Frequently asked questions

What ages can attend?

Children from 5 to 18 can attend West Cork Sudbury School. There are no grade or class levels. Older and younger students mix in any way that they desire, often around shared interests. Older children learn compassion and patience from working with younger children, and younger children can seek out older ones to assist them in learning and growth.

What is a Sudbury School?

Sudbury School was first started in 1968 in Framingham, Massachussettes (Sudbury Valley) by a college professor named Daniel Greenberg; who was troubled by his students lack of self-motivation. There are two Sudbury Schools already established in Ireland. Wicklow Sudbury School has been runnining since September 2016 and Sligo Sudbury School has been open since September 2018. There are many other start-up groups hoping to open accross the country which some of our founding members got the chance to meet at the Democratic Education Ireland Conference last year. Sudbury schools are based on (or follow the philosophy of) self-directed learning; freedom; responsibility; democratic principles and are usually for ages 5-18 years old. There is free age-mixing and no government curriculum. The students and staff have an equal say in the rules and regulations of the school and as to what happens in any given day. These rules are made in a weekly meeting. Sudbury school works on trust and believe that each individual has a to learn; each with their own unique capablities and intelligence. At Sudbury, instead of teachers, there are ‘facilitators’ which support and enable the student to explore their own learning process and to connect and engage with the community. Click the link for a video on self-directed learning.

Why democratic?

A democratic process of running a school, allows all those involved, to be a part of its success and to experience the empowerment of being heard and taken seriously. A democratic school environment protects the rights of all individuals in the school, empowers those involved and fosters a sense of purpose, belonging and competence. The Sudbury environment allows students the realisation of their talents and potential, and also cultivates leadership, problem-solving, goal setting, and self-responsibility.

Is there a curriculum?

No. The Sudbury model is completely student-led and based on self-directed learning.
The staff, called facilitators, are there to support the children in their undertakings and learning-processes, respecting their needs for time, structure and involvement.

Are Sudbury Schools legal in Ireland?

Our friends from Wicklow Sudbury School have carefully looked into this question and taken advice from legal experts. The Irish legal landscape is very favourable to setting up a Sudbury school model. For a fuller explanation see this page.

When did West Cork Sudbury School open?

With the help of our pioneers, and the hard and enduring work of our founders, we are excited to announce that WCSS has opened its doors in September 2020!

Where is West Cork Sudbury School located?

WCSS has found a temporary home in the former Blue Pool Hostel on Main Street in Glengariff, Co. Cork. It is a fun building with lots of rooms to explore different interests, relax, and feel at home. It borders on the Glengarriff Community Garden and Glengarriff Harbour is only a short stroll away. A Bus Éireann stop is right outside the door!

Are there membership dues?

he ROI does not provide any funding to institutions who do not follow the set curriculum, which subsequently means WCSS does not receive state funding through the Department of Education & Skills.
Therefore WCSS has to charge membership dues, on a cost sharing basis, to cover all operational costs.
To make sure WCSS remains sustainable and to ensure its viability we do put a lot of time and energy in applying for grants and fundraising both through private donations, philanthropy, organised events and seeking volunteers within our community throughout the year. If you would like to support us in our efforts, you can find out how here. You can trust that we at WCSS are fully transparent about our charity's finances and activities. Find more about membership dues here.

What will membership dues be?

We gave our membership dues a lot of thought and tried our best to make it as fair and accessible as possible. That's why our membership dues are assessed using a family's Gross Household Income (GHI). This allows us to achieve the following:​

  • Accessibility: Make it accessible to families of all incomes to send their children to WCSS. The minimum contribution we ask for is € 2,100/year, and where possible we will offer further subsidies through our Solidarity Fund.

  • Family-friendly: We offer sibling subsidies where possible, to allow families to enrol multiple children. Please contact us about sibling placements.

  • Sustainability: Ensure the financial viability of the school given that WCSS does not receive state funding through the Department of Education & Skills. ​

For detailed information, please see Membership.

Will there be a part time option? (Membership Dues)

We are delighted to be able to offer 5 part-time placements starting September 2021.
Please contact us about this if you are interested.
For more information, please see the question about part time Attendance (Can my child attend part time?).

Can my child sit the leaving cert?

A student can sit the leaving certificate outside of the school if they wish to.

When it comes time to sit formal exams, arrangements can be made through Education and Training Boards (ETBs) or adult education classes. Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations can also be sat at any school by registering with the school in early January of the year that the exams will be taken. Further information is available from the State Examinations Commission.

Please, also see "Life after Sudbury: Progression to College" on that topic, a slide show by Mark Lucey (WCSS Trustee). You find it in our Library under downloads.

Will my child be able to go to college?

Yes there are numerous ways to access University without following the traditional route. Your child will be supported in finding the most suitable route for them if they so choose. The conventional route into Irish third-level institutions is through the Leaving Certificate. However, it may also be possible to enter third-level education at aged 17 or 18 without the Leaving Certificate by interview only. You would need to approach your chosen institution to discuss this possibility. There are a variety of courses for the 16-plus age group which are accepted as valid for entry to third-level courses.

You can find a slideshow regarding this topic here on our website under downloads.

You can also find out more about further and higher education and training courses from QQI.

How will children know what they like if they are not exposed to it (with classes, etc.)?

We live in the information age, where knowledge is available at your fingertips. For this reason, when you can follow your interests exposure is not an issue. Furthermore, because students are free to explore and interact with students and adults of all ages all day long, they are exposed to a wide variety of topics, more than they would typically get in an environment where only one person is delivering the curriculum. Students in Sudbury schools don’t look at learning as a set of fixed subjects to be mastered. Instead they follow their curiosities and interests, which are not limited to a curriculum.

Please, also see our recommended resources for more information on that topic.

How do children learn if there is no curriculum, and no one tells them what to do or learn?

We believe everyone has unique abilities, instincs and self-determination which will be nurtured, supported and respected in our school. We believe students will flourish when given the space, resources and support to follow their passions at their own pace and in their own unique way. We believe children and teenagers should have the freedom to make choices, with an understanding of the responsibilities that this entails. That way they take ownership of their education, enabling them to become engaged, conscious and self-motivated members of their communities. Our current education system was designed to short-circuit these instincts, which might have made sense at one point in history. However, at present in a world of accelerated change alternative models to traditional schooling are becoming more important and demanded. Our community will provide your child with the time and space to get back in touch with their own desire to learn without being told to do so. Sudbury schools foster a students’s internal motivation, which is a much more powerful driver to learning than external motivation.

What if my child spends all day on the screens?

The Sudbury model involves trusting the individual’s process to learn and to self-regulate. It creates a community where needs are met; the need for social connection, inclusion and acceptance, trust, and having our voices exercised and heard on a regular basis. Sudbury schools create an environment where self-responsibility is learned. In taking an active part in their community students will experience that their actions matter. Furthermore, computers and gaming are very social activities in a community in which students engage with each other, learn from each other, and constantly problem-solve together.
Your child might spend all day on the screens, but Sudbury school students who gravitate towards screens seem to do so socially and seem to just have a knack for technology. They are learning. And they will see what is going on around them and they will have time to reflect on what they want for themselves in life. Keep in mind that a lot of jobs being advertised today did not exist ten years ago, and who knows what is ahead another ten years down the road, and computers play a vital role in this.

Please, also see our recommended resources for more information on that topic.

What if my child just wants to play all day?

“Play is the highest form of research.” - Albert Einstein

We believe in the importance of play, and that through free age mixing students may develop social skills and empathy. Most children show an intense need to play in their earliest years of development, at a time when they are learning the most, and at the fastest rate, than at any other point in their life. Not only do children make meaning and construct models of the world through play, they also practice their physical, intellectual, social, and emotional skills.

Students at Sudbury schools spend a lot of time playing. A common misconception is that play is mindless activity; It is not! Curiosity and play propel each other, they both involve exploration of the unknown. The means by which people advance is through investigation and manipulation of that which is not yet known and as such play is key to a human’s learning and understanding of their world.

Peter Gray (Ph.D.) is an evolutionary psychologist who's child was a student at the original Sudbury Valley School, where he became very intersted in the importance of play and has since done extensive research on this topic.

For more info see: Play is Education & Blog

Please, also see our recommended resources for more information on that topic.

Why don’t you have teachers? What is the role of staff?

The adults at West Cork Sudbury School choose not to call themselves teachers because everyone and everything is a potential teacher. We do, however, recognise our special role in the community. Some of us are generalists, some of us are specialists. Our contribution will be reviewed by the school community on a yearly basis. Staff is evaluated for eache's unique combination of who we are and the expertise that we can bring to the community.

Staff members are ultimately responsible for the administration and smooth functioning of the school. On a day-to-day basis, staff members focus will be on holding the space in which students can be free within the boundaries of safety and respect. Staff members will always be available to help students if and when they ask and to ensure a safe environment.

Can my child attend part time? (Attendance)

We would like to support your family's needs so you may avail of WCSS. We understand that for some of you distance to and from school may be an issue; or some may have specific ideas of what is best in regards to school attendance. Whatever the issue may be we would encourage every WCSS student to be present during the weekly school meetings as this is where rules for the community are made; issues are brought up, discussed and voted upon; and where valuable lifetime learning can take place. We would also like you to keep in mind, the integrity of the community when you are deciding whether or not your child will be attending school that day.
School tuition will be unchanging whether your child/ young person attends full or part time. Please visit our Membership & Admissions pages for more information!