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Alan Dickey School Administration and some of the students at ALFA in Raheen, Tuamgraney.

Unique educational project in Clare turns 21 years old

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A UNIQUE post-primary educational initiative has come of age this month, as it celebrates 21 years of supporting children and teens at a leafy campus in East Clare.

ALFA (Alternative Learning for Adolescents) has been operating in Raheen, Tuamgraney, since 2001, providing full-time, progressive education for 12 to 16 year-olds. Based on the Steiner-Waldorf philosophy of education, it is one of the few settings  that provides an alternative to the mainstream Junior Cycle.

“In the 21 years ALFA has had many different stages: from its pioneering start in a small mountain cabin without water or electricity to our own site with two (soon to be three!) classrooms and an amazing geodesic dome; from a small single group to our current enrolment of 40+ students and the possibility of a five year secondary programme,” a spokesperson said. “It’s been quite the journey.”

Currently, there are two Steiner primary schools in Clare – one is Raheen Wood, right beside the ALFA facility, the other is Mol an Óige in Ennistymon.

The Steiner approach was devised by academic Rudolf Steiner who, in the early part of the 20th century, inspired what became a worldwide movement of schools espousing and promoting universal human values.

The approach is co-ed and multi denominational. Its stated aim is to give equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of students.

Practitioners say it’s designed to work in harmony with the phases of development and that whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.

While many students at Alfa progress from the countys Steiner primary schools, others have transferred from conventional secondary facilities. Because Steiner is a global movement, the Raheen school also regularly hosts international exchange students from Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

Former students and anyone with a connection to the ALFA project will gather this Saturday afternoon to celebrate the milestone. 

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