Who are we?

We are a group of parents and professionals who recognise a need for a different approach to education in the Midlands, where 

Our Founding Team

Kate Egan

Kate has worked in education for over 15 years, specializing in outdoor and environmental education. She has worked for several organisation’s including National Parks and Wildlife Service, The Irish Wildlife Trust and Leave No Trace Ireland, designing and delivering education programmes, summer camps and teacher training. 


After years of working with students outdoors in semi-autonomous environments, she saw first-hand the ability of children to self-organise, self-direct and engage with their own learning through play. Kate became convinced that we are creating work for ourselves trying to teach children according to our needs. Instead creating a safe and supported environment children can be active drivers of their own learning instead of passive receptors.  


After having her own daughter in 2018 she wanted a different kind of educational experience for her. This is when she came across the self-directed and democratic model of education. Feeling this was the right fit for her family she decided to join the team and create the midlands first democratic school.  

Amanda Clarke

Amanda graduated with a degree in Social Care Practice in 2009 and has worked within the community service sector ever since. As her interest in children’s mental health evolved, Amanda went on to train as a Play Therapist. She is now nearing completion of a part-time master's in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy with a Specialisation in Play.   

Amanda’s experience of working with individuals of various backgrounds, ages, abilities, and ethnicities has been transformative, in that it has challenged her to think about her own unconscious biases and privileges. Her further study and work in the field of child and adolescent mental health brought a deep awareness of the importance of a felt sense of safety for children, within their relationships and environments. 

As her firstborn was nearing school age, Amanda was drawn to explore alternative approaches to education where individuality, creativity and playfulness are nurtured. The democratic, self-directed model stood out because it promotes the natural development of self-confidence, initiative and perseverance; while also facilitating a far wider range of interests than that of a typical school.

Caroline Lewis

Caroline has been an unschooling mother to three young people for over seven years. The deschooling process took many years and is still ongoing. Through this, Caroline has learned to trust her children to explore their own interests, has taken a step back in directing their learning, and enjoys providing resources and playing board games with three very accomplished young people. 

Having not enjoyed the formal schooling process herself as a child, she entered third-level education as a mature student. She entered to gain a qualification but quickly realised that she enjoyed the self-directed learning style of university and studied for a total of eight years to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry and further being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in research biology. 

She became involved in the exploration of democratic education, for her family, as her children grew up, and could see that education could be so stimulating, exciting and easy when motivated by a group of peers. A democratic model of education feels like the right fit for her maturing family.   

Jenny Shortt

Jenny earned her primary degree at WIT studying Law and Business. She qualified and practiced as a Solicitor in Longford Town before leaving the legal world behind to raise her 3 children. 

Becoming a mother opened Jenny’s world to creating a better space for her children to grow and learn at their own pace and in their own way. While enjoying books and articles on connection-based parenting, Jenny discovered John Holt, Peter Gray, Ken Robinson and others advocating for change in the education systems around the world. She believes that allowing children freedom and autonomy over their learning enables them to live a fulfilling life; always growing with a love of learning. 

Helping her own children to pursue their own interests has highlighted the natural passion for learning that all humans have; given the right circumstances. She has a keen interest in the social and emotional development of children in today's modern world, non-violent communication, and boardgames. 

Dani Kavanagh

Dani studied Psychology at Edinburgh Napier University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in 2012 and progressing in her work in the Disability sector over a 10 year period. Through her self-directed goal-oriented work managing supports for people with Autism, she learned to celebrate individuality, challenge social barriers, and create pathways to fulfilment.


Dani established a family business in 2018 and currently co-owns and manages this. She self-educated in business management, employment, and quality certification systems to name a few, in order to grow the business. Through her company and as a member of the Midlands Engineering Network, Dani developed a new Welding Traineeship with LWETB (Longford Westmeath Education Training Board). This programme created a pathway into skilled full-time employment as a collaborative response to fill workforce gaps.


During these first four years in business, Dani's two daughters were born. As her young children demonstrated their innate curiosity and assertiveness to learn freely, she became interested in the self-directed learning model. She believes a democratic model of education will better equip a child for life in a highly pressurised and technological world.

Get Involved

We are looking for regular volunteer staff to join our team in the spring of 2024. 

If you have a passion and desire to support self-directed learning, why not send us an email at: info@midhedemocraticschool.ie