 

 Instagram: westcorksudburyschool 

West Cork Sudbury School