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Teachers taking the opportunity to review relevant curriculum resources.

(May 2013)


The work at CREDIT continues, with almost 30 teachers attending the most recent Exploring Skills in CREDIT and the Extending Skills in CREDIT courses.  Teachers’ feedback continues to be positive with one stating that “It has been a fabulous learning opportunity” and another acknowledging that it is “An excellent course and I believe all newly qualified teachers in Northern Ireland should attend this course before entering the classroom”.    Many others reiterated the value of the course on both a personal and professional level.


The CREDIT project has been developed by Stranmillis University College, in partnership with St. Mary’s University College, and is funded by the International Fund for Ireland through its Sharing in Education Programme and is managed within the Department of Education.  The project offers two professional development courses that afford teachers, working in all phases and sectors, the opportunity to take time out of the classroom to reflect upon current practice and further support them in developing skills and confidence in dealing with important issues of diversity, inclusion and community cohesion in their own individual setting, at a classroom level and on a whole-school basis.


13 eager and enthusiastic teachers have just completed an action packed two days of the Exploring Skills in CREDIT course in Stranmillis University College on the 13th and 14th May.  The programme began with contextualising the rationale for the importance of diversity and mutual understanding work in NI, and helping teachers to further develop skills for creating a classroom environment conducive to dealing with sensitive issues.  Teachers were also afforded the opportunity to review a range of relevant curriculum resources and consider examples of good practice in schools.  Following the course, a number of teachers commented that they felt the course was very thought-provoking and many felt more confident in talking about controversial issues and approaching these in the classroom.  The teachers will return to St. Mary’s University College on Friday 14th June to present their personal reflections and future plans for developing this line of work in school.


On Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd May, the teachers packed their bags and headed for the sunny North Coast for a residential in Corrymeela, Ballycastle, where they continued their reflection and work on promoting a collaborative ethos and re-imagining their classrooms.  Teachers were delighted to have the opportunity to hear from pupils in Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle who have first-hand experience of working closely with pupils from neighbouring Ballycastle High School, and one remarked that “ listening to how collaboration can work from the pupils was very empowering.”


Another important element of the residential experience was the opportunity to engage with a guest panel on the topic of Education and Community.  The panellists, representing a wide range of political and community groups were (from left to right) Joe O'Donnell,  Strategic Director with the Belfast Interface Project; Inderjit Bhogal, leader of the Corrymeela Community, a leading Theologian and Methodist minister; Joan Baird, UUP Councillor at Moyle District Council; Conall McDevitt, MLA and the SDLP Party's Health spokesperson, sitting on the Health Committee.  Also in the picture are Patricia Eaton, the CREDIT Project Director and Stuart Harrison, a CREDIT participant who chaired the panel in a very professional Question Time style.

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Showcasing Our Re-imagined Classrooms

Pictured at the event: Dr Anne Heaslett (Principal of Stranmillis University College), David McMillan (Castleroe Primary School, Coleraine), Martin Hagan (St Mary’s University College), Sonia McGowan (Ravenscroft Nursery School, Belfast), Sir Bob Salisbury (Leading educationalist), Danny Kinahan (NI Assembly Education Committee Deputy Chair), Dr Adrian Johnston (Chair of the International Fund for Ireland), Gemma O’Neill (Christ the Redeemer Primary School, Belfast), Professor Peter Finn (Principal of St Mary’s University College), Dr Patricia Eaton (CREDIT Project Director).

Dr Patricia Eaton, CREDIT Project Director, speaking at the event.

27th February 2013

The impressive work of 50 teachers who participated in the highly acclaimed Classrooms Reimagined: Education in Diversity and Inclusion for Teachers (CREDIT) project were celebrated at a special awards event on 27th February 2013.
The inaugural CREDIT Awards event took place at Stranmillis University College and was organised jointly with St Mary’s University College.

Supported by the International Fund for Ireland, CREDIT provides professional development courses to help teachers develop skills and confidence in dealing with issues of division, diversity and community cohesion. To date, 160 teachers have completed the CREDIT courses.

The impressive list of dignitaries who gathered to congratulate teachers and pupils on their successes included, Fund Chairman Dr Adrian Johnston, leading educationalist Sir Bob Salisbury and NI Assembly Education Committee Deputy Chair Danny Kinahan.  The event also welcomed Principals, staff and Governors from local participating schools, both Colleges, facilitators, community relations groups, ETI, IFI and some of its other funded projects and representatives from the NI Assembly Committee for Education, the Ministerial Advisory Group on Advancing Shared Education, US Consulate, Church groups and DENI.

Many respected and distinguished speakers joined the event to reflect upon and share their views on CREDIT.  Dr Anne Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College, opened the event speaking about the need to change the hearts and minds of people and the challenges of such a process.  Professor Peter Finn, Principal of St Mary’s University College, highlighted the importance of investing in the skills development of teachers for the well-being of the economy.  The CREDIT Project Director, Dr Patricia Eaton, emphasised the need to focus on skilled practitioners and the power of transformation in providing teachers with the time and space to embed good practice. The participating teachers were also commended for all their hard work and efforts in their reconciliation work.  The audience were also addressed by the Chair of the International Fund for Ireland, Dr Adrian Johnston. Dr Johnston commended the CREDIT project for their commitment and forward thinking that has helped teachers to access the toolkit to help pupils gain a deeper learning experience and further advance cohesion in society.  Leading educationalist Sir Bob Salisbury reflected on the importance of skilling teachers and the mixing of education and community as a powerful way of moving forward.  Also addressing the audience was Danny Kinahan, Deputy Chair, NI Assembly Committee for Education. He also focused on the value of hardworking and dedicated professionals and commented that CREDIT was vital to create a climate where children can explore difference and enhance life skills.

A special highlight on the day was the personal journeys and experiences brought to life by CREDIT teachers David McMillan from Castleroe Primary School, Coleraine, Sonia McGowan from Ravenscroft Nursery School, Belfast and Gemma O’Neill from Christ the Redeemer Primary School, Belfast who was also joined by three of her pupils.  Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle and Aithne Kerrigan, Community Relations Equality and Diversity (CRED) co-ordinator at Ashfield Boys’ High School, Belfast took top honours in the schools and teachers categories respectively for innovative efforts to promote reconciliation and positively change attitudes.  As a result of the high quality of applications for the annual prizes, commendations for the school prize were awarded to St Anne’s Primary School, Strabane, St Mary’s High School, Downpatrick and Castleroe Primary School, Coleraine. An additional teacher commendation was awarded to Fiona McDonald from Drumnamoe Nursery School in Lurgan.  Several participating schools also dressed the room with their displays and stands to proudly exhibit to delegates some of their excellent work which they explained was inspired by CREDIT in their classrooms and beyond.

Applications are currently open for the five day Extending Skills in CREDIT course taking place on 16th and 17th April, 2nd and 3rd May and 31st May 2013. Please visit www.stran.ac.uk/credit for further details or contact Clare Martin, the Project Administrative Officer at credit@stran.ac.uk (email) or telephone 028 9038 4530.

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CREDIT teachers reflect in Ballycastle!
‘Education and Community’ panel: Gavin Boyd (The Rainbow Project), Joe O’Donnell  (Strategic Director of the Belfast Interface Project) and Inderjit Bhogal (leader of the Corrymeela Community)

November 2012

A group of 14 eager and enthusiastic teachers have just completed the five-day Extended Skills in CREDIT course.  The course is one of the professional development courses developed by Stranmillis University College, in partnership with St Mary’s University College, and is funded by the International Fund for Ireland under the Sharing in Education Programme which is managed within the Department of Education.  This course is designed for teachers who are currently involved in community relations/community cohesion work in their schools. 

The teachers spent a busy and emotive two days together at the end of October in Stranmillis and St. Mary’s University Colleges where the focus was on the influence of the community upon education.  The teachers experienced the ‘Divided Belfast Bus Tour’ and visited some of the community relations organisations located in the South Belfast area.   Professor Tony Gallagher shared his vision on Shared Education in Northern Ireland with the teachers who were challenged and encouraged to think about the future of education. 

Following an interim period of three weeks, a bright fresh day set a positive tone for an energised group of teachers embarking on a thought provoking two day residential in Corrymeela, Ballycastle.  Teachers were provided with the opportunity to facilitate and engage with a panel of experts on the topic of Education and Community.  The panel comprised of Gavin Boyd, The Rainbow Project; Joe O’Donnell, Strategic Director of the Belfast Interface Project; and Inderjit Bhogal, Leader of the Corrymeela Community. 

Each panellist provided an interesting insight into their individual backgrounds and they were challenged to present a strong case in a Dragon’s Den scenario to persuade the teachers to invest in their company/project. 

Teachers had the opportunity to hear from pupils from Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle who are involved in some inspiring collaborative work and they were encouraged and heartened by the pupils’ mature outlook and positive experiences of collaboration.  The residential provides the teachers with some time away from the formal school setting to reflect, discuss and share ideas with others and begin to make plans to further deal with the issues of community relations upon their return to school.  The feedback was very positive and one teacher commented that “I think the learning from the course will stay with me for many years to come and it will positively affect my teaching” whilst another affirmed that “I don’t know what is ahead in the journey.  I’ll take it in small steps – but I want to make a change in hearts and minds.”

The teachers were required to put into practice some of the ideas that they gained as a result of the course and to take the next step forward for their school.  They returned to Stranmillis University College earlier this week to present an assessment of the collaborative projects undertaken.  A very useful session ensued as teachers outlined some of the ongoing, innovative projects devised to address the important issue of developing good community relations in schools throughout the province.  Well done to everyone involved!

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A busy start to the 2nd year of the CREDIT Project

Dr Patricia Eaton speaking at the CREDIT celebration event.

Teachers engaged in active learning at the Exploring Skills in CREDIT course.

October 2012

The new academic year has seen a busy start to the CREDIT project (Classrooms Re-imagined: Education in Diversity & Inclusion for Teachers), funded by the International Fund for Ireland.  The project was established in September 2011 by Stranmillis University College in partnership with St. Mary’s University College and provides professional development courses for teachers to help them develop skills and confidence in dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion and community cohesion. To date over 70 teachers have successfully completed these courses and provided very positive feedback. 

A number of participants, working in all phases and sectors, who completed the CREDIT courses last year attended an informal celebration event on Wednesday 26 September in Stranmillis University College.  At the event, participants were awarded their CREDIT certificates and Dr. Patricia Eaton, CREDIT Project Director, commended the teachers on the impressive work undertaken as a result of their involvement in the project.  The teachers engaged in a short working session reflecting upon the successes and challenges encountered through engaging with these issues and Lisa Dietrich, Community Relations in Schools (CRIS) Director, offered advice and support on moving projects forward.

On Wednesday 3 October, 21 enthusiastic teachers assembled in St. Mary’s University College to embark on the first day of an action-packed ‘Exploring Skills in CREDIT’ course.  During day one, the focus was on setting the scene in relation to the context for diversity and mutual understanding work in education and the teachers participated in a number of practical workshop sessions helping them to develop their facilitation skills and confidence when dealing with controversial issues in the classroom.  On day two, which was held in Stranmillis University College, teachers were provided with opportunities to review a range of curriculum resources and share ideas about practical options for collaboration in schools.  An interactive session using puppets proved enjoyable for these enthusiastic teachers!

The five-day ‘Extending Skills in CREDIT’ course is a more in-depth course for participants with an existing awareness of community engagement issues. It will show them how to embed good practice in this area into their own settings and will commence on Wednesday 23 October in St. Mary’s University College. 

An additional ‘Exploring Skills in CREDIT’ course and an ‘Extending Skills in CREDIT’ course will run in Omagh after Christmas.  Further details about the project and the courses may be obtained from the website (www.stran.ac.uk/credit) or by contacting Clare Martin, CREDIT Administrative Officer at credit@stran.ac.uk or telephone 028 9038 4530.

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Official Launch of the CREDIT Project

25th May 2012

The official launch of the CREDIT project took place on Wednesday 25 April in Craigantlet Fine Dining in Stranmillis University College.  CREDIT (Classrooms Re-imagined: Education in Diversity and Inclusion for Teachers) received funding from the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) to provide professional development courses to help teachers develop skills and confidence in dealing with issues of division, diversity and community cohesion.   The event welcomed 50 professionals including teachers, Principals, staff from both Colleges, facilitators, community relations groups, IFI and DENI representatives.

Delivering the opening address at the launch, Dr Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College, highlighted the value of the programme in relation to the core values of the College.  She emphasised the quality teaching through partnership and the commitment to life-long learning and community engagement.  Professor Finn, Principal of St. Mary’s University College, emphasised that the theme of the course was part of a larger societal project and the need to continue to build reconciliation, peace and prosperity in our land.  He thanked the IFI for their support, in terms of finance and recognition, on behalf of both Colleges.   The IFI was represented by Mr John Carson, Programme Director, who expressed thanks to the international donors who support the work of the IFI and acknowledged the ground breaking work of the CREDIT project in developing teachers who will lead on community relations and community cohesion, impacting on schools and the wider community.

The guest speaker for the event was Mr Mervyn Storey, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Education Committee.  At the outset he indicated that NI was no longer the place it was and that we needed to take credit for progress made in NI.  He believed that the issues raised in the course, such as the need to deal with diversity inside the classroom, to equip teachers to deal effectively with issues and to build on the ethos of schools by fostering greater sharing were important issues that the Assembly needed to consider.  He emphasised that ethos was essential to education and commended the project on helping to achieve this understanding and concluded by stating that we need to look forward towards a better and shared future which respects diversity and ethos, which would ultimately be better for children and for NI.

During the event, attendees were shown a short DVD which highlighted elements of good practice addressed by the courses and they heard from two course participants, Mrs Fiona McDonald, Principal of Drumnamoe Nursery School (Exploring Skills in CREDIT participant) and Mr George Cullen, Teacher at St. Jarlath’s Primary School (Extending Skills in CREDIT participant) who shared insights into their valuable learning as a result of the courses and how they planned to develop this work and embed good practice in their respective schools.

Speaking at the event Mr Martin Hagan, St. Mary’s University College, stressed the long and rich history of collaboration and co-operation between the two colleges and emphasised that it was the similarities and differences of the two colleges that added to the overall project.  To conclude the speeches, Dr Patricia Eaton spoke about the role of the teacher in reaching the whole child and preparing children for all the challenges of life today and in the future.  She acknowledged that with the support from the IFI we have been able to create professional development courses that give teachers the time, space, expertise and skill development to equip them to deal with some of these challenges.

Before enjoying a fine lunch, proceedings were brought to an end by Mrs Raquel McKee (course participant) who read her own poetry inspired by the course on the theme of diversity and inclusion.  The course team is delighted with the success of the CREDIT project to date and indeed the success of the official launch.

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CREDIT goes to Ballycastle!!!


March 2012

The first CREDIT teacher residential took place on 1st and 2nd March in Corrymeela, Ballycastle. The course was part of the Extending Skills in CREDIT course, run by the CREDIT project, who provide professional development courses for teachers with funding of £840 000 from the International Fund for Ireland. The fine weather and peaceful setting proved to be perfect combination for providing the participating teachers with an opportunity to further build upon the solid foundations laid from days 1 and 2 of the course at the beginning of February, for developing the culturally inclusive school. 

The 5 day Extending Skills in CREDIT course is an in-depth course designed for participants, working in a range of phases and sectors, who currently have existing involvement with community engagement and cohesion issues and wish to further embed good practice in their educational setting.  The 14 participating teachers had already spent two days in February in Stranmillis University College and St. Mary’s University College and had experienced the ‘Divided Belfast’ bus tour and a visit to some of the race and community organisations involved in the South Belfast Partnership. 

The residential in Corrymeela allowed for further reflection and for plans to be made to enhance and further embed good practice in their own schools.  Elements of the 2 day programme provided teachers with an opportunity to reflect upon the role of the teacher as facilitator and focus on developing an ethos for the culturally diverse school. The teachers also participated in a choice of diversity in education workshops.

As part of the two days, teachers facilitated and engaged with a guest panel on the topic of Education and Community. The panellists, representing a wide range of political and community groups were (from L to R ) Gavin Boyd, representing the Rainbow Project; Joe O'Donnell,  Strategic Director with the Belfast Interface Project; Inderjit Bhogal, leader of the Corrymeela Community, a leading Theologian and Methodist minister; Joan Baird, UUP Councillor at Moyle District Council; Conall McDevitt, MLA and the SDLP Party's Education Development spokesperson, sitting on the Education committee.

The panel were challenged by the teachers to outline their vision for education in Northern Ireland, to explore how they could support teachers in schools and to discuss the challenges facing Northern Ireland society in the next 10 years.  The feedback from the teachers was very positive with one teacher commenting “I was really encouraged by the comments of the panellists and their visions for our education system – I hope these become a reality.” 

On day 2, the participants heard from teachers and students from two local schools, Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College, who came to share their experiences and provide valuable insight into their school collaboration programme and experiences of cultural inclusion.  In particular, many participants found the students’ perspectives and experiences a very worthwhile element of the programme. The course team are delighted with the outcome of the 2 day programme and the positive feedback that was provided by the participants.  One participant commented that “The course has been very mind broadening and has persuaded me to think outside the box.”  Another said “I have a more positive attitude to shared education and the fact it has to be how we move into the future”, whilst another stated “I really enjoyed and valued the time and opportunity to reflect on issues and discuss them with like-minded colleagues.”

The teachers who participated on the course will come together later in March for the final day of the programme to present their progress, both personal and professional as a result of the course.

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Successful first course

November 2011

A group of 20 enthusiastic teachers, from a variety of educational settings, gathered at St. Mary’s University College on the 9th and 10th for the first of the CREDIT courses ‘Exploring skills in CREDIT’.  The CREDIT project is funded by the International Fund for Ireland through its Sharing in Education Programme which is managed by the Department of Education.

An action packed two day programme began with contextualising the rationale for the importance of diversity and mutual understanding in NI, and helping the teachers to develop appropriate skills and a classroom environment conducive to dealing with sensitive issues.  Stranmillis University College was the venue for the second day of the course which provided opportunities for the teachers to review a range of relevant curriculum resources and be informed about case study examples of good practice in a number of local schools. 

Active learning was central to the course delivery and teachers enjoyed participating in a range of interactive activities.  The puppet session caused great amusement and certainly proved to be very popular with the teachers!  One participant commented that: “I find it really useful to practically participate in interactive activities. It gives me more confidence in using the activities in a class setting.”

The organisers are delighted with how the course was received by the teachers and was deemed very successful by all involved.  Other positive feedback received by participants includes: “I have learned about other cultures and how to approach dealing with diversity in a class.  I feel more informed and confident in this area”, and ‘it was really useful to hear of experiences in other schools and share ideas’.  Indeed one teacher remarked that ‘I have lots of ideas for staff development and whole school approach.  I will also use some of the circle time and ice breaker activities in my class.  I have been inspired to re-imagine my class’.

The teachers will return to Stranmillis University College on Thursday 1 December for a follow-up day where they will have an opportunity to present their personal reflections and plans for the future with regards to further developing this work in the school.

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Launch of New CREDIT Website

Dr Patricia Eaton, Karen Charrington, Clare Martin & Lisa McKenzie

October 2011

Stranmillis University College, in partnership with St. Mary’s University College, were delighted to have received funding from the International Fund for Ireland last year to establish the CREDIT project, which aims to support the ongoing professional development of teachers in developing community relations work.  Two courses have been devised to serve existing teachers, working in all phases and sectors, to help themdevelop skills and confidence in dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion and community cohesion in the classroom and on a whole-school basis.

The first of the courses, Exploring Skills in CREDIT, is due to take place on 9 and 10 November in St. Mary’s and Stranmillis University Colleges respectively.  Applications for the course are proving very popular and based on the current level of correspondence with schools, we anticipate a further positive response for the Extending Skills in CREDIT course which is due to be held in February and March 2012.

The project team is delighted that last week saw the launch of the new CREDIT website which you can visit at www.stran.ac.uk/credit.  Further details about the project and the courses offered may be obtained from the website or by contacting Clare Martin, CREDIT Administrative Officer at credit@stran.ac.uk or telephone 90384530.

Dr Patricia Eaton, Project Director for CREDIT, stated that:
 “This is a very exciting time for the CREDIT team, seeing all our plans come into fruition.  We are delighted with the website and the positive feedback we have received already and are looking forward to delivering our first course in November.”

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CREDIT Programme Funding Announced
Professor Peter Finn,   Dr Patricia Eaton and Dr Anne Heaslett.
Professor Peter Finn, Dr Patricia Eaton and Dr Anne Heaslett.
Stranmillis and St. Mary’s University Colleges welcome funding from the International Fund for Ireland.   

 

Stranmillis University College in partnership with St. Mary’s University College were delighted with the recent announcement from the International Fund for Ireland that they had been successful in their bid for funding.  

 

As part of the £3.4m / €4.1m allocated to the Fund’s Sharing in Education Programme, the joint colleges bid attracted funding of £839k / €1m for the CREDIT Programme (Classrooms Re-imagined: Education in Diversity & Inclusion for Teachers Programme).  

 

The Programme sets out to provide training courses for existing teachers across Northern Ireland in primary and post-primary schools to assist them in developing awareness and practical skills in dealing with division, diversity, inclusion and community relations in both the classroom and the wider school environment.  Central to the Programme is the opportunity for teachers to embed the practices in their classrooms.  

 

Dr Patricia Eaton, Professional Development Coordinator at Stranmillis, said: “Too often short-term training courses have limited impact on practice. This programme sets out to transform classrooms by giving teachers time and space to reflect on their practice, to work with other schools and agencies and to really re-imagine the way education in diversity and inclusion is incorporated into their classrooms.” 

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