‘Just because they are having fun doesn’t mean that they are not still learning’

School profile: Clongowes Wood College

Assistant Headmaster: Martin Wallace

Web: clongowes.net

Assistant Headmaster Martin Wallace says the school has taken on constructivist models of learning and has made the transition from passive to active learning following workshops run by Graham Powell, co-author of The Learning Powered School.

“While we function within the straitjacket of the aptly named terminal exam, we are busily trying to change our clothes under the constraints that it imposes,” says Wallace.


Instead of having purely teacher-led learning geared towards exams, students are encouraged to be critical thinkers who engage with course material in a more in-depth fashion.

For Wallace, one of the advantages of a boarding school is that it is a 24/7 learning environment and this appeals to parents. “It doesn’t stop when the boys leave class and go to sport, or orchestra, or choir, or chess; just because they are having fun doesn’t mean that they are not still learning; in fact, this is deep learning at its best because the experience of the learner engaged in co-curricular activities is fulfilling,” he says.

While Clongowes is known as a fee-paying private school, 10 per cent of the student cohort are part of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary programme, named in honour of a Chilean Jesuit Saint who himself received a scholarship in a Jesuit school.

“This is not about charity - this is about changing the school and making it better by having a more diverse community and a socio economically diverse community. Their presence benefits everyone in the school because otherwise you end up with a ghetto of affluence and that’s not a good educational environment either,” he says.