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STEM Work with Stranmillis, Marymount and Fane Street
With the Marymount students are Dr Irene Bell, David Gault - Barefoot Volunteer, and Dr Usha Rajdev.
With the Marymount students are Dr Irene Bell, David Gault - Barefoot Volunteer, and Dr Usha Rajdev.

Stranmillis University College was delighted to welcome and work with staff and students from the International Association of STEM Leaders and Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, Marymount University College, Arlington, Virginia. STEM leaders from Marymount spent three days working with Stranmillis and Fane Street Primary School creating a STEM ‘Maker space lab’.

During their visit to Stranmillis, the students from Marymount were introduced to the Computing At School (CAS) Barefoot Computational Thinking resources, endorsed by the Department of Education and used in schools in Northern Ireland.  They then had the opportunity to hear how Stranmillis are breaking new curricular ground by introducing multiple aspects of engineering into the primary classroom within interactive STEM activities. Our American guests had the opportunity to discuss, view and investigate the work of Stranmillis STEM students and there were excellent opportunities to share good practice.

At the end of the session both staff and students worked together to prepare the events for Fane Street Primary School the following day and the creation of a STEM ‘Maker space lab’. Staff from both school and university, pupils from all classes and their parents all had the opportunity to engage in this amazing STEM event.






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PGCE Students go down to the Woods in Waringstown!

On a very cold February morning, just before ‘The Beast from the East’ struck, the PGCE students accompanied by Dr Richard Greenwood and Mrs Diane McClelland made their way down to the woods beside Waringstown Primary School to take part in a Forest School session with the school’s Year 4 children.  This fitted in well with the students’ focus on outdoor learning in Key Stage 1.

After a welcome by the school’s principal Mr Carl McCambley, vice-principal Mr Martin Gault gave the students a brief outline of how Waringstown became a Forest School Champion with evidence of their development over the last few years.  Following this the students and the year four children set to work outside!

Having previously been taken on a walk around the perimeter of the school and viewing drone footage of the school site, the children in groups were given the challenge of creating a map of their school grounds using any natural materials they could find.  The benefits of this learning experience were evident for children and students alike.

Reflecting on the session one of the PG students, Sorcha Haider, highlighted how useful it had been, claiming: “ I have always been interested in the concept of ‘Forest Schools’, so to experience it first hand was fantastic. The setting of Waringstown Primary lends itself unbelievably well to providing outdoor learning experiences for children but I also now realise that even with a limited area and with only natural resources, the opportunities for all groups of children to learn are vast. Although previously concerned about the elements of risk that might be involved, I can now see the simplicity of organising an appropriate learning experience once children have grasped three or four simple ground rules (boundaries, whistle etc.) I was encouraged by the engagement and enthusiasm of the children and found that compared to the classroom, they demanded little or no adult involvement as there were so few issues they couldn't solve themselves. The discussion among group members in the planning and gathering of resources was amazing to observe and the decision-making and problem-solving skills were evident throughout.”

Another student, Rachel McCrossan, also felt the experience had been useful in developing so many skills for the children as well as effectively connecting their learning to a variety of areas within the NI Curriculum:  “What an insightful morning! From creating boundaries to map building using sticks, stones and moss (to name a few of the ingredients), the children were completely enthralled by their third Forest School experience!  They explored the idea of a bird’s eye view of their school, and it quickly became apparent, as we have been studying in class, how outdoor learning naturally connects all areas of the curriculum. Indeed, the children illustrated many of the cross curricular and thinking skills and personal capabilities outlined in the NIC. Their creativity and teamwork skills were particularly evident throughout as they interpreted the task in their own ways and actively combined their individual ideas in practice. They took little notice of the adults around them, instead taking complete ownership of the learning experience themselves.” Rachel went on to say how insightful she had found the experience working with older children from KS1:  “Having previously been involved in working with Nursery age children during Forest School sessions, I found it particularly beneficial to discover how the children's skill set can be developed as they progress up the school. It was especially interesting to observe the children engaging in the plenary, coming up with purposeful questions whilst reflecting on and evaluating their creations.  For example, one child asked, ‘If you had more surface area, what would you add to your map?’, encouraging her peers to consider an extra dimension which they may not have done otherwise. The children responded with explanatory and visual representations, whilst questions were open ended and approached in a relaxed manner rather than directed from the teacher. In this way the children demonstrated their willingness to describe step by step processes, valuing and explaining each child’s input throughout. Seeing the value of such an approach in practice has also made me more aware of how easily a topic being studied indoors can be greatly enhanced outdoors, which has encouraged me to look for opportunities to make these links in the future.”

A third student, Stacey Eakin, found the rule setting as well as the group plenary particularly useful strategies.  Stacey commented: “ I observed the importance of setting clear boundaries and rules at the outset of the lesson and the importance of giving children the opportunity to present their work to the class at the end of the lesson, boosting children's self-esteem and enhancing self-evaluative and reflective skills.”   The last word belongs to Stacey who went on to sum up the day, enthusiastically asserting: “Overall, a fantastic and informative experience that has left me intrigued to learn more about outdoor learning and interested in discovering more ideas for outdoor lessons that I could perhaps implement within my next SBW placement!”

More information regarding Forest Schools can be obtained from the NIFSA website:



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Ugandan Academic Pays Return Visit to Stran

It was a pleasure to welcome Dr Joyce Ayikoru to Stranmillis for a tour of the College and to meet with Dr Heaslett and the Senior Management Team.

Dr Ayikoru is Associate Professor and Dean of Education at Kyambogo University in Uganda. Dr John McMullen and Dr Sharon Jones met Dr Ayikoru in Uganda in January 2017 and a College delegation will again visit the Teacher Education and Early Childhood Development departments in Kyambogo University next month.

Alongside our developing relationship with charity organisation ‘Fields of Life’, Stranmillis hopes to partner with a university in Uganda which could potentially provide opportunities for research, placements and enrichment of teaching and support. A number of staff and students have travelled to Uganda over the past two years and it is hoped that the College can welcome more Ugandan visitors to Stranmillis in the future!

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Louis at ‘Doma v lese’!!

Louis Donnelly completed the Early Childhood Studies degree at Stranmillis in 2015. Since then he has worked in a variety of different settings - most notably and enjoyably in ‘doma v lese’ - a forest school in the Czech Republic. Louis reports on this very different experience:

“‘Doma v lese’ translates as ‘home in the forest’, which is apt as the children are very much at home in the forest! Throughout the year they spend the majority of their time outside and are suitably equipped for whatever weather they might face.

Each month the teaching staff provide a new learning theme for the children; these have included the delicious ‘forest on a plate’ - daily lessons and activities about edible items found in the forest, e.g. certain mushrooms, nuts and berries!! - and also the essential guide ‘Outdoor Survival’ - making a DIY compass and sundial, discussing essential items for different climates and more. Alongside these themes, traditional topics are not excluded, and children make the transition into primary school, also spending time learning maths, Czech and science, thus, fully preparing them for school life.

So how did I end up working in the Czech Republic? Whilst studying on the Erasmus experience offered by Stranmillis, I met my future wife - we got married last Summer! Then after graduation I joined her, able to use my ECS degree to gain employment in the Forest School.

During my studies at Stranmillis I was advised by the Head of Early Childhood Studies, Sheelagh Carville, in her module International Perspectives, that if I ever had an opportunity to visit a forest school that I should take it; I have done more than visit - I’m experiencing this work first-hand. This is a piece of advice I would pass on to anyone studying to be an early years professional.”


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‘#Hello my name is…’

ECS Year 1 part-time students, as part of their Child Development module, are investigating the Acquisition of Language and Communication Skills in the Early Years. 

In connection with this they have been introduced to the ‘#Hello my name is…’ campaign which was created by Dr Kate Granger, a registrar who had terminal cancer.  She started the campaign in August 2013 after she became frustrated with the number of staff who failed to introduce themselves to her when she was an inpatient.  Dr Granger asked frontline NHS staff to make a pledge to introduce themselves in future to their patients.  She used social media to help kick start the campaign and created the hashtag ‘# Hello my name is…’.

Introductions are vitally important in education also.  Introductions are about making a human connection between one human being and another.  They are about having relationships that can build trust and provide truly person-centred and child-centred compassionate care.  Reminding all staff to introduce themselves advocates that a confident introduction is the first step to providing compassionate care so that children and their parents will feel relaxed and at ease in early years settings.  A growing body of evidence from early childhood education and care contexts suggests that infants’ experiences in out-of-home settings provide various language learning opportunities which influence subsequent development.  When supported by attentive and responsive educators, young children have been shown to actively contribute verbally and non-verbally in their communicative interactions with educators (White, Peter and Redder 2015).  Language acquisition in early childhood educational contexts shows that relationship building - starting with introductions, getting to know children’s interests, with rich and informal conversations between children and their teachers - both stimulate and have a positive impact on the language development of children (Puskas 2016).

Sadly, Dr Granger passed away at the age of 34 on 23 July 2016.  Her campaign for more personalised introductions and care has been supported all over the world with over 1.8 billion impressions since its conception.  Kate herself travelled to Northern Ireland to personally support the launch of the N.I. Regional #Hello my name is campaign, which was launched jointly with the Public Health Agency in November 2014.   Her husband Chris Pointon is now a keynote speaker and inspiring Tedx talker, spreading the #Hello my name is…campaign at universities, hospitals, trusts and conferences across the world as part of the global campaign. 

College Early Childhood Studies lecturer Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond feels that: “ This is a good opportunity to introduce the ‘#Hello my name is…’ campaign into the classroom where Year 1 part time students get to know each other and I also can learn all their names.  Language development and language-learning opportunities are embedded in an array of situational, relationship based and personal situations.  The ECS students can then go into their early years settings and know how potentially effective language is in guiding young children’s verbal communications, and it can all start with #Hello my name is…”

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Whitehouse Primary School enjoys a Winter Wonderland of Play…

Approximately 90 Foundation Stage pupils from Whitehouse Primary School took part in an Early Years play experience before Christmas to celebrate ‘Playful Learning in Action’ at Stranmillis University College. As part of their assessment for the 'Implementing a play-based curriculum' module, our PGCE students were challenged with transforming the Early Years Centre into a Christmas themed play workshop for an hour of festive fun with P1/P2 children. PGCE student Lauren Killough reflects on the experience:

'The PGCE students were split into groups of five, with each group tasked with organising five activities to cover different areas of the Foundation Stage curriculum. Each student was responsible for planning a different play area activity, providing the necessary resources, setting it up and managing the activity with the children. The groups also worked together to decorate the entire room - the Early Years Centre looked like a Winter Wonderland by the time the children arrived!

All of the children were enchanted with the playful learning experiences and they had lots of fun in the process - as did all of the PGCE students! Some of the exciting activities included wrapping presents, making reindeer food, a sensory hot chocolate experience, reading Christmas stories, and making playdough cookies and edible snowmen! The play workshops provided a fun-filled morning for the children and it certainly got everyone into the festive spirit for Christmas. We would like to say a massive thank you to the staff at Whitehouse Primary School for bringing the children to Stranmillis to take part in our three play workshops.  We hope the children had as much fun playing and taking part in them as we did planning them!'

 “Using play as a medium to bring learning to life ensures young people feel motivated and confident when learning, and it injects a degree of playfulness into that learning experience,” said Jill Magennis, lecturer in Early Years Education, who organised the event. “The PG students put a lot of thought and effort into planning these experiences in a wonderful Winter Wonderland and it is great to see the children putting key skills for educational achievement into practice.”

The success of the three days with Whitehouse Primary School was also echoed by Dr Glenda Walsh, Head of Early Years Education: “This is such a worthwhile learning opportunity for the students, for the children themselves and for the Foundation Stage teachers who accompanied the children. It is so rewarding to see high quality playful learning experiences in action, where playing, learning and teaching all become fully synchronised.”

Whitehouse have added some comments and more photos on their web site at the link below:

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Stranmillis Joins IET On Campus

On Wednesday 13th December 2017, Stranmillis had the pleasure of welcoming Professor Eileen Harkin-Jones (Ulster University), along with representatives from BT, ‘IET On Campus’ and Queen’s University Belfast, to celebrate Stranmillis University College joining ‘IET On Campus’ (IET is the  Institution of Engineering and Technology) and to view an exhibition that showcased the work and ideas of students from Year 1 to Year 4 in relation to teaching engineering at primary school level. Dr Irene Bell reports:

The event began with a presentation from Prof. Harkin-Jones outlining the importance engineering has in our lives, and how this relevance will continue to grow in the future. She emphasised the lack of exposure to engineering in the primary curriculum and the need to introduce children to it at a young age. She highlighted how engineering has the ability to provide practical, curiosity-fostering activities that will develop and enhance a range of thinking skills amongst children in the primary classroom, and also the importance of engaging girls with this crucial science.

The event also celebrated the acceptance of Stranmillis University College into the IET On Campus grouping. Normally IET On Campus works with students undertaking engineering degrees, so we were delighted to be accepted into the association.  Michael Shaw, STEM President for Stranmillis thanked Brendan Digney (QUB) the Chairperson of IET Young Professionals NI who has worked with Michael in bringing Stranmillis into the IET On Campus family. Prof. Harkin-Jones concluded her presentation with a note on how the implementation of the IET On Campus Group demonstrated outstanding commitment to STEM across education in Northern Ireland by the staff and students in Stranmillis.

After Prof. Harkin-Jones’ presentation, TEL 1&2 became an exhibition space in which Stranmillis students displayed their engineering-related activities and distributed lots of ideas for students beginning School-Based Work in the Spring.

Top: Dr Irene Bell with guest speaker Prof Eileen Harkin-Jones (UU)
Middle: Year 1 BEd Primary Science specialist students Leigh McQuaid and Rebecca Marcus display their Water Wall.
Bottom: Some attendees discussing the work of Year 3 BEd Primary students Alice Ashfield and Karen Lennox.

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Christmas Celebration at St Bart’s

The annual Stranmillis ‘Celebration of Christmas in Words & Music’ took place at St Bartholomew’s Church on Thursday 14th December.

The College Choir and various instrumentalists under the direction of lecturers Jayne Moore, Frances Burgess and Norman Richardson, accompanied on the church organ by former student Alex McBride, led the large congregation in some traditional carols. In addition, choral, instrumental and ensemble pieces were interspersed with readings of familiar Biblical passages telling the First Christmas story as well as more recently written poems and reflections.

Readers included College staff and students, Edgar Jardine from the College’s Board of Governors, Martin Hagan from St Mary’s University College, Barry Mulholland from the Controlled Schools’ Support Council and an International student from Switzerland. Highlights of the evening were a rendition of ‘Stille Nacht/ Silent Night’ by three students from Germany, Hungary and Spain, choral contributions by various combinations of music specialist student groups, and wonderful new arrangements by our own Norman Richardson.

Congratulations to all who contributed so well to an uplifting celebration of the season.

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Lois’s 'Butterfly Bear' Gets Published
Lois McAteer and Clare Evans with 'The Butterfly Bear'
Lois McAteer and Clare Evans with 'The Butterfly Bear'

ECS Year 2 student Lois McAteer recently attended her placement at St Teresa’s Nursery School off the Glen Road in West Belfast. Described below is how 'The Butterfly Bear' was created: 

St Teresa's is affectionately known as the “Butterfly School” as St. Teresa used the symbol of the butterfly to describe journeys of transformation. St. Teresa’s Nursery School is a place where the aim for all children is to be ‘the best we can be’ by ensuring that all the children, like butterflies, are cherished, have a magical time and the staff invoke in the children a sense of joy and wonder.

Principal Clare Evans describes how staff and children alike had the pleasure of welcoming, working and transforming alongside Lois in their school.  “We recently had the pleasure of Lois completing her block placement with us.  Lois undertook the project of producing a ‘Transition Booklet’.  She engaged in one to one conversations with myself and the class teacher to reflect on what the school would find useful in terms of the content of the booklet. Lois took ownership of the project and planned the booklet to reflect not only the setting but also the routine of the day. Lois suggested creating a relatable object for the children to engage with and she created ‘Butterfly Bear’, complete with its own school uniform. Along the way Lois gained experience in using the apps Pic Collage, Book Creator and iBooks.  At all times she was mindful of child protection and data protection.  She emailed staff draft copies and took on board their comments to ensure that the finished product would be embedded into the school’s existing transition programme. Like a butterfly, Lois has grown in confidence throughout her time in St. Teresa’s and now that she herself is a ‘Butterfly’ , we hope she will never hide her wings and that she will continue to fly high in her chosen profession!”.

College lecturer Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond feels that “Lois has grown as a practitioner working with all the nursery school community.  She was certainly cherished by all and brought vibrant joy and wonder to the children in her care.  She developed many of the skills she will need as she progresses in this profession. How amazing to have her booklet published for use by many future butterflies!”

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STEM fun at Gilnahirk PS!

The Year 1 primary students whose Area of Specialism is science had a wonderful morning sharing their exciting science activities with the Nursery, P2 and P4 pupils at Gilnahirk Primary School in east Belfast.

Leigh McQuaid and Becky Marcus report on their work with Nursery children on a water wall:

‘We provided a group of fifteen nursery children with an interactive water wall.  The wall contained a range of recycled funnels, cartons, tubes, and watering cans.  Each child was given a collection of various sized containers which they could fill with water and decide which parts of the wall to pour the water through.  This proved very successful and the children’s decision-making became apparent.  As some parts of the wall were higher than others, the children were able to use a step to reach the funnels at the top and this created an element of excitement.  The children greatly enjoyed the activity and loved making a mess splashing and pouring!  They chatted excitedly about what they were doing and it was a great success, as became clear when the children said they wanted to keep the wall!’

Fellow students Victoria Halley and Anna Welsh describe how they made the science fun and challenged the children to think by designing marbe runs:

‘We provided our class with resources such as tubes, guttering, tunnels, boxes of varying sizes and sandbags.  The aim was to task the children with building a giant marble run structure for balls of varying sizes and materials. One of the children stated “the heavier balls move fastest”.  From observing and interacting with the children it was clear they were thoroughly enjoying and learning from the exercise.  The hands-on approach stimulated their curiosity and imagination.  Through trial and error the children developed a clear understanding of how the weight of the ball and the gradient of a slope affected the velocity of the ball.  It was a fun and interactive learning time!’

Finally Benjamin McAllister and Emma-Jayne Wright explain how they set the science in an exciting context - electrical circuits:

‘We helped the children to grasp a basic understanding of how electricity moves by passing balls around a circle to represent electrons.  We then asked one child to be a light and another a buzzer in this human circuit.  We reinforced this concept by using an energy stick, which the children loved! Next we posed a problem: a letter from Santa asking for our help to create a circuit to give light in his workshop and a circuit with a buzzer to stop thieves from taking toys from his giant toy box! Using the resources which were provided, the children were keen to make their circuits with a light and a buzzer.  Following the practical activities the children were able to explain how their circuits worked with electricity passing through.  They thoroughly enjoyed this activity and said that their favourite part was to get the bulb to light and the buzzer to work in order to help Santa solve his problem!’

Lecturer Mrs Diane McClelland felt that the event was a huge success and added: ‘A sincere thanks to the Principal, Mr Corbett, and the staff and pupils of Gilnahirk Primary School for making us so welcome.  We had a wonderful morning and it was such an affirmation for the students to see all of their hard work in planning and creating valuable STEM activities which provided such worthwhile learning experiences for the children.”
The students are participating in the Stranmillis Student Teachers’ College degree enhancement and as part of their accreditation will be sharing their resources and experiences with peers and external science stakeholders at a STEM Celebration event on Wednesday 13th December (1:00pm) in TEL 1 & 2, so please come along if you want to find out more!

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Life After Stran: Teaching in Sydney, Australia!

Jodie Blair (neé Robinson) was at Stranmillis from 2010-2014 studying for a BEd (Primary) with PE as her specialism. She says: ‘Little did I know, that three short years after graduating, I would be living and teaching in Sydney, Australia!’

‘Immediately after leaving college I had the privilege of working part-time in two different schools - one in inner city Belfast and the other in the North Antrim countryside. This first year of teaching was really interesting as it gave me insight into the workings of two very different schools and gave me the experience of working within a number of different classrooms. As any fourth year trainee teacher will know, I was just so ready to be out, teaching in the classroom and I am very fortunate that my first year as a teacher was such a positive and encouraging learning experience.

Half way through the following year, my husband and I decided to move to Sydney, Australia. I knew very little of the education system in Australia and so I did not really know what to expect. Upon arrival I realised that schools here are very different from schools at home, the main divide being public and private education. Very soon after moving, I started to do subbing work in a private Anglican school called St Andrew’s Cathedral School. It is right in the middle of Sydney’s Central Business District and the school building is an office block with a playground on the roof! The school caters for children from kindergarten right through to Year 12, which is the end of high school.

After a term of working as a substitute teacher for the school they offered me a job and I am currently working as the junior (primary) school PE teacher. Another way in which St Andrew’s is unlike any other school that I had worked in is that it has specialist subject teachers as well as classroom teachers. The classroom teachers will teach the children for Maths and English while specialist teachers will teach PE, Art, Mandarin, Dance, Drama, Science and Christian Development. While studying at Stran I specialised in PE and I am so thankful that I did as it has prepared me so well for the role I am in today. I teach over 300 children from across the junior school and focus on the development of the infants’ sport programme.

My current teaching role is very different to the one that I thought I would have at this stage of my career. At graduation I could not have imagined that I would be doing what I am doing now - but I am so glad that I am! There are so many possibilities and opportunities for teachers across the world. Use your time at university well to build up your skill set to be equipped for more than just work in the classroom as you never know where you will end up and what you will end up teaching!’

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‘Old Boys’ on a Nostalgia Trip!

It was a morning full of nostalgia and good memories for four former PE students during a recent visit to the College.

They graduated in 1964 after completing a four-year course specialising in physical education. Hosted by Dr David McKee, Head of Health and Physical Education, the former students were given a tour of the current specialist facilities for physical education. Following coffee and scones in Chatz, they had a walk around the campus calling in to the various buildings.  Reminiscences were ‘triggered’ in the most unlikely places!!!

Billy Ingram was President of the Students’ Union during 1963-64 and was a lecturer in the University of Ulster for many years.

Walter Montgomery taught in Gransha Boys’ High School, Bangor, and made significant contributions to the local development and administration of rugby and cricket.

Billy Johnston became a professional footballer in England, and played for Northern Ireland several times, before returning home to teach in further education and manage local football teams. 

Following a career in further and higher education, Roy Downey was appointed to the Education and Training Inspectorate, and in 2005 was presented with the Ling Award by the Physical Education Association of GB and NI in recognition of his service to physical education.

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Cyberbullying Project Secures Erasmus+ Funding

Stranmillis University College has been successful in gaining €291,359 from the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Fund to lead a cross-national project focusing on cyberbullying in schools. 

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship at Stranmillis, will lead the two-year “Blurred Lives” project, working closely with four other experienced EU anti-bullying experts: Prof Peter K Smith (Goldsmiths, University of London), Prof Antonella Brighi (Università di Bologna, Italy), Dr Trijntje Völlink (Open Universiteit, Netherlands) and Prof Herbert Scheithauer (Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany). 

The project is innovative in its focus on cyberbullying among young people in five different regions of the European Union, but also in its aim to be co-participatory, involving, training and empowering young people as co-researchers.  In seeking to work with young people from a range of lower socio-economic backgrounds across Europe the study also aims to explore how these young people in particular understand, experience and respond to cyberbullying.  The projects aims to provide accessible, up-to-date resources for teachers, pupils and parents/carers, and will make important recommendations to social networking providers.

Erasmus+ is the European Union’s (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport, with the EU committing £12 billion to the programme between 2014 and 2020. In the UK, the programme is managed by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK.

The project is funded under Key Action 2 School Education Strategic Partnership of the programme.

Principal Investigator, Dr Noel Purdy, explained: “We are delighted to have been successful in attracting this significant EU funding for such a timely, important project.  With such an experienced international team involved, I am confident that the outcomes of the Blurred Lives project will improve the lives of many hundreds of young people in schools right across Europe”.

To watch a short video in which the researchers introduce themselves, go to:

For more information about the Blurred Lives Project, please contact: Dr Noel Purdy at or 028 90384305

For more information about funding opportunities visit, or use the hashtag #epluspeople to see what other projects are doing across the UK.



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Two Prestigious Awards for Sharon!

Dr Sharon McMurray MBE, Principal Lecturer at Stranmillis and Head of the SEN Literacy Unit, has been presented with two prestigious awards within the last two months!

Sharon was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, as announced on the 17th June 2017. This recognition was for ‘Services to Children with Literacy Difficulties and to those with Special Educational Needs’. She is a leading expert in SEN literacy, and her work has focussed on literacy attainment and tackling low and under-achievement in literacy. Sharon was presented with the insignia by the Duke of Cambridge at a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace on 21st November 2017.

Congratulating Sharon, College Principal Dr Anne Heaslett said: For over a decade, Sharon has been a pioneer and innovator in the area of SEN literacy. The positive impact of her work is being felt around the world. As a College, part of our remit is to shape the future of education policy and practices, ensuring that every child has the chance to realise their full potential and helping build a brighter future for us all. Through her research, teaching and continuing professional development activities, Sharon epitomises an ethos of innovative and creative thinking, coupled with a sheer determination and passion to impact positively and to change lives. Our wholehearted congratulations go to Sharon on being awarded the MBE, and to the teams she has led and worked with over the past decade, who share her vision to bring about change.’

On the 19th October 2017 Sharon was also presented with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the British Dyslexia Association. The award was made by Dr Kate Saunders, Chief Executive of the BDA and Dr Gavin Reid, Chair of the BDA Course Accreditation Board, of which Sharon is a member.

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Charity Week is a Great Success – ‘Strictly Speaking’!
Top left - 'Take Me Out'; Bottom - all of the 'Strictly' contestants
Top left - 'Take Me Out'; Bottom - all of the 'Strictly' contestants
Top left: James Mitchell and Zoe Robinson - 'Strictly' winners. All photos by Cherith Bartley.
Top left: James Mitchell and Zoe Robinson - 'Strictly' winners. All photos by Cherith Bartley.

It was with great excitement that the Students’ Union hosted Charity Week 2017 to support their 2017/18 chosen charity, ‘Fields of Life’. Welfare Secretary James Robinson reflects on a fantastic week:

‘”All the single ladies put their hands up!” Monday night kickstarted a busy week, and saw some single Stranmillis lads (finding them was a challenge!) compete to keep the lights switched on and walk off with a potential date at Nandos. Chris Nevin (Stranmillis’ very own Paddy McGuinness) kept the crowd entertained with plenty of ‘No likey…No lighty’ one liners. As Walt Disney once said: “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional”. Tuesday night brought the world of Disney music to scholars and saw both talented Stranmillis and visiting Erasmus musicians relive their childhoods and converse over a cup of tea (trademark Stranmillis drink) with plenty of delightful desserts.

To conclude this jam-packed week, Thursday saw the return of the highly esteemed Stranmillis ‘Strictly’ competition under the theme of ‘A night at the Musicals’. Ten student couples put their weeks of practice into action as they took to the Drama Theatre floor to impress the judges and a 250 strong audience. The night began with hosts Patrick Forster and Lydia Leitch revealing the Stranmillis-trained judging panel, comprised of Norman Richardson, Andy Brown, John McMullen and former student Holly Bennett. Following this, the stage was soon dazzling with a range of dance styles on display, including the waltz, jive and salsa. After a grilling from the judges, voting opened and the audience had their say. After a tough contest, Zoe Robinson and her dance partner James Mitchell fought off competition with a cheering Charleston and were crowned the Stranmillis Strictly Winners 2017. The night was a roaring success with over £2,000 being raised for Fields of Life, and the evening was topped off by a special guest appearance from 2016 Strictly winners Jason Price and Jenna McAnearney.  

The total raised at the end of Charity Week was an amazing £2,497. This brings our current overall fund raising total to approximately £3000 (half way to our target). All the above would not have been possible without the hard work and support of the Students’ Union executive, the student body, and staff and friends. I express my sincerest thanks for all your support for our charity work and look forward to working with you all at other events throughout the year.’ 


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Two Good News Stories for Computing Education in Northern Ireland

Pictured on the front row of the photo are, left to right – Dr Ian O’Neill, QUB; Mrs Marian O’Neill, Acting Principal De La Salle; Dr Irene Bell; Mr Eamonn O’Hare, Head of Computer Science St Malachy’s High School; Orla O’Neill, Principal of St Malachy’s; Shahneila Saeed, UKIE DSH Programme Director; and Laura Martin, Programme Development Executive for Digital School House.

Friday 10th November saw the formal launch of two new initiatives in computing education which are free to schools in Northern Ireland and which have been introduced to the province by Head of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Stranmillis, Dr Irene Bell. St Malachy’s High School, Castlewellan, was the venue for the launch of UKIE (UK Interactive Entertainment) Digital School House and the Duke of York Award in Digital Literacy.

UKIE’s Digital Schoolhouse, sponsored by PlayStation, SEGA and Warwickshire County Council, uses play-based learning to engage pupils and teachers with computing and computational thinking. Digital Schoolhouse are training and financially supporting three of our schools: St Malachy’s High School Castlewellan, De La Salle College, Belfast and Ballyclare High School. These three digital schoolhouse schools will be supplying teacher and pupil support to over 40 primary schools during this academic year.  The three DSH Schools have been trained in London in innovative and practical resources in the computing classroom while their feeder primary schools will receive professional development for their teachers and exemplar lessons delivered to their pupils on a regular basis throughout the academic year. This will be free to all participating schools. We were delighted to be joined at the launch by Shahneila Saeed, Programme Director, and Laura Martin, Programme Development Executive for Digital School House.

The second announcement was the launch the Duke of York 'Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award' (known as iDEA). This is an innovative Badge Store concept that helps people develop computing and digital skills.  iDEA is the digital and enterprise equivalent of The Duke of Edinburgh Award (the 'digital DoE'). The tutorials and accreditation are completely free and accessible globally on any modern device. Accreditation can be achieved at Bronze, Silver or Gold level.  The challenges are split into core main categories of ‘Citizen’, ‘Worker’, ‘Maker’, ‘Entrepreneur’ and ‘Gamer’. This is a very exciting intervention for Northern Ireland and one which schools have already started to use in their classrooms.


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New Library Mascot – ‘The Great Batsby’!!

ECS Year 1 student Kielyn Smyth, was the winner of a competition which the College Library recently held to name their new mascot.

Library Services Manage Suzanne Johnston said: 'Thanks to all those who participated. We had some super suggestions, but Kielyn's was the most popular by far! She is pictured here with her prize and The Great Batsby himself!'

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Students ‘Rave’ about Play at Ravenscroft!

It was with great enthusiasm that BEd Year 3 students who have chosen the optional module ‘Learning through a Play Based Curriculum’ visited Ravenscroft Nursery School in East Belfast, accompanied by their lecturers Jill Magennis and Diane McClelland. Student Victoria Sheeran reflects on this valued opportunity:

‘On arrival at Ravenscroft Nursery School, the Principal, Nuala Symington greeted and warmly welcomed us. The entrance hall was bright and inviting with displays including children’s work, parental information, the school’s ethos and a digital display showing many of the play experiences at nursery. With excitement we explored both classrooms to engage with a range of play activities where we took notes and pictures of the wide variety of stimulating resources which were set up for the theme of ‘Autumn’/’Halloween’. We investigated a range of activities including sensory areas with sand, rice and jelly, a water tray filled with pumpkin juice, a creative monster-making table, counting activities using spiders/spider webs and a sensory box containing autumn leaves and pine cones. The inside environment provided endless opportunities for purposeful learning through engagement and imagination.

Everyone thought that these activities were amazing and it was brilliant to see the learning mirrored in the outdoor environment also – it was my personal highlight! Where to start?…. there was a sand house, a climbing frame, a mud kitchen, a dressing up hut, a mini assault course and a range of trikes, bikes and scooters. We really enjoyed playing with all of these resources and the benefits were clear to see. The Principal finished by giving us an inspirational presentation on how to make planning effective in line with the Pre-School Curriculum, and also gave further advice on effective play strategies for children aged 3-4 years.

Overall this experience was highly enjoyable, fun and relaxing and I left wishing I was a pupil at Ravenscroft Nursery School!’

Jill Magennis (module coordinator) comments: ‘This experience enabled the students to see in practice a vast array of play resources in this outstanding nursery school. Thank you to Ravenscroft for having us, it was a wonderful opportunity to engage with an enriching early years environment. The students raved about this visit and through their upcoming school placement it is hoped that pupils will be raving about their play too…’

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RE Visit to DCU (or was it Hogwarts?!)

On Wednesday 25th October the Year 2 Primary RE specialism students and some Post-primary RE students set off to Dublin for a day out to Dublin City University! One of the Primary students, Oisin Morgan, reports:

‘When we arrived in All Hallows College at DCU, which could be easily confused for Hogwarts, we were very kindly welcomed to the college for the day. The first session on ‘Godly Play’ was mesmerising – almost literally. Throughout the session, we observed how Godly Play could be brought into our classrooms whilst on placement and further down the line. We witnessed how RE could be brought to life for the children, even through the simple use of sand and wooden stick men in telling the story of Abraham and Sarah.

For me, the session which really intrigued me the most was the session with Dr Anne Lodge, who talked to us about the Irish education system and its many similarities and differences compared to our education system in Northern Ireland. It was incredibly interesting to look at the different structures in place in schools in the Republic and how they compare to our system north of the border; surprisingly they have even more school sectors than we have!

The last session focused primarily on spirituality within RE, which was a session I found very peaceful and reflective. The session enabled us to reflect personally at different prayer stations on different themes based around our fears and how God is with us when we feel alone or have a fear of the unknown, for example. We all found this very insightful and something which we could use ourselves whilst on school-based work.

We all found the day very enjoyable, and it gave us plenty of great ideas to make RE lessons more meaningful, active and enjoyable. We look forward to welcoming the students and staff from DCU to Stranmillis on the 29th November.’

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Facial Hair Growing Competition – all for Charity!
A bunch of smoothies!! Before the big grow! Darren (left) with William, Adrian and Greg.
A bunch of smoothies!! Before the big grow! Darren (left) with William, Adrian and Greg.

Stranmillis porter Darren Booth explains about ‘Growvember’:

‘The National Autism Society “NAS” is a charity very close to my heart. In 2008 my wife Louise and I had a lovely baby girl called Rachel. She was 8 pounds and healthy in every way. However we started to notice she was not meeting her milestones: she had delayed crawling, walking and speech. Her fine and gross motor skills were very poor and she also had poor muscle tone and would fall frequently. By the time she was school age she had been diagnosed with a moderate learning disability and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Five years later, this year she was also diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This was not a surprise to us as parents as the signs were always there and her difficulties were getting more pronounced as she was getting older.

Then we joined NAS! What a fantastic charity for autistic people (including those with Asperger’s syndrome). Based on the charity’s experience, and with support from their members, donors and volunteers, they provide life-changing advice to millions of autistic people. In Northern Ireland NAS provide local specialist help, information and care across the province for autistic children and adults and their families. They offer health and social services, including support in your home, short breaks and respite, social groups, relationship and health education, and parent groups.

Five Stranmillis staff have agreed to take part in a beard-growing competition called “Growvember”. Greg McCready, William McWilliams, Adrian Kennedy, Freddy McFadden and myself are growing our  beards for the month of November and the person with the largest beard at the end of the month will receive a small prize (at a very prestigious award ceremony!).

Collection boxes and donation forms in aid of NAS will be available at the reception desks in Main Building, Central Building, Orchard Building & Stran House. There will also be a ‘Guess the Sweeties in the Sweetie Jar’ competition located at Central Building Reception – it's a small fee to enter and the jar and all its contents will be given to whoever makes the closest guess at the end of the month. November the 28th is the last day to donate.

I have set up a ‘JustGiving’ page for an easy way to donate for the Growvember NAS fundraising. Just click on the link below: .

JustGiving sends your donation straight to NAS and Gift Aid is automatically reclaimed if you are a UK taxpayer, so your donation is worth even more.

Thank you for your support!

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Panto 2017 is Nearly Upon Us!

Cast, Committee and Chorus
Cast, Committee and Chorus

Panto 2017 Producer Cherith Bartley gives us the latest!

Every year, in the first week of December, Stranmillis enters into the magical world of enchanted forests, men dressed in drag, and nonsensical chase scenes. To an outsider, this would seem like a strange university tradition; however, to Stranmillis students, this is Panto! And it’s that time of year again. So bring out the wildly decorated sets, over the top costumes and winning smiles- it’s panto season!

Over the years we have had a wealth of wacky shows, including: Jack and the Beanstalk; Cinderella; Robin Hood; and (most recently), Little Red Riding Hood. This year, the Stranmillis Drama Society is pleased to announce that the production will be the well-known German tale of Hansel and Gretel! With preparations for the show beginning over the summer, a fabulous cast and chorus starting rehearsals at the end of September, alongside a great number of students devoting their time to backstage departments,  it is safe to say that the Panto is the glittering highlight of Semester One.

With 14 shows scheduled from 30th November – 9th December 2017 (6 school shows, 8 public shows), and reaching a total audience of around 3,500, it’s fair to say this is no small production! However, each year we rely heavily on the support of our audiences to come and enjoy all of our hard work. So whether you are a loyal long-time supporter or reading about this show for the first time, we would love you to come and see it! Tickets are now on sale from the Students’ Union Office in Stranmillis House through Gillian Crawford (working hours: 10am-2pm). Ticket prices are the following:
Adult- £10
Child- £7
Group- £7 pp

You can also keep up to date with our rehearsals and key information on our Facebook page ‘Stranmillis Pantomime 2017’. So come along and get involved with the magic and sparkle of Stranmillis Pantomime! If you do, you are sure to be in for a treat… Oh yes you are!

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Effective use of iPads in Teaching and Learning

Year 2 Primary BEd students spent a very engaging day considering how iPads can be used effectively to enhance teaching and learning in the primary classroom. 

Eric McCleery, from Pond Park Primary School, and Andrew Blacoe facilitated practical sessions on using the iPad in effective maths sessions, using ‘Explain Everything’ as an effective teaching tool and they also presented an overview of coding at the primary level.  Three further days for other BEd year groups and PGCE are planned for later in the academic year.

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Stran Rugby Success

Following on from a great 47-34 away win at Dundalk IT last week, King’s Scholars ‘welcomed’ Queen’s SSI XV to their own grounds at The Dub Playing Fields for their second round league game in Student Sport Ireland Division 3 North.

Stran came out of the blocks very quickly and scored three converted tries within the first 15 minutes, and this set the tone or the rest of the game with the whole team contributing to a dynamic style of play that the QUB players simply couldn’t keep up with. The half time score was Scholars 40-0 QUB.

The QUB side had obviously had strong words spoken to them in the half time huddle and brought a lot more fight to the game, but scoring opportunities were hard to come by in the first ten minutes of the second half. However credit is due to QUB as they did score a well worked try of their own, but Scholars kicked on again utilising their strong bench and killed the game off as a contest with some more great scores from all over the park. The Final score was Scholars 74-5 QUB.

It was a wonderful performance from Scholars who look forward to their final league game against Belfast Met on the 8th of November in what is a straight shootout to see who tops the group and progresses to the semi-finals.

However before that is what has been dubbed the biggest game of the season - the ‘Old Boys’ game! Come and see the current squad against a ‘decorated’ side of Scholars alumni on Wednesday November 1st, 6:30pm KO at Malone Rugby Club on the Cregagh Road. All support would be welcomed!

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‘Hello!’ to Our International and Erasmus Student Visitors
Multilingual Stranmillis: Enriching Lives’
Multilingual Stranmillis: Enriching Lives’

We are once again delighted to welcome Erasmus+ and International exchange students from the College’s partner institutions.

This semester we are hosting 41 students from 11 different countries- Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, China and USA. These students enrich the Stranmillis community and broaden our outlook through their involvement across a range of modules and many other activities across College. The majority of Erasmus+/International students take a module in ‘Northern Ireland Culture and Education’, coordinated by Dr John McMullen, which introduces them to the culture, history, geography and education system of NI.

Incoming international students have the opportunity to teach their own language in local primary schools as part of our Primary Languages module, coordinated by Dr Sharon Jones. As part of this programme pupils in our partner primary schools have enjoyed learning a wide range of languages in recent years, including German, French, Spanish, Hungarian, Danish and Mandarin Chinese. The programme also offers the opportunity for these students, together with our home students, to visit both English and Irish Medium schools and experience linguistic diversity in the context of Northern Ireland.

The photo above is called ‘Multilingual Stranmillis: Enriching Lives’. It shows the students holding the word ‘Hello!’ in their language. It was taken so that it could be entered into a national photography exhibition called ‘Understanding our Multilingual World’. The photo has been chosen to be exhibited in four UK cities - Belfast, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Let’s hear from our visiting students about their time here so far in Northern Ireland:

Matthew Sciberras (Malta)
‘Stranmillis has really been my home away from home, providing several opportunities to become engaged, from clubs such as the Stranmillis football team, and societies within the Students’ Union, to academic learning. I never thought I could be so blissful having met countless new people and experiencing so much in a few months in Northern Ireland. The teaching standards are high and it is an absolute pleasure to be part of the Stranmillis family. Beside the academic education, I am gaining learning experiences, lifelong friendships and creating memories that will last a lifetime.’

Annie Rogers (USA)
‘My time in Northern Ireland has been an absolute dream so far! This Oklahoman has fallen in love with the place! The scenery is breath-taking and all of the people have been incredibly kind. While here I have been able to get involved in things like the Christian Union and also have been given the role of Narrator in the Stranmillis Pantomime. Pantomimes do not exist in the States, so experiencing this part of European culture has been a real joy and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Everything is brand new and at times a little scary but I couldn’t have asked for a better place and a better group of people to be doing this semester with in Northern Ireland. So, as the Irish say, “It’s been a real craic”.

Sara Silva (Spain)
‘What´s the craic?’ This was the first question I was greeted with when I arrived and I didn´t understand it! Now I am getting used to all those brilliant Irish expressions. Beautiful landscapes, raining all day, having a nice beer with live Irish music and leaves in all streets – these are images for me of Belfast so far in the two months since I arrived here. The most shocking aspect of living in here has been how friendly people are and I am sure I will remember everything I learn in NI.’

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Stranmillis and Singapore Talk SEN

Stranmillis was delighted to welcome a visiting delegation from the Special Education Branch of the Ministry of Education in Singapore for a short visit to the College.

The delegation was led by Mr Bernard Chew, Director of Special Education, who is responsible for overseeing all government-funded special education schools and for the development and implementation of national special education policies.

Mr Chew and his team -   Dr Ho Soo Wee, Ms Neo Sin Ni and Ms Joey Hng - enjoyed a presentation by Dr Noel Purdy on our comprehensive SEN teaching at undergraduate, postgraduate and CPD level, as well as information about the College’s latest SEN-related research and scholarship.  Following the presentation, the team had the opportunity over coffee to discuss common areas of interest and potential collaboration with some of the College’s internationally recognised SEN specialist academic staff.

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ECS Part Time Year 2 Marshmallow Challenge!

The task was simple: in eighteen minutes, teams of Year 2 ECS part-time students had to build the tallest free-standing structure out of twenty sticks of spaghetti, one metre of string, one metre of masking tape and one marshmallow. 

As part of the ‘Children’s Learning Intentions’ module Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond felt that, “It was important to get teams into a creative frame of mind and to encourage them to think about what it takes to dramatically increase innovation and motivation.  The Marshmallow Challenge is a fun activity for all ages that engages all participants in problem solving and collaboration as teams try to build the largest free standing spaghetti structure”.

This activity has been widely conducted all over the world with different age groups.  The learning intention is the ability of participants to work in a cohesive team, to work interdependently and cooperatively and to accomplish their purpose and goal.  Communication, creativity, building trust, promoting a sense of ownership, and the encouragement of healthy risk taking were all contributing skills developed to improve motivation and productivity. There was the recognition and understanding of viewpoints with the appreciation of each other’s contribution.  Each team’s spirit was the key to their successful construction and the overall team’s winning effort topped out at 63cm tall!! This experience went from an ‘oh – oh’, to a ‘ta – da’ moment.

This has been an active learning, critical thinking and decision making fun module intention which ECS Year 2 students can recreate in various age-appropriate ways in their classrooms and work environments with the children in their care. It will be interesting to witness the results in their ECS environments as sometimes the younger we are, the more creative we are!

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ECS Year 1 “Jumping for Joy” at Corrymeela

Early Childhood Studies lecturer Brenda McKay-Redmond describes a successful team-building away day at the Corrymeela Centre on the north coast:

‘Year 1 students on the Early Childhood Studies degree have embarked on a new, significant period of transition in their lives from home and school to university life. This adjustment means moving from one environment to another, involves lots of new experiences, meeting new people, coping with changes in relationships and in routine events and leaving their ‘comfort zone’ to encounter the unknown. This fresh opportunity is undoubtedly an exciting time, with new people working together, undergoing a time of growth and development. Embracing this, ECS students and tutors headed to Corrymeela near Ballycastle for a team-building away day to explore aspects of their identity as they form into a supportive community of learners.

Corrymeela is a place of gathering, work and discussion, bringing people of different backgrounds, different political and religious beliefs and different identities together. The name Corrymeela comes from its neighbouring townland, Corrymellagh, in the parish of Culfeightrin.  Culfeightrin means in Irish ‘The Corner of the Stranger’. It’s a place where differing groups, strangers to each other, are offered the opportunity to cross over into another space.  Corrymeela is for people of all ages and traditions who, individually and together, are committed to the healing of social, religious and political divisions that exist in Northern Ireland and throughout the world.

The focus of the event was to help our students to live and learn well together. This will then be emulated in their future work with young children as Early Years Practitioners (EYPs) throughout their degree studies. The EYPs will influence the way children will learn to communicate and form relationships with others in the future.  By modelling trust and clear communication, listening closely to a child and valuing who they are, EYPs will be role models of healthy interactions for that child.

Head of Department Ms Sheelagh Carville accompanied the students and other staff members who attended. She was particularly impressed by the multi-national team of facilitators who worked with the new ECS students. These Corrymeela staff designed group sessions, experiential play, art and dialogue in order to get the students to look at issues that impact young children, and especially how effective communication and engagement with children requires each of us to think about how we help children establish effective communication. From the most ‘everyday’ greetings and acknowledgements, through to more complex interactions and professional interventions, we communicate in different ways and with different purposes and intentions.

After welcomes, introductions and ice breakers, small teams worked on their listening and communication skills through games called ‘Raising the Sun’, ‘Skis and Maze’, ‘Spider’s Web’ and ‘Sheep and Shepherd’, and there were definitely some strange sheep and shepherds wandering the grounds! 
The students learned that as effective practitioners, the opinions, aspirations, perspectives and views of colleagues and children are unique and valuable.  Listening enables us to see the world from another’s perspective and promoting a participatory approach may help improve the quality of life experiences for young children.  The experience at Corrymeela will help to lay the foundations for ECS Students as they become thoughtful, reflective, strong and competent individuals who can make a real difference in the lives of the children and families with whom they work.
After ‘jumping for joy’ back onto the bus for Stranmillis, we left Corrymeela enriched and ready for the challenges of the degree!’

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Lucy Coburn and Ciara Corr
Lucy Coburn and Ciara Corr
Megan Wilson and Hannah Barnes
Megan Wilson and Hannah Barnes

The Undergraduate Awards are advertised each year in Stranmillis as staff encourage students to submit their work. This year an unprecedented FOUR Stranmillis students were ‘Highly Commended’.

The Awards give undergraduate students the chance to have their work anonymously assessed by an independent and international panel of judges. UA started in 2009 with a mission to recognise great undergraduate coursework in Ireland, but has since expanded worldwide. Being named a Global Winner, Regional Winner or a Highly Commended entrant means that the students’ work has been identified as the best in their field, compared to global undergraduate coursework.

For the academic year 2016/2017, The Undergraduate Awards Programme received 6,432 submissions from students in 299 institutions across 47 countries in 25 different subject/area categories.

Lucy Coburn

Last year Lucy Coburn was a Year 4 Post-primary Technology & Design student at Stranmillis, and not only was she ‘Highly Commended’ in the Education category of the Awards, but she also won the Regional Award in that category for the island of Ireland. Under the supervision of tutor, Dr Michael Ievers, Lucy’s submission was a re-working of her dissertation entitled, ‘Is Enough Done to Incorporate Literacy into Technology and Design?’
Lucy was delighted by the news of her success: “With Technology and Design as my main subject and English as my subsidiary subject, when it came to picking a topic for my dissertation, I knew that the incorporation of literacy into Technology and Design was the area I wanted to research further. No matter the subject, literacy forms an integral part of every lesson you teach.  As George Sampson (1921) stated, ‘Every teacher is a teacher of English because every teacher is a teacher in English.’ I am now a fully qualified teacher with my own classes in St Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt, and I strive to promote literacy within my classroom, regardless of the subject I am teaching.”

Ciara Corr

Patricia Corrigan, Senior Lecturer in Business and Enterprise suggested to final year BEd Post-primary student Ciara Corr that she should submit her Business Strategy Report to the UA’s Business category. Her report investigated the future strategic direction of Ryanair – a very topical issue!!
Ciara said: ‘I am truly overwhelmed with this achievement. Submitting my work has created more opportunities. All highly commended students receive a certificate commending their work, access to the Alumni Portal and an invitation to the Global Summit, a three-day event in Dublin. This recognition has boosted my confidence in my ability to pursue my goals. Therefore my advice to other students would be submit your work and believe in yourself. I cannot thank Stranmillis enough for the support and opportunities available.'

Two Primary BEd students whose dissertations were supervised by Dr Richard Greenwood reached the ‘Highly Commended’ stage. Both were on aspects of Outdoor Learning. Dr Greenwood is one of the Undergraduate Award judges for the Education category, but he quickly had to ‘declare an interest’ and withdraw from the judging process when he realised he was reading some familiar material!!

Megan Wilson

Megan commented: ‘It’s been really affirming to have my work recognised by the Undergraduate Awards. My dissertation was based on my experience as an Erasmus student in Norway in Year 3 as I contrasted Norwegian teachers’ perceptions of outdoor learning in Norway with those of teachers in Northern Ireland. Achieving a ‘Highly Commended’ status for my research has validated my interest in outdoor learning and has further motivated me to continue working in this area! Having already completed my dissertation, the process of submitting it to the UA was relatively simple, I just had to reduce my word count to fit their criteria! Following that I didn’t expect too much to come from my submission, so it was fantastic to be recognised. Currently I am working as an Education Assistant for the National Trust at Mount Stewart, where we are in the process of planning an outdoor learning programme for primary school pupils, focused on the conservation of the red squirrel and the estate’s natural woodland. Through this work I am able to put the recommendations of my dissertation in to practice, and I can see first-hand the positive impact of outdoor learning on primary school pupils!'

Hannah Barnes

Hannah responded: ‘I was pleased to be asked to submit my dissertation on KS2 educators’ perceptions of outdoor learning. It was most definitely worth cutting the essay down- although it was a difficult task to cut it almost in a half. Receiving the recognition of being ‘highly commended’ amongst a global pool of essays has been a great achievement for me.
My dissertation has been helpful, as I have now gained part-time employment with Speedwell, an organisation dedicated to outdoor learning. I also teach P6/P7 in Orchard County Primary School as a job share.’

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Library Open Again and Emma’s Top Award!

Stranmillis Library Services Manager Suzanne Johnston reports on the Library re-opening and a top award for one of her staff:

‘Over the summer months, the Library underwent some essential maintenance work and the team is now delighted to welcome students and staff back to the new improved facility. The new look library includes a range of zoned study spaces, a new ceiling with bright modern lighting and additional study stations on the upper floor. Thank you for bearing with us throughout the closure - please call in and let us know what you think.

In addition, a member of our team has claimed a top award in recognition of excellence in Library and Information Management. The award, sponsored by law firm Allen & Overy, was received by Library Assistant Emma Edgar who was the top performing student in a two-year Postgraduate Diploma at the University of Ulster this year.’

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ECS Degree gets Royal Approval!

Staff from the Early Childhood Studies Department commenced a year of celebration to mark the coming of age of the ECS degree at Stranmillis University College.

In 2017 / 2018 the College celebrates 21 years of this ground-breaking degree. ECS staff marked the occasion by attending the Secretary of State’s Royal Garden Party at Hillsborough on Thursday 7th September in the presence of His Royal Highness, Prince Harry.

The ECS degree began in 1996 as a part-time programme providing an avenue for knowledgeable practitioners to professionalise their Early Years expertise. The first full time cohort commenced their studies in 2000 and ever since then the degree has been producing highly qualified professionals for the field of education and care of young children.

With Prince Harry attending the garden party this year, not even the torrential rain could dampen the party atmosphere! Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire PC MP, wished the team well as Sheelagh Carville, Head of Early Childhood Studies, explained that the occasion was a fitting start to the year of celebration which will see a diverse range of events taking place for staff, students and past graduates alike.

Over 1400 graduates have achieved the BA (Hons) ECS degree over the last 21 years and we know they are all celebrating with us today”, Dr Barbara McConnell, Senior Lecturer from the ECS degree commented. “Although the weather and the wet grass ruined many pairs of shoes, it could not dampen our spirits as we marked this special anniversary for the ECS degree in Stranmillis!”

Watch out for further celebration events this year.

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Greenpower ‘Docendo Racing’ in China!

Above: Mr Hong Yu, Michael Shaw, Mr Zhang (The CEO of Greenpower China) and Anthony McGill at the Greenpower China Headquarters. Below: at the Bird’s Nest Stadium
Above: Mr Hong Yu, Michael Shaw, Mr Zhang (The CEO of Greenpower China) and Anthony McGill at the Greenpower China Headquarters. Below: at the Bird’s Nest Stadium

During the summer break Anthony McGill and Michael Shaw from the successful Greenpower ‘Docendo Racing’ team were studying in Beijing, China as part of the ‘Study China’ programme.

Anthony was a BEd Maths/Science student; he graduated in July but is returning to College to do a full time Master’s degree. Michael is a Technology and Design student who is starting Year 3 of his degree at Stranmillis.

Whilst in China, they also had the opportunity to connect with ‘Greenpower China’, a motorsport driven initiative which works to inspire young engineers in the classroom. They met with Mr. Zhang from the Greenpower China company and were invited to Beijing National Stadium, also known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’, to discuss how the Greenpower programme benefits pupils in education and how it could be further improved to develop a STEM-literate society within schools in both the UK and China.

Anthony and Michael were also invited to the China Automotive Engineering Research Institute where both parties had the opportunity to discuss some interesting new ideas in bringing engineering to all pupils. Anthony and Michael are looking forward to working together in the near future.


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Jason is on Top of the Drum Majoring World!

Recent Stranmillis graduate Jason Price from Portadown was recently declared the “2017 Senior WORLD Champion Drum Major” at the World Pipe Band and Drum Major Championships at Glasgow Green on Saturday August 12.

Jason, representing Ravara Pipe Band, began drum majoring at the age of 14 and has just completed his eighth competitive season. He is a British champion (2013), Scottish Champion (2013), European Champion (2013 & 2017), All-Ireland Champion (2013, 2016 & 2017) and now a double World champion (2013 & 2017). Jason was also awarded the ‘Champion of Champions’ award this year for both Northern Ireland and Scotland and therefore will take on the role of Senior Drum Major for the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, Northern Ireland Branch, in 2018. 

With the competitive season now drawn to a close, Jason took part in the Belfast Tattoo at the SSE Arena, Belfast between 31st August and 2nd September as part of the massed pipes and drums. He will also take part in the Glasgow tattoo at the beginning of February 2018.

Jason displayed his drum majoring skills at the Music@Stran concert last May. Now graduated, he is beginning his first teaching post this September at the Birches Primary School, Portadown, teaching Primary 6.


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Lifelong Learning Tutor Launches Her Debut Novel

Stranmillis Lifelong Tutor Sharon Dempsey has launched her first novel ‘Little Bird’.

Little Bird is a gritty crime thriller set in her home city, introducing forensic psychologist Declan Wells to Belfast's dark crime world who teams up with Welsh detective Anna Cole as he tries to find the serial killer who murdered his daughter before his killing spirals goes out of control. After being awarded funding from the Arts Council of NI, Sharon was mentored by the Irish crime writer Louise Phillips for the writing of Little Bird.

Sharon is an experienced community arts facilitator who is passionate about books, writing and encouraging creativity in others. Her new Lifelong Learning course at Stranmillis is called ‘The Art of Journaling’. It is aimed at those looking for an outlet for their creativity, but are unsure of where to start. The course takes the form of art journaling workshops which encourage self-exploration and creative self-expression. The workshops will use both creative writing and multi-media art to create a journal, reflecting on participants’ lives.

Though the use of mixed media, prompts and a variety of resources, participants are invited to explore their creativity in a supportive environment.
Sharon will be joined by illustrator Katie Kelly, and together they will help those taking the course to develop their own personalised family heirloom.

You can read more about Sharon Dempsey and ‘Little Bird’ in an online Irish News article at  

and in a Belfast Telegraph article at:

To find out more about the Journaling course, go to  … Lifelong Learning and download the 2017-18 programme.

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Quality Childminding in Practice

On the evening of Monday 19th June a special research workshop on quality childminding took place at Stranmillis.

Several stakeholders with an interest in the profession of childminding attended the event, including representatives from the Northern Ireland Childminding Association (NICMA), Employers for Childcare, social services, local further education colleges, Stranmillis University College staff and of course childminders themselves.

Rosemary Snodden, lecturer at Belfast Met and part-time childminder, opened the event with an interesting insight into her personal journey working as a childminder. A presentation entitled ‘Quality and Diversity in Childminding’ by Dr Lynn Ang and Dr Glenda Walsh then followed. Dr Lynn Ang is a Reader in Early Childhood Education at the Institute of Education, University College London and Glenda is Head of Early Years Education at Stranmillis University College.  Key topics explored within their presentation included a synopsis of existing evidence within the field of quality childminding and an examination of childminding practices in England, Japan and Northern Ireland. The evening ending with a rich discussion about quality childminding in practice.

It was a really interesting event that we thoroughly enjoyed’ (Aoife Hamilton, Policy and Information Manager, Employers for Childcare).

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From ‘Student 5061’ to the House of Lords

Top: Lord Maginnis in the College Hall.        Bottom: College Chairman Prof Sir Desmond Rea, Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, Lord Maginnis, Dr Anne Heaslett and Rev Dr Tom Boyle
Top: Lord Maginnis in the College Hall. Bottom: College Chairman Prof Sir Desmond Rea, Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, Lord Maginnis, Dr Anne Heaslett and Rev Dr Tom Boyle

Stranmillis University College was delighted to welcome back for a visit one of its distinguished Alumni, Lord Ken Maginnis.

While attending a special alumni event, Lord Maginnis, who entered Stranmillis as student in 1956, visited the College Hall, which was built after the war as a temporary building.  The enthusiastic, young Ken Maginnis, and many thousands of Stranmillis students since then, have sat their exams in that building. As well as being one of the first, Lord Maginnis will be one of the last to sit in its exam seats; the very last students to sit exams in College Hall were nervously waiting in the foyer as he left. After 70 years of use, the ‘temporary’ College Hall has finally closed its doors, awaiting demolition.

As he sat in his exam seat then, it would never have crossed the mind of student 5061 that some 60 years after he entered the gates of Stranmillis he would come back to the College bearing the distinguished title of Major Kenneth Wiggins Maginnis, Baron Maginnis of Drumglass.

After graduating, Lord Maginnis went on to teach for 24 years - as a teacher at Cookstown Secondary School, Drumglass Primary School, and as principal of Pomeroy Primary School from 1966 to 1982 – before swapping the school bench for the benches of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. As Principal of Stranmillis University College, Dr Anne Heaslett, pointed out, “Lord Maginnis is a great example of how four years at Stranmillis and a career in the classroom prepares you for anything!”

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75 Years Old and Still Looking Immaculate

The outgoing Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rt. Rev Dr Frank Sellar, has very kindly donated his mother’s Stranmillis blazer to the College.

Yes, university students wore uniforms back then!  Miss Roberta Turtle, as she was then, was a student at Stranmillis during the Second World War years, when the College and its student body were temporarily relocated from Belfast to the ‘luxuries’ of Fawcett’s Hotel in Portrush!

Speaking about his mother, The Rev Sellar recounted: “My mother was the sixth out of eight children born on a farm in Rathkenny. There she had to play her part in digging and sacking potatoes and gathering flax. Her first school was Killygore, which she attended until she was nine. Then she moved to Ballymena Model which she enjoyed. At the age of 13, she got a scholarship to Ballymena Academy and from there won a pupil teachership to Stranmillis College, where she studied from 1942-45. Since the College was evacuated from Belfast during the war, the students were resident in Fawcett’s Hotel in Portrush. They were jealous of the boys from Campbell College who were located across the road in the Northern Counties Hotel, since they had a swimming pool!”

Her first job was in a two teacher school at Ballyrashane, with a coal stove in the middle of the classroom. She cycled out from her digs in Coleraine every day, in all weathers, but refused to go to the outside toilet at school for fear of seeing a rat. One day a handsome art advisor from the Co. Londonderry Education Committee visited the school and that led to romance with Robert G Sellar, ARUA, the famous artist and lino cutter. They got married on 12th April 1955 and set up home in Coleraine. Mum continued to teach first at The Hon. The Irish Society School where Mr Rea was the Principal and then with Miss Morrison who became the first Headmistress of DH Christie Memorial School. She loved bringing the best out of her pupils and particularly training them in elocution and entry into the Coleraine speech and music festival, gaining the letters LLCM after her name.”

Robert and Roberta had two sons: Peter William, who became an ophthalmic surgeon and Francis Paul, who became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 2016. Our sincere thanks go to Rev Sellar for donating the blazer, which will be encased and displayed in Stranmillis House as an ongoing reminder of our history.

Time to bring back uniforms for students at Stran?

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Graduate Internship Presentations

On 9th June the College held its fifth Graduate Internship Presentations in the Moses Hill Room, Stranmillis House.  Guests from partner organisations and College mentors attended to celebrate the accomplishments of the eight interns. 

In order to complete the final element of their Learning Agreement, the interns were required to make individual presentations to demonstrate personal and professional learning from the work they had undertaken during the period of their internship.  In her words of welcome, Dr Anne Heaslett (Principal) highlighted the significance of the Graduate Internship Programme to the enhancement of employment opportunities for graduates, while meeting the needs of the College and a number of its key stakeholders. 

Mr Robert Thompson, Chair of the Governing Body Education Committee, was delighted to present the awards.  In his concluding speech, he reminisced about his personal time of study at Stranmillis, remarking that the incredible learning opportunities shared by the Graduate Interns simply did not exist when he was entering the profession.  He also congratulated the College and its partners for their creative diligence in the range of projects available to graduating students.

Also speaking at the event were Claire Humphrey, Barnardo’s Children’s Services Manager and Karen Stevenson, Vice-Principal at Dundonald Primary School, who both highly commended the interns who worked with them in their respective organisations.

Forty Stranmillis graduates have benefited from the programme since it started in 2012.  Six have completed their Master of Education qualification, while others are still pursuing postgraduate qualifications. We wish them every success for their onward journeys.

Jayne Patterson: Widening Participation Intern
Adam Leahy: International Student Wellbeing Intern
Roisin McAllister and Jordan Smyth: Barnardo’s Newtownabbey Family Connection Interns
Emma Hilman and Nathan Montgomery: Barnardo’s East Belfast Family Connections Interns
Katie Best: Dundonald Primary School Raising Educational Outcomes for Underachievers in Literacy Intern
Megan Kerr: Dundonald Art & Design Internship

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Stranmillis Summer School: ‘Christianity and Culture’

All of us in the worlds of education, literature and the arts are culture-makers. What is the relevance, if any, of Christian faith and values to what we do? Come and explore at the inaugural Stranmillis Summer School, ‘Christianity and Culture’, Tuesday 27th to Thursday 29th June, 2017.

The Stranmillis University College community is honoured to welcome an excellent line-up of key contributors including: educationalists Professor David Smith (Calvin College, USA) and Professor John Shortt (Liverpool Hope University, UK); literary historian Professor Crawford Gribben (Queen’s University Belfast); artist and sculptor Ross Wilson, and Jonathan Rea, Creative Director, New Irish Arts. A blend of keynote lectures, seminars and discussion panels across three days will address literature (Tuesday 27th June Reading and Writing), education (Wednesday 28th June, Learning and Teaching) and the Arts (Thursday 29th June, Creating and Worshipping).

To mark this first Stranmillis Summer School we are delighted to be hosting a Gala Concert, ‘An Evening with Members of New Irish Choir and Orchestra and Youth Choir’, on the evening of Thursday 29th June at 8.00pm in the College Drama Theatre.

The Summer School programme can be found here:

and registration for the Summer School and the Gala concert is open here:

Plan to join us!

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Three in a Row for Docendo Racing

For the third consecutive year the Docendo Racing Team comprised of students from both the primary and post-primary BEd Degree programmes has been successful in the Greenpower 24+ electric car racing event at Kirkistown Race track.

The winning team members were Anthony McGill, Ryan Litter, Naoise McSherry, Peter Soutar and  Michael Shaw. In addition to receiving silverware for their racing, the students received the ‘Spirit of Greenpower’ award for their contribution to schools in Northern Ireland and for raising the profile of engineering in schools. Using an education programme where children design, build and race single seat electric vehicles as inspiration, the Docendo Racing team have been assisting teachers in local schools to explore topics such as road safety, materials, electric circuits, gears and ratios.  One of the team, Anthony McGill, has also been researching the impact that this programme has on pupil learning, with some very encouraging results.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) ‘Formula Goblin’, ‘Formula 24’ and 'Formula 24+’ encourage pupils to build kit cars in primary schools using simple tools, and leads on to pupils using cutting edge computer aided design software, materials and building techniques in post-primary school, college and university to build their own highly efficient electric cars.

To read more about Greenpower’s work to advance education to young people in the subjects of sustainable engineering and technology go to:  

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Aisling’s Success at the RDS Science Fair

Above right: Aisling with the All Children's IPS pupils and Teaching Assistant Mrs Magennis
Above right: Aisling with the All Children's IPS pupils and Teaching Assistant Mrs Magennis

The P6 scientists from All Children’s Integrated Primary School Newcastle, led by Year 3 BEd Primary student Aisling Pell, were among the winners at the RDS Science Fair held recently at the Waterfront Conference Centre in Belfast.

This was the first time the Science Fair had come north and the event attracted over 50 primary schools from all over Ireland. Aisling describes her experience.

‘The class decided to investigate “Where is the best location to place a wind turbine in our school?” The Primary 6 pupils were extremely keen to investigate a sustainable way in which to make their school more eco-friendly by using renewable energy. The children predicted possible windy places and sought opinions from various people in the school community and created an iMovie of opinions. The pupils then conducted a wind sensory walk throughout the school grounds and agreed on the three windiest places based on observation and experience. The class led the investigation and decided on group and individual roles such as a team leader, scribe, reporter and photographer. They recorded the voltage generated by small wind turbines connected to a voltmeter positioned at the three windiest places in the school grounds. Each location was tested and recorded at the same time, and repeated. The children then created tables and bar charts to display and analyse the data and reach a valid conclusion. The class concluded that the windiest place in the school grounds is between the pitch and outdoor staircase.The pupils’ investigation received excellent feedback from the judges and they did a fantastic job explaining and presenting their work to the other school teachers and pupils. The young scientists received a trophy and class certificates and badges. A great day was had by all involved and the Primary 6 pupils did their class and school proud. The pupils now only have to convince their principal to take on this eco-friendly project, based on their evidence and findings!’

Aisling’s innovative approach to teaching and her contribution to staff development in the school have been accredited by the Primary Science Teaching Trust’s ‘Stranmillis Student Teachers’ College’ which is included within the College’s Degree Enhancement programme. Well done Aisling!


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Critical Writing Prize 2017
Jennifer Swann
Jennifer Swann
Fiona Gibson
Fiona Gibson

Two Primary BEd students, Jennifer Swann and Fiona Gibson, have had essays shortlisted as two of the best essays received in the UK-wide Critical Writing Prize 2017, awarded by Critical Publishing, a Cheshire-based publishing company who provide books and ebooks for educators, students and practitioners in the education and social work sectors.

In order to recognise the achievements of the winners and shortlisted students, Critical Publishing have collaborated with TEAN (the Teacher Education Advancement Network) and arranged for all such shortlisted essays to appear in a special edition of their STeP (Student Teacher Perspectives) journal.

Jennifer Swann has just completed Year 4. Her essay was entitled “Separation and Divorce in the Primary School: A critical consideration of the nature, incidence and impact on children, and possible school responses, both proactive and reactive”.  It had originally been submitted as part of the assessment for her Year 4 Education Studies module ‘Contemporary Issues in Pastoral Care’, taught by Dr Noel Purdy.
Jennifer commented: ‘The incidence of separation and divorce has increased over time and is an issue which many children have to deal with. Although some may argue that it is a private family matter, the day to day contact which teachers have with pupils puts them in an ideal position to support children through this difficult time. Researching the topic helped to develop my understanding of the impact that separation and divorce can have on children in terms of behaviour and academic performance, but it has also made me feel better equipped to support children who are experiencing parental separation and divorce. I discovered a number of strategies, both proactive and reactive, that teachers can employ in the classroom. There is no single or universal response and children can react very differently, so having a portfolio of strategies that I can refer to in the future, if and when needed, is extremely useful.’

Fiona Gibson has completed Year 2. Her essay focussed on the potential for Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities to enhance pupil project/ topic work, especially geography- and history- based topics. It was part an assignment for the Year 2 Area of Specialism Geography/ History module taught by Dr Richard Greenwood.
Fiona said: ‘The development of pupils' critical thinking skills in education and the integration of the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities Framework into the Northern Ireland Curriculum is an area of great interest to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed the process of preparing for and writing this essay. Evaluating the research into the benefits of incorporating thinking skills into my planning (specifically within World Around Us topic work), and reflecting on the approaches observed in practice was especially insightful in helping me better understand the importance of the framework within the curriculum, and has influenced how I include thinking skills in my own planning.’

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Taughmonagh PS Go Back in Time 100 Years!

On Tuesday 6th of June, four Year 4 students whose Area of Specialism is History/Geography plus their lecturers Dr Richard Greenwood and Dr Anita Gracie as well as the Widening Participation intern and administrator Jayne Patterson and Emma McKelvey accompanied P6 pupils and their teachers from Taughmonagh Primary School to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra.

The children first got to see what a classroom would have been like in Ulster 100 years ago: learning cursive handwriting with ink dipping pens, reciting their times tables and singing their “Doh, Re, Mis”. Despite the teacher’s strictness, shouting and swishing his cane about, the pupils all seemed to enjoy their historical school experience. After that, the group split in two for workshops on straw-weaving where they made straw knots to wear to the harvest supper, and soda bread making where they watched bread being baked on a griddle over an open fire (and got to taste some freshly baked and buttered). After lunch the whole group rambled around the rural section of the museum looking at farm houses, kitchen gardens and farm machinery from 100 years ago.

The following day back in Stranmillis, the pupils completed a number of activities planned by the students based on their day at the museum. They enjoyed outdoor learning in the woods on the campus where they used natural materials to recreate a ‘farm from long ago’ and in the ICT suite, they completed an interactive worksheet on where food would have come from in the past. The pupils also used an iPad app to create a comic-book story of their visit to the museum. After lunch there was just time for a quick relay race to find matching modern objects for the artefacts in Dr Gracie’s basket. Then there was the presentation of certificates in the sunshine on the green in front of Stranmillis House before the pupils were away on the bus, back to their 21st century school after what was a memorable and enjoyable experience of life 100 years ago.

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Celebrating Boys, Fathers and Men in Early Childhood.

ECS lecturer Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond and Year 3 part-time student Aidan Devlin were invited to be guest speakers for the Education Training Inspectorate (ETI) at the Early Years International Professional Practice Conference 2017 at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle.

The conference programme this year was specifically chosen to celebrate and reflect on the support provided to boys, fathers, significant males and the strategies which Early Years settings have in place to attract and make visible the male staff working across the Early Years sector.

The conference opened with a keynote address from Dr Jan Peeters who is director of VBJK, Centre for Innovation in the Early Years at Ghent University in Belgium.  Dr Peeters gave an overview of initiatives in different countries that developed professionalism in early childhood education and care which have been more attractive for men and which could lead to a greater gender balance in early childhood education and care. 

In the ETI Masterclass, Dr McKay-Redmond, representing the ECS department at Stranmillis, presented key facts and research concerning male Early Years practitioners (EYPs). Since the ECS full time programme began in 2000, 13 males so far have graduated.  The academic intake of males in 2016 – 2017 was one full time and one part time student, although there are potentially four males in the next academic cohort.  The current EU Policy is that there should be a 20% male workforce in Early Years by 2020. Males are an absent minority in Early Years in Ireland, estimated to be less than 1% of the workforce, while in the UK as a whole the figure is less than 3%.  Only in Norway, Denmark and recently Turkey has the figure become more than 5% (OECD, 2014).

The Masterclass then heard from Mr Aidan Devlin, a current ECS part time Year 3 student.  Aidan informed the audience of his Early Years journey and his current role as an EY practitioner.  After his A Level studies he started on a nursing course in learning disabilities and he especially enjoyed the work experience with the children and adults.  However this was not the career for him, and after working in bars for a number of years he worked voluntarily at Matt Talbot Nursery School in Belfast.  It was here that he cemented his passion for working with young children and in 2012 he was successful in gaining a temporary classroom assistant’s job in Harberton School in Belfast.  He has worked mainly with male children aged 4-8 years of age who have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Aidan builds up a trusting and positive relationship with the children in his care and then follows each child’s Individual Learning Plan.  Aidan studies part time at Stranmillis and feels that the ECS degree programme gives him greater focus and emphasis on the purpose of his role in work.  Aidan has just completed an Erasmus semester in Umea University in Sweden where he worked in a nursery school with children aged 0 – 6 years of age.  He has just secured full time permanent employment at Harberton. 

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Eye4Education Transition Project

Transition from Primary to Post-primary school can be a stressful event for all Primary 7 pupils. Here at Stranmillis University College we offered a transition programme about gaining an insight into life as a post-primary school pupil to eight P7 classes from six schools: Rathcoole, Taughmonagh, Holy Rosary, Whitehouse, Hollybank and Elmgrove.

Within the programme provided by ‘Big Ted’ from Eye4Education there were two main workshops. Firstly, the ‘Trans4mers’ workshop aimed to highlight the transitional change from Primary to Post-primary school. The programme looked at the impact on the pupils’ future daily lives before, during and after school. Main aspects that were focused on included networking and making new friends and the idea of timetabling.

Secondly, in the ‘Health 4 Life’ workshop the P7 pupils were introduced to health and well-being while engaging them in the concepts of being proactive in leading balanced and healthy lifestyles. Children were getting focused on five themes of having a healthy life: Social, Physical, Emotional, Cognitive and Spiritual.

The children had a fantastic day and really enjoyed experiencing a ‘mini university’ day. Below are some responses from the children involved in the programme:

“I really enjoyed learning about what high school experience is going to be like and learning about my healthy eating plate and making the character Stanley healthy.”

“I liked the school planner because it shows what normal planners at your new secondary school will be like.”

“I liked the activities today but my favourite was the timetabling because we had to make time for everything.”

“I enjoyed helping Stanley get fit and healthy and also learning about the eating chart.”

“The thing I liked the most was… EVERYTHING!”


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Taughmonagh Coding @ Stran

On Monday 5th June, Taughmonagh Primary School’s 5s came to Stranmillis to experience a little bit of website coding with HTML.

The children arrived at 10:00am ready to begin their day as “coders”.

College lecturer Ian Simons introduced the idea of experiencing “A Day in the Life of a Coder” and the children were soon on their way to writing code. Using various resources and Viking characters to help them, the children began by inputting some text and followed up by changing font style, size and even colours in making their very own websites. Before long the websites were shaping up with information and pictures for everyone to see. Some children showed real talent and interest; they became consultants for the rest of the class, helping them to move on with their coding and building their website.

Both children and teachers had an excellent day learning new skills and many children commented that they wanted to be a coder when they grow up - a very exciting and worthwhile profession!

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Stranmillis University College expresses deepest sympathies to the family of Queen’s Vice Chancellor

It was with shock and regret that the College learned of the sudden death of Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University. The College’s Governing Body, staff and students wish to convey our deepest sympathy to his wife and family.

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Barnardo’s Family Day

On Thursday 11th May Stranmillis welcomed a large number of families from the Tullycarnet and Newtownabbey community areas.

Children along with their families arrived onto campus at 10:00am where they were greeted with a motivational talk from our very own Mr Andy Brown. This was followed by some refreshments before tackling “Cardiac Hill” to make our way to the College Hall where there were four exciting zones set up and ready for action.

There was a Science Zone with a number of interesting experiments, such a making a rainbow in water with skittles, and home-made lava lamps.

In the Technology Zone children and parents made their own ‘goo’ using different ingredients.

There was also an Art Zone with lots of creative goings-on. Here the children made wind chimes out of recycled materials that would normally be thrown out.

Finally, in the Maths Zone there were a number of fun activities - from measuring the children’s height compared to a giraffe, to estimating how far a beanbag could be thrown.

The fantastic family day was rounded off with a yummy lunch and some fun on the Green with certificates presented to all the children and their families.

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Business Education Partnership STEM Event

More than 120 pupils from all the Special Schools in the Education Authority Belfast Region recently attended a fun packed STEM event in St Gerard’s School in Belfast.

The event was organised by Business in the Community and Belfast Special Schools Business Education Partnership (BESS BEP) and staff and students from Stranmillis University College were delighted to support it. The pupils attending had a range of physical and learning difficulties but every pupil had the opportunity to engage and interact in chemistry, physics, robotics and maths activities. We were delighted to be joined by Dr Usha Rajdev, our STEM partner from Marymount University.

The aim of the event was to engage young people in activities which demonstrate the skills which may be required once they make the transition to employment.  The emphasis was very much on a ‘hands on’, interactive approach, which may ignite a spark of interest in something new, or reinforce an option already considered. As with all learning, it had to be fun, engaging and sometimes the experiments almost seemed like magic!

The first picture on the right shows Claire Rattray and some pupils going through the stages of objective ... hypothesis ... results... and conclusion to discover which substance is best for cleaning old coins. The seond picture shows Peter Soutar and Anthony McGill explaining how to make an electro magnet.

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Exciting Win for Kings’ Scholars

On a bright May evening the Stranmillis rugby team, Kings’ Scholars, came together for what was their last game of the season against a very talented UU outfit. Jack Hampton reports:

‘This fixture was to conclude what for some would be their last game in the blue and yellow of Kings’ Scholars before graduating. The game started at a frantic pace with both teams demonstrating an exciting brand of running, offloading rugby and it was UU who struck first with a converted try. Stran didn't sit back and replied immediately after a Jamie Orr break released Sam Mackey to score under the posts. After converting his own try it was 7-7.

Stran came under the cosh following this and quickly conceded three tries. Despite a good effort from Stran with some great work from captain Stewart Fulton and a line out functioning well where Michael Nevin didn’t putting a foot wrong at hooker, it was UU 24, Scholars 7 at half time.

The second half started brightly after rousing half time team talks from captain Fulton, incoming captain Josh Coulter and outgoing Stranmillis SU president Adam Pollock. Almost immediately Stran started to fight back with rampaging number 8 Jonny Black creating a gap in the UU defence to score. Jonny took great pleasure in converting his own try!

After the introduction of half time substitute Peter Soutar, Stran kicked on in the 53rd minute when Sam Mackey grabbed his second of the afternoon with some strong running finding holes and hitting some great lines. After converting his own try the gap was reduced to five points. However this gap didn't last for long as Michael Nevin utilised the quick ball Stran had produced all day to crash through a number of defenders to level the game. Stewart Fulton took the conversion and we'll blame a bad divot for it spooning wide!

UU began the fight back despite some superb Stran defence, including that of Michael Ward. He was playing his first ever game of rugby, but didn't look out of place. However eventually UU did regain the lead with an unconverted try which left the score 31-26 in UU’s favour.

Coming into the game’s climax Scholars again fought back and it was Sam Mackey once more who touched down to collect his hat trick after more strong running and battering down the opposition defence. The try was converted by Josh Coulter to put Stran two points in front going into the last ten minutes. It was now Stran 33, UU 31.

Once again UUJ found a way through the tiring Scholars defence with a try which left Stran with it all to do going into the final five minutes. Stran refused to give up and after constantly knocking at the door finally managed to break UU’s defence, with Scholars stalwart Deaglan "Beaky" McErlean scoring under the posts and Josh Coulter converting to create a four point lead. Stran managed to hold out for the last two minutes for a fantastically deserved win - a real thriller played in a great spirit.

Full Time: UU 36-40 Stranmillis!

Thanks go to Mark Hermin for refereeing and organising a pitch and to UU for taking time out of their exam studies to field a team.

Scholars Team

1. Jonathan Reid           9. Stewart Fulton (c)
2. Deaglan McErlean     10. Josh Coulter
3. Michael Nevin           11. Michael Ward
4. Samuel Patterson     12. Jamie Orr
5. Rob Moffett              13. Chris Acheson
6. Sam Mackey             14. Carl Bell
7. Adam Pollock            15. Patrick Forster
8. Jonny Black              16. Peter Soutar 

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Another IfSA Butler Celebration!
Lois Totton International Development and IfSA Butler, Abigail Hunt, Dr Anne Heaslett (Principal), Whitney Lumsden and Audrey Curry Director of Community Engagement and Community Affairs
Lois Totton International Development and IfSA Butler, Abigail Hunt, Dr Anne Heaslett (Principal), Whitney Lumsden and Audrey Curry Director of Community Engagement and Community Affairs

It was with great pleasure that we celebrated the ‘graduation’ of our outgoing USA Institute for Study Abroad students. 

Whitney Lumsden (St Martin’s) and Abigail Hunt (Austin College) arrived at Stranmillis on 9th January and both agree that their time here has flown by. Whitney said ‘It has been an amazing journey for me, not only in terms of my academic study but in terms of my own personal development. I would highly recommend a semester at SUC!’

The girls enjoyed visits to various parts of Ireland including Dublin, Galway, the Ulster American Folk Park, Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway and Crumlin Road Gaol.

Whitney and Abigail were in Dunmurry Primary School for their School Based Work placement.  The pupils and staff enjoyed their input in terms of comparison with US schools and their facilitation of creative writing classes.

As the girls leave shortly to return home we wish them well with their future studies and look forward to classroom collaboration in the future. Safe travels girls!

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iPad Report Launched

Digital technology can help improve numeracy, literacy and communication skills. In a new report published on 24 May by researchers at Stranmillis University College, it has been found that the use of portable devices such as iPads and other tablets in the classroom can have a positive impact on the development of young children’s literacy, numeracy and communication skills.

“Digital technology, especially portable devices, is becoming an everyday part of young people’s lives,” said Dr Colette Gray, Principal Investigator on the project.  “Many of our schools have already recognised the potential of iPads and other tablets and have integrated them into their classroom practices. The primary objective of this study was to assess the impact such devices have on children’s learning in the Early Years and Foundation Stage of education, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy.”

“The study’s findings showed that, in the five participating schools, all of which were located in catchment areas of high social deprivation and academic under-achievement, the introduction of digital technology has had a positive impact on the development of pupil literacy and numeracy skills. And, contrary to initial expectations, principals and teachers also reported that their use had enhanced children’s communication skills, acting as a stimulus for peer to peer and pupil to teacher discussion.”

“In addition to the positive impact on literacy and numeracy, a number of other key benefits also emerged from this study:

• children’s confidence and ownership of the learning process are enhanced
• children’s social and citizenship skills are developed
• children’s creativity and technical skills are improved
• children’s fine motor skills are reinforced
• teachers’ motivation and enthusiasm are positively impacted.”

“Digital technology, however, is not a stand-alone solution and complements existing teaching approaches in numeracy and literacy rather than replacing them. New digital tools offer the potential to enhance traditional approaches to children’s learning in an engaging and exciting way – something which was clearly shown in the findings of this study where, for example, boys appear to be more enthused when using digital technology, particularly when producing written work.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship at Stranmillis, said, “At Stranmillis, our ultimate aim is to improve the lives of every child and young person in Northern Ireland. Our ongoing research programmes are central to ensuring that our educational system is leading the way in innovative professional practice and delivering measurable impacts.”

“To maximise the potential of any new technology or approach to learning, however, it is essential that we continue to build on our existing strong programme of Continuing Professional Development including Master’s to ensure that we are equipping our teachers with the necessary skills to enable them to fully and effectively utilise these and other exciting new tools.”

The full report can be downloaded from the Stranmillis website here:,756133,en.pdf

For further information please contact Graeme Watson (email: / tel: 028 90 384 468) or Louise O’Sullivan (email: / tel: 028 90 384 327).



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Sports with Hollybank @ Stran

On Wednesday 3rd and Wednesday 10th May 2017, Stranmillis welcomed the Primary 5 pupils from Hollybank Primary School in Monkstown, where they were introduced to some of our Year 1 Health, Physical Activity and Sport students.

On the first Wednesday, the Hollybank pupils were given the chance to develop their Fundamental Movement Skills including catching and throwing, before applying these skills in some tense games of rounders! Lunch was then followed by enjoying some sunshine on the Green and a focus on sprint running and jumping, together with some team races and challenges.

On the second Wednesday, the pupils were taught some hip hop tricks and amazing dance moves in the sports hall and even learned and performed a full dance routine, and they also took part in a challenge event which gave the children opportunities to display their talents. The day was finished off with the children showing off their new skills on the Green and playing one final game of rounders. College Principal Dr Anne Heaslett then joined the children on the Green where they were surprised with some Stranmillis goodies and a certificate for all their hard work.

Behind the apparent fun and games there was substantial learning for both the pupils and the Year 1 BSc Health, Physical Activity and Sport volunteers. The pupils developed their fundamental movement skills, which are important precursors of sports participation and lifelong physical activity. The pupils were also introduced to dimensions of university life with a view to encouraging them to think about higher education for the future. The student volunteers applied learning from their course to a real-life experience and in so doing further developed important pedagogical skills with clear links to employability.

Speaking about the event, Head of Health and Physical Education, Dr David McKee, reported that the programme was a “win-win” situation with the children getting to develop important movement skills in state of the art facilities with highly skilled and motivated students. At the same time the students got the opportunity to apply their modular learning through the planning, implementing and reviewing of learning experiences for primary children.


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Going International at the Girls’ Model

‘Truth, Respect, Empathy, Kindness’ were the important values at the heart of a wonderful ‘Diversity Day’ at the Belfast Model School for Girls held on Friday 5th May. Dr Sharon Jones reports:

A talented and enthusiastic Stranmillis team, led by Adam Leahy, delivered excellent sessions promoting the benefits and opportunities of language learning and inter-cultural awareness for the groups of primary and post primary school pupils attending this special event. Sarah-Jane Keilty (Year 4 BEd Primary) and Claudia Vicario Roura (Erasmus) introduced Spain and its languages while Carola Hulea (Erasmus) explored Austrian culture and German language. Jordan McKane (BEd Post-primary Business and Enterprise) and Adam Leahy (International Intern), who had both spent a semester at South China Normal University, our partner university in Guangzhou, China, introduced Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture. This was a great experience for all involved.

Thanks must go to Mrs Paula Leitch, Assistant Principal and her team at the Belfast Model School for Girls, for hosting such an inspiring event, and to the Stranmillis student team who contributed so positively, sharing their linguistic and cultural expertise.

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Music @ Stran Presents 'Kuyimba'

Outgoing Students’ Union President and compere on the night Adam Pollock looks back on an entertaining musical evening:

‘With exams looming around the corner, the annual Music@Stran event came as a welcome break from studying.

This year’s evening of vocal and instrumental entertainment was named 'Kuyimba' (the Ugandan word for music) as the event was in aid of ‘Fields of Life’, the Union’s chosen charity for 2016-17. Fields of Life works with local communities and churches in East Africa to bring positive change through the provision of quality education, clean water, health promotion and other community based projects. The event also came with a twist as the audience found themselves sitting, not in the banked theatre seats, but at round tables on the stage of the Drama Theatre. It was just like being at ‘Later’ with Jools Holland!

The evening itself consisted of a variety of performances featuring the Music Department’s choir and instrumentalists, a staff choir, the 'Strandads' male choir, the Trad@Stran group, the Panto team, the CU choir and even our very own world champion drum major, Jason Price!

With the entire drama theatre stage filled with performers and audience members, the show was acclaimed as a great success, especially as it raised £1,200 for Fields of Life, and this brought the total raised this year by Students’ Union activities to a wonderful £10,004! At the end of the evening a giant cheque for this amount was handed over to Richard Spratt, CEO of Fields of Life in Northern Ireland.

A special thanks goes out to all of the staff and students who helped organise and perform on the night.’

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Greg’s Winning Panorama!
Greg McCready (inset, bottom right) and his photo panorama backdrop behind Belfast City Council’s winning competition entry.
Greg McCready (inset, bottom right) and his photo panorama backdrop behind Belfast City Council’s winning competition entry.

Greg McCready, Stranmillis Art technician, has recently used his photographic skill as part of a prestigious Northern Ireland councils competition:

Greg was contacted by a member of Belfast City Council’s Marketing and Communication team who was looking for a photographic panorama of Belfast Castle and Cave Hill as soon as possible. The Council wanted to use the photo panorama as part of a display for the NI Heritage Gardens section of ‘Garden Show Ireland’, an event for local councils held annually in Antrim Castle Gardens.
Greg recounts: ‘They sent me an artist’s representation of what they wanted. I realised straight away that I would have to take two panoramas - one of the Castle and one of Cave Hill - to achieve what they were looking for. Initially the finished photos were going to be reproduced on a board 10 metres wide, but this later changed to 20 metres wide by almost 3 metres tall!’

The garden display that the Council were creating represented at a smaller scale the lovely garden at Belfast Castle, with flower beds, statues, a fountain and a small croquet lawn, and Greg’s photo panorama provided the perfect backdrop.

Greg made a total of three trips to North Belfast and the Castle to get the shots he wanted.
He says: ‘I stood in the same corner of the Belfast Castle Garden for 4 hours one afternoon, timing my shots between tourists getting off the sightseeing buses and visitors strolling around the estate. I was taking at least 10 photos in each “sweep” that I would later stitch together in Adobe Lightroom. This would be far easier to do if there was no one in the frame to have to Photoshop out later!’ He added: ‘I needed a very steady tripod, warm clothing and a lot of patience to get the shots I wanted!

On the day of the event at Antrim Castle Gardens some other councils - Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council and Mid & East Antrim Council - set up displays in the same category. The Belfast City Council garden, designed by Stephen Quinn and landscaped by Belfast City Council Staff, won the ‘Best of NI Heritage Gardens & Displays’ award at the show.

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Welcome to Tor Bank’s Harry and Christopher!

Following the success of last year’s pilot programme, Stranmillis has been delighted to welcome this year’s Tor Bank work placement students - Harry Lewis and Christopher Montgomery. 

Each Tuesday morning Harry has been working with Niall from the Estates (gardening) team.  Harry has been kept busy raking up leaves, picking up litter and helping with recycling on campus.  He has really enjoyed working outdoors, especially when it is not raining!

Christopher has followed his twin brother Noel’s example from last year and has worked alongside the portering team, helping to set up rooms and delivering the post around the campus.  He has really enjoyed working with Gavin, William, Darren and James, and getting to ride in the van.

Each Tuesday Christopher and Harry have had their lunch with some undergraduate students including Hannah Kelso-Mason and Nicole Hudson (BEd) in the first semester and  more recently Chloe Lowry, Jessica Martin and Judith Murphy (BA).  This gives an opportunity to eat together, to relax after a hard morning’s work and to play some games.  Chris claims he is the undefeated ‘Connect Four’ champion!

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship, explains: “This is great opportunity for us as a College to offer a work experience opportunity to these talented young men within the supportive environment of Stranmillis.  It has been a pleasure to have them as part of our College community and we are so glad that they too have enjoyed the experience.  Thanks to the Estates team and especially to Mr Paul Mifsud, Facilities Coordinator, for his commitment to making this work so successfully this year, and of course to the dedicated staff at Tor Bank School.”

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ECS Attend Perinatal Mental Health Forum

Year 1 ECS students with Brenda McKay-Redmond, Jill Magennis and Dr Barbara McConnell
Year 1 ECS students with Brenda McKay-Redmond, Jill Magennis and Dr Barbara McConnell

Consolidating learning on ECS Year 1 modules on Child Development and Children’s Health and Well-Being, whilst also coinciding with Mental Health Week, students attended the Child Health Regional Forum CPD accredited conference in Belfast entitled “Maternal Mental Health Alliance - Everyone’s Business Campaign”.

The students learned about the MMHA which is a coalition of over 80 national professional and patient organisations committed to improving mental health and well-being of women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year.

After listening to a moving story from a mother who suffered from post-partum psychosis and her journey to full recovery, the audience heard from Dr Lynch, a consultant psychiatrist in Northern Ireland.  They were informed that perinatal mental health problems are very common, affecting up to 20% of women at some point during the perinatal period. Maternal Mental Health is also a major public health issue due to the adverse impact on the mother, but it has also been shown to compromise the healthy emotional, cognitive and even physical development of the child with serious long term consequences. When secure attachments are not established early in life, children can be at greater risk of a number of detrimental outcomes, including poor physical and mental health, relationship problems, low educational attainment, emotional difficulties and conduct disorders.

In Northern Ireland there are approximately 24,000 births per year (NISRA, 2014) and potentially maternal mental health difficulties could impact on 4,800 young children each year. Professionals consider this to be an under representation, as the Royal College of Psychiatrists note that often postnatal depression goes unreported (RCP, 2011). In Northern Ireland the Public Health Agency in association with cross departmental bodies are working on a roll out of the infant Mental Health Framework (PHA, 2016). This framework is considering the development of services and training for professionals who work with these vulnerable children and families.

One priority of the Framework is the Training of Early Years Professionals to be able to recognise and respond to the needs of these children. With this in mind it was timely that the MMHA held this informative CPD Forum.  Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond, module co-ordinator, felt that: “the students and staff who attended were given a deeper insight into examples of illnesses that included antenatal and post-natal depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and post-partum psychosis.  These illnesses often develop suddenly and range from mild to extremely severe, requiring different kinds of treatment.  As stated at the Forum conference, the good news is that with the right help, women can recover from these illnesses”.


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Twilight GCSE Maths Revision @ Stranmillis

On Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th of April the Widening Participation team invited a number of Year 12 pupils to Stranmillis for additional support with preparation for their GCSE Maths. The pupils arrived at 4:45pm for some “revision fuel” prior to beginning their maths work.

Revision sessions were coordinated by Jonathon Clements, a Stranmillis graduate and maths specialist, alongside four of our BEd Maths and Science students: Eoghan Kennedy, Amy Humes, Conor McLean and Ryan Bennett.
On the first evening our student tutors were involved in smaller group sessions, working through many questions brought forward by the Year 12 pupils. They spent some time working through past exam questions and the tutors created a relaxed and informal environment in which the pupils could get any questions answered.

Finally, on the second evening more time was spent focusing on the individual areas that the young people were struggling with. This increased the pupils’ confidence on topics that they found more challenging than others.

The feedback received from the Year 12s was that the sessions were “brilliant” and the only improvement they sought was for the revision sessions to run more often and across more days.

“Very helpful. Thank you for all your support!”

“The teachers were all willing to help whenever you needed them and they were patient when you didn’t understand.”

“It was excellent – a really great experience!”

“I thought it was good because there were a lot of papers prepared for us and the people were very patient and nice.”

“It was brilliant - hopefully I’ll pass!!”

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Playful Teaching and Learning Book Launch

A new book entitled ‘Playful Teaching and Learning’, edited by Dr Glenda Walsh, Dr Dorothy McMillan and Professor Carol McGuinness and published by Sage, was launched at a special event in Stranmillis University College on Thursday 27th April, 2017. 

Glenda Walsh is presently a principal lecturer and head of early years education at Stranmillis; Dorothy McMillan is a former senior lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at Stranmillis, and Carol McGuinness is an Emeritus Professor of psychology at Queen’s University Belfast.

A wide range of stakeholders interested in early childhood education attended the event, including representatives from the International Bureau of Education, the Education and Training Inspectorate, the National Curriculum Council in the Republic of Ireland, Queen’s University and St Mary’s University College, Further Education Colleges, teachers and early years professionals from across the province, as well as several Stranmillis staff.

During the event, Glenda, Dorothy and Carol presented the rationale for the book, the underpinning research base that informed its thinking and a broad outline of its content. ‘Playful Teaching and Learning’ aims to provide an innovative and creative take on how play as learning and teaching can become a reality in early years settings and classrooms in an effort to meet the needs of all children aged 3- 8 years. The book is comprised of three main strands:

  • Principles of Playful Teaching and Learning;
  • Playful Teaching and Learning across the curriculum; and
  • The Role of the Playful Professional.

Chapters were written by the editors and a team of early childhood experts from across the United Kingdom and Ireland, including Liz Sproule (Queen’s University), Ross O’Corráin and Liz Dunphy (Dublin City University) , Catherine Gilliland (St Mary’s University College), Marion Dowling (Early Years Consultant), Richard Greenwood (Stranmillis University College), Christine Stephen (University of Stirling), Andrea Doherty and John McCullagh (Stranmillis University College) and Jacqueline Fallon (the National Curriculum Council Association, in the Republic of Ireland).

Professor Elizabeth Wood (School of Education, University of Sheffield), who wrote the foreword of the book, states:  ‘This book draws on a wealth of research on play, learning, pedagogy and curriculum in early childhood education. The contributors rightly emphasise the importance of play to children, and the opportunities that play provides for learning and development. Each of the chapters is informed by international research, and offers contrasting perspectives about different forms of play, and the challenges that practitioners face in their practice.’
George Knowles, associate editor from Sage publications, concluded the event by emphasising that ‘Playful Teaching and Learning’ is a wonderful resource for any student or practitioner looking to enrich the lives of young children through meaningful playful learning experiences.

If you are interesting in getting a copy of the book go to:



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Stran Duo do the Treble!
Matthew Clarke and Cameron Stewart
Matthew Clarke and Cameron Stewart
Celebrating the Premiership title and the Irish Cup. Photos:
Celebrating the Premiership title and the Irish Cup. Photos:

Two Health, Physical Activity and Sport (HPAS) students, Matthew Clarke and Cameron Stewart, have helped Linfield to a glorious treble of trophies this season.

Matthew (Year 2) and Cameron (Year 1) have enjoyed great success with Linfield, winning the County Antrim Shield and the Irish Premiership title, and on the 6th May they defeated Coleraine 3-0 in the Irish Cup Final, capping a 20-match unbeaten run.

Below, Matthew and Cameron talk about their backgrounds, their time so far at Stran, and working under Linfield manager David Healy:

Matthew Clarke
Matthew grew up in Sion Mills in Co. Tyrone before moving to another little village within Tyrone called Ballymagorry – ‘in the sticks’, as he calls it!! He went to Strabane High School where he played football and cricket. He says: ‘I played more cricket throughout high school and actually wasn’t bad at it! I played for Ireland Schools and we won the European championships in Denmark. A bit like Cameron I had to pick between football and cricket, and I thankfully picked football!’ He played for many youth teams when he was younger: Omagh town, Sion Swifts, Killen Rangers, Ardstraw and then Linfield. When he left high school he went straight across to Rangers to play full time football. He says: ‘I enjoyed three great years there and the experience was unbelievable - even better when you are a massive Rangers fan!’  He has played for Northern Ireland right from under 16s to under 21s. He came home from Rangers in 2013 and immediately signed for Linfield. He had a few choices to pick from but after meeting the then Linfield manage ‘big Davy Jeffery’ his mind was made up.

Matthew says that in his first season back home he struggled with adjusting to part time football as he had to wait around all day to go to training, so this is when he decided he had to do something other than football. He comments – ‘…it was really all I had known’. So he decided to apply for university and looked into Stranmillis as an option as he had heard so many good reports about it from a few really good friends who are now in the year above him. He says: ‘I really enjoy our course - Health, Physical Activity and Sport. After finishing my degree, I would like to go into something in the sports development field. I would strongly recommend this course at Stranmillis to anyone interested in sport!!’

Matthew has worked under three different managers at Linfield and he thinks that the current manager David Healy is the best so far. Matthew explains that he knows how to get the best out of his players and is not afraid to tell them when they are not doing well enough! He concludes by saying: ‘We had already won the County Antrim shield this season, but Saturday 29th April was just brilliant for all involved with our club. To chase Crusaders down after us being nine points behind was special; it really showed the character we have within our dressing room, and for the manager to win his first league title in his first full season in charge is a remarkable achievement.’

Cameron Stewart
Cameron grew up in Castlereagh in east Belfast. He went to Campbell College where he played rugby from 1st to 4th Year when he had to make the choice between football and rugby. He also says: ‘Thankfully I stuck with football!’  He took a year’s break from education and then decided to try for Stranmillis and was accepted onto the Health, Physical Activity and Sport degree programme. He says: ‘After Stran I hope to go on to do my PGCE where ideally I would love to go back to Campbell as a PE teacher!’ However he is keen to continue playing football at the highest possible level.

Football-wise his boys’ club was Ridgeway Rovers, and from then he spent a number of years playing for Bertie Peacock’s youth teams and then for Coleraine Reserves. He signed for Crusaders in the summer of 2015 but unfortunately only played a handful of first team games that year. That's when he spoke to the new Linfield manager, former Northern Ireland star David Healy, whom he had known through the schoolboy teams he had played for. After hearing what David had to say, for Cameron it was a ‘no brainer’ to sign for Linfield.

Growing up supporting Northern Ireland, David Healy was a hero of Cameron’s because of the goals he'd scored. However it wasn't until Christmas 2016 that he really got a chance in the Linfield first team. Cameron says that he owes a lot to Alan Doran, the reserve team manager, as he was the one who put Cameron up front for the first time in a reserve match. He says that he did reasonably well in attack and hasn't been back playing centre half since! Cameron gives David Healy a lot of praise for his coaching: ‘He has taken me aside a lot and talked me through the smalls things needed to be a successful striker’.
Cameron picked up an injury in March, but up until then he had played every game since he broke into the first team.
Cameron commented: ‘Obviously winning and scoring in the County Antrim Shield final had been the highlight of my season so far, but winning the league was without a doubt the best feeling I've had in football to date.’

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Thornhill College's Chemistry Competition Success
Accuracy and precision!
Accuracy and precision!
The winning Thornhill College team with their teacher Mrs Caroline Devine and Dr Michael Harriott and Dr John McCullagh (RSC).
The winning Thornhill College team with their teacher Mrs Caroline Devine and Dr Michael Harriott and Dr John McCullagh (RSC).

The girls from Thornhill College took first place in this year’s Schools’ Analyst Competition.

This annual event, held at Stranmillis University College Belfast, is organised by the local Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry and involved 12 schools from right across Northern Ireland. The three sixth-form girls from Thornhill were judged to be the most accurate and precise in their chemical analysis of everyday household products which included lemon juice and an iron health supplement.

The competition showcases the importance of STEM subjects, particularly chemistry, to the local pharmaceutical and food industries. After the event the winning team of Jessica O’Hare, Aoibh Graham and Amy English said: ‘The RSC Schools’ Analyst Competition was a brilliant opportunity for us to work together as a team and apply our existing knowledge in a practical way to real life situations. There was a great sense of enthusiasm throughout the whole day and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We are delighted to progress to the National final in June!’

Their teacher of the winning team, Head of Thornhill's Chemistry Department Caroline Devine added, ‘I always look forward to the RSC Schools’ Analyst competition each year. It is a wonderful learning experience for my students, enabling them to carry out challenging experiments in a university setting.’

The team from Friends’ School Lisburn narrowly pipped the Lumen Christi students to second place. In addition to winning book vouchers to support the teaching of chemistry, the winners will now go on to represent the Northern Ireland region in the UK final at Sussex University on 21st and 22nd June. We wish them well!

For further details of the event please contact:

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Stran Graduates @ Newtownhamilton High
Four former Stran students at Newtownhamilton High: Chris Coils, David Sloan, Joanna Ferris and Neil Megaw
Four former Stran students at Newtownhamilton High: Chris Coils, David Sloan, Joanna Ferris and Neil Megaw

Newtownhamilton High School may only be a small post primary small with 191 pupils but four of the current 17 members of teaching staff are Stranmillis graduates: Neil Megaw, Joanna Ferris, David Sloan and Chris Coils. 

Situated in the rural setting of South Armagh, Newtownhamilton High is led by Principal Neil Megaw, who graduated as a Business Studies teacher in 1999. Neil explains the background to the school by stating: “Newtownhamilton High School serves a small isolated minority community in South Armagh.  We are very much at the heart of the local community and are involved in a very successful Shared Education programme with St. Paul’s HS Bessbrook, Newry HS and St. Joseph’s HS Crossmaglen.  All our collaborative courses and programmes are delivered in an environment of respect for cultural diversity and also provide greater subject choice for our pupils than we would be able to offer working alone.  These partnership arrangements have helped contribute to GCSE results that have been consistently high over recent years and prove that our small school can compete with the very best non-selective schools in the province”.

The 2016 GCSE statistics confirm why Newtownhamilton High has developed a province-wide reputation for academic excellence as 93% of pupils achieved 5 GCSE grades at A*- C or equivalent and 79% when the all-important GCSE English and Maths are included.  Neil explains: “Our recent GCSE performance is building on a successful partnership between pupil, parent and school”.  However, you don’t achieve excellent GCSE results without high quality teaching, and we have an excellent team of teachers – even the non Stran teachers!”

Each of the former Stran students now says something about their time at Stran and what they are doing now at Newtownhamilton:
Neil Megaw
Putting it simply, Stranmillis changed my life.  My ‘A’ Level results did not go according to plan.  In a last ditch attempt to get a place, I made a decision to drive to Belfast and speak to Mae Watson (the then Head of Admissions).  During that 15 minute conversation, I managed to convince her that I deserved the final place in the year group and I have not looked back since. 
On arrival at Stran, my main lecturers in the Business Studies department were Audrey Curry, Mae Watson and Ken Andrews.  Although they all had completely different teaching styles, they collectively had a major impact on my development as a trainee teacher over my 4 years, which included a 3 month exchange programme in Holland in 1997, before graduating in 1999.
In those days, teaching jobs were plentiful and I therefore secured a full-time permanent post in Craigavon Senior High School.  The Stran influence was to continue as I worked under a superbly organised HoD in Lisa McKeown (now Lisa McKenzie, the current Stran lecturer).
After 10 years in Craigavon, I made the move to Newtownhamilton High School as Vice Principal in 2009 before stepping into the post of Principal in November 2014.  I consider myself very fortunate to be Principal of this wonderful little school and I am thankful to the people identified above for their influence and encouragement over the years.  

Joanna Ferris
After completing my Bachelor in Education (Honours) Degree in Business Studies and Computing in 1992 at Stranmillis I started working in Fort Hill Girls’ High School.  During my time there I started teaching RSA Typing, Commerce and Business Studies.  As technology developed my subjects changed to Word Processing and then Business Communication Systems.  Great changes also took place in the school with it going coeducational and becoming an Integrated school.
In 1998 I made a move to my second school – City of Armagh High School - which was much closer to home.  I continued teaching GCSE Business Studies and Business Communication Systems but I also introduced GCSE Short Course ICT to the vocational classes.  I took advantage of a job share opportunity to care for my young family. After five years of job sharing, I felt it was time to start looking for a full-time post again and one was advertised in Newtownhamilton High School.  I started working here in September 2016, and today I am responsible for teaching GCSE Business Studies, ICT and Learning for Life and Work. 
I have also been involved with our Shared Education programme with St Paul’s High School since 2010  and am now responsible for co-ordinating our second phase of Shared Education. Being a small country school with single teacher departments is very demanding but very rewarding.  Having links with our partner schools is invaluable and vital for both staff and pupils.

David Sloan
I graduated from Stranmillis University College in 2007, having studied for a BEd (Hons) in Technology & Design with Mathematics.  My time at Stranmillis not only prepared me with a variety of skills required  for a career in education but also inspired and challenged my thinking in a number of key educational areas. The school based placements allowed me to grow in confidence as well as giving me the chance to see ‘theory put into action’.  I secured my first teaching post in Newtownhamilton High School, starting in September 2007.  In 2008 I returned on a part-time basis to Stranmillis to study a number of Master’s Level modules in School Leadership and Curriculum Development through the College’s Professional Development programme.
During the past ten years, Newtownhamilton High has allowed me to develop in a number of professional areas, not only in the classroom but in the whole life of the school.  I have recently served a term of five years as the school’s Teacher Governor and am currently responsible for the Student Council.

Chris Coils
I was fortunate enough to study at Stranmillis from 2012 to 2016. During my four years at Stran I studied for a Post-Primary BEd in Mathematics & Science and eventually graduated in the summer of 2016 with a First Class Honours Degree. Stranmillis provided me with a very thorough introduction to the world of teaching and has provided me with a solid professional base to build upon throughout my career. I found the BEd degree pathway particularly helpful as not only did it provide me with an extended subject knowledge of Mathematics and Science but it also provided me with great opportunities to explore key educational theory, current educational policy, indicate difficulties/opportunities in NI classrooms as well as giving me great preparation for life inside the classroom through extensive periods of school-based work.My time at Stranmillis was fantastic and I enjoyed every aspect. I met some of my best friends there and I was able to get involved in many other areas of college life such as working on the Students’ Union Executive Council for three years. In that time I had many great opportunities to become heavily involved in charity fundraising, student entertainment and also academic and pastoral committees that ensured I was able to be a voice for my peers. I was also very lucky to play rugby for Kings’ Scholars – it was a true privilege to be able to wear the blue and yellow jersey on a number of occasions!
Since graduating last year, I have been very lucky to have been able to teach science in Newtownhamilton High School. It is a wonderful school and a pleasure to teach in – the pupils are a delight and the staff are indeed very supportive of one another. I really could not have asked for a better school in which to begin my teaching career. In the short time I have been here, I have been given great help in completing my Induction and EPD training and have been given many opportunities to display leadership and initiative as well as being able to take the lead in various extra-curricular activities and trips.
The Stran influence at Newtownhamilton High is also having an impact on the next generation of teachers.  Current Stran students include former Newtownhamilton High pupils Leanne McNiece (Year 2) James Robinson (Year 2) and Leah McNiece (Year 3). 

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Seven Stran Students have a Rewarding Ugandan Experience

Pictured above are: Kerry McQuillan with Jackson, who is being sponsored by the SU through FOL; a first ever school trip to the Post Office; and a Bible Lesson in Truth Nursery School.
Pictured above are: Kerry McQuillan with Jackson, who is being sponsored by the SU through FOL; a first ever school trip to the Post Office; and a Bible Lesson in Truth Nursery School.

In March 2017, seven Stranmillis BEd students were invited to spend two weeks in Ugandan schools to complete their School Based Work.

The student team, accompanied by Senior Lecturer in Education Studies and International Development, Ms Barbara McDade, travelled to Uganda and then a further 215 miles north of the country's capital Kampala to the town of Lira, the fourth largest town in Uganda, with a population of just over 100,000. Today, the town once nicknamed “the jewel of the north” is struggling in the aftermath of one of Africa’s longest-running civil wars; however the town's strong sense of hope, determination and aspiration is to be admired by all.

The three BEd Post-Primary students, Jordan McKane, Emma Blair and Beth Davis, carried out their teaching practice in Dara Christian High School whilst the four Primary students, Alice Hamilton, Rebecca Crone, Leah Shaw and Kerry McQuillan, were based in the nearby Truth Primary School. Both of these schools had been previously visited by a team of academic staff in January so a strong partnership and solid links were already in place.

Throughout their time there, the students carried out their professional practice under the close support and guidance of a staff member from the host school. These individuals acted as personal mentors to ease the students' transition to working within the unfamiliar Ugandan curriculum and within a vastly different classroom setting compared to what they were used to. The placements proved to be very valuable for all the students - both academically and culturally. Working in the schools proved challenging in the development of their professional skills such as classroom management, effective questioning and active learning, whilst also enhancing their understanding of global culture and diversity.

The hospitality shown to the Stranmillis team was outstanding throughout the entire trip. The charity ‘Fields of Life’, the host schools, and even the warm and open attitudes of the community itself, made the team feel very welcome. This placement highlighted the very best of Stranmillis in how it ‘Pursues excellence, Embraces Diversity, Champions Collaboration, and Promotes Social Responsibility...'. It was so rewarding for us to be part of helping to develop the College's new partnership in Uganda with Fields of Life and we look forward to strengthening it further when the 30-strong Students’ Union team visits Uganda for two weeks in June.

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Emma Mitchell Wins Titanic 10K

Year 2 Health, Physical Activity and Sport Student and Irish International athlete Emma Mitchell has had a significant race win recently and is aiming for Commonwealth Games qualification. 

Thousands of athletes took to the roads of the famous Titanic Quarter of Belfast on Sunday 9th April for the annual TQ10k race, an event hosted by Athletics Northern Ireland and this year sponsored by Dale Farm Protein Milk.

In the ladies’ race, a late entry from Emma, who runs for QUB AC and is the current Northern Ireland & Ulster 10k Champion added to an already strong field which included AAI National Marathon and Half Marathon Champion Laura Graham from Mourne Runners.  Nothing separated these two runners until the final stages, when Emma moved clear to take the win in 34:12.  Laura narrowly missed a personal best when crossing the line in second place in 34:30. 

Emma explained that she was delighted to win, commenting: 'The only plan was win so I positioned myself in second for 9k before making a move over the last 1k'

Emma will now return to training for another three weeks before opening her track season in May where she will aim to achieve the Commonwealth Games Standard for the 5000m and 10000m. 

Emma splits her time between training for the Commonwealth Games and studying for the HPAS degree.  She said: 'I am really enjoying the degree course as it has such a wide variety of modules, which will provide a host of career opportunities'.  Within the next few weeks Emma will head out on work placement in a primary school; she hopes that working in this kind of setting will help her decide on a possible future career pathway. 

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Miriam Donnan- Award-Winning Teacher … and now Principal!

Congratulations to Stranmillis graduate Miriam Donnan who has been appointed Principal of Mitchell House School from September 2017.

After concluding secondary education at Glastry College, Miriam Donnan graduated with a BEd Honours Degree, main subject Business and Management, from Stranmillis University College in 2005. 

Her teaching career started with two temporary positions, each lasting for one year, during which time she knew her heart lay in Special Needs education.  Miriam commenced her first permanent job in Mitchell House School in Belfast in 2007 and remained there for seven years. She was promoted to the position of Acting Vice Principal at Mitchell House before taking the post of Vice Principal in Fleming Fulton School.  In 2014 Miriam completed the Professional Qualification of Head teachers PQH(NI) and has recently been appointed Principal of Mitchell House school – the place where her career began. 

Miriam was delighted to be awarded the Gold Plato for ‘Special Needs Teacher of the Year’ at the Pearson Teaching Awards in 2015.  She said ‘It was an honour to be nominated by a pupil and her mum for this UK award, although when the judging panel came to school to make their assessments, it was quite nerve racking!’

In January 2017 Miriam was awarded the BlackBoard Award in Stormont Buildings. Each year these awards recognise principals, teachers and classroom assistants across Belfast.

In a recent interview Miriam said: ‘I thoroughly enjoy my job, including the challenges! I also enjoy being creative for each pupil to enable them to overcome physical/emotional challenges and am dedicated and committed to helping children learn and fulfill their ambitions.  My goal is to make a difference in every child's life.’ Best wishes Miriam!

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President Gillian Beck!

Congratulations to Gillian Beck, Senior Lecturer, who has been elected President of the Northern Ireland branch of NASEN, the National Association for Special Educational Needs, for the next two years. 

A former primary school teacher and SENCO, Gillian brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her role as President.  Gillian currently lectures at Stranmillis on a wide range of SEN and literacy modules and has a particular interest in autism and sensory processing difficulties.

On Saturday 1st April NASEN held its annual Study Day at Stranmillis around the theme of “Building Effective Class Teams”.  The engaging opening keynote address was given this year by another Stranmillis member of staff, Mrs Lois Totton.  Almost 80 delegates from all over Northern Ireland enjoyed a busy morning of workshops and panel discussions involving experienced teachers, SENCOs, classroom assistants and representatives from the ETI and EA.

Further information about NASEN can be found on their website .

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‘WorldHost’ Training
Course delegates with Christine Watson, MCIM Chartered Marketer at Watson & Co Chartered Marketing
Course delegates with Christine Watson, MCIM Chartered Marketer at Watson & Co Chartered Marketing

On the 5th and 6th April 2017 seven members of the Hospitality Services Team, two members of the Security Team and one of our librarians signed up to attend the WorldHost Training Programme, held at Stranmillis University College.

WorldHost is a nationally recognised badge of excellence for customer service. The programme was developed for the Northern Ireland market by Tourism NI and the tourism and hospitality sector skills council ‘People1st’. It offers delegates a comprehensive training toolkit that can be used where the quality of front-line customer service is key to business success.

During the course the Stranmillis delegates learned invaluable skills and techniques that form the fundamentals of service professionalism. It is an accredited course giving confidence to staff to deliver a consistent standard of service at all service points and at all varieties of events. All staff who attended completed the course and were awarded the certificate. As over 75% staff in Hospitality Services have been trained, the Chatz and Betty’s Coffee Shop display the world-recognised ‘WorldHost’ sign.

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Contemporary Childhood Book Launch

Stranmillis lecturer Jill Dunn is delighted to announce the launch of a new book ‘Contemporary Childhood’, published by Sage, which she co-authored with Sean MacBlain and Ian Luke.

'Contemporary Childhood' takes a fresh look at the growing complexities now facing children in the 21st Century, with an international and comparative approach to the topic of global childhood.
The book is comprised of three sections: the Child, the Family and Modern and Emerging Childhoods.  It addresses issues such as: children’s security and the impact of poverty, austerity and conflict; children’s happiness, mental health and well-being; the changing nature of families; professionalism and professional identity; and the ‘digital child’, amongst other contemporary issues.  Early Childhood is a fast-paced and ever-changing field and the purpose of this book is to provide students with an understanding of what it means to be a child growing up in today’s society.

The authors each brought their own interests and research specialisms to the book.  Sean MacBlain is a Reader in Child Development and Disability at the University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, and a former Senior Lecturer at Stranmillis University College; Jill Dunn is a Senior Lecturer at Stranmillis and Ian Luke is Dean of Faculty: Education and Social Sciences at the University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth.  All of the authors valued the opportunities to collaborate on the book and share experiences, research and professional perspectives on a wide range of issues.

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College Staff Strengthen Links with Uganda

Dr Sharon Jones, Ms Barbara McDade and Dr John McMullen travelled to Uganda in January on behalf of the College to continue the development of a collaborative partnership with Fields of Life ( and their partner schools in Uganda.

The College’s International Strategy aims to build research and scholarship partnerships and strengthen international networks. In fact Stranmillis has historical links to Uganda; in the late 1960s and early 1970s several cohorts of teachers from Uganda came to Belfast to study on a special two-year course so that they could lead teacher training in Uganda. The photo on the rightwas taken at the Halls of Residence in 1969. Through the new links being forged we hope to ‘reopen old wells’.

John McMullen is a Director of the Fields of Life (FOL) charity and chairs their Education Committee. This year he attended the FOL Conference 2017 at Uganda Christian University in Mukono near Kampala, alongside colleague Sharon Jones and approximately 200 Directors and Head Teachers from Fields of Life supported schools across Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

John gave a presentation to conference delegates to introduce FOL’s potential partnership with Stranmillis University College. He outlined the College’s core values and mission, as well as highlighting the teaching and learning programmes it offers. John followed this presentation with an update on the Living Well mental health/life skills project that he has been implementing in Ugandan schools since 2014. Sharon then gave a presentation on Gift and Talent development, relating this to the conference theme, ‘Building Bridges to Excellence’ and the wider focus of teacher development. The presentation considered the concept of inclusive education, Dr Carol Dweck’s Fixed and Growth Mindsets, the role of challenge in high quality teaching and learning, and the development of thinking skills through effective questioning. 

Following the conference, Sharon and John had an interesting and productive meeting with Dean Joyce Ayikoru Asiimwe, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Kyambogo University. Kyambogo University is currently the largest Initial Teacher Education provider in Uganda and holds the government mandate to develop curriculum, assess private teacher training institutions and validate awards for Early Years and Primary education. Kyambogo also offers courses in Early Childhood Development up to doctoral level.

Other business included a meeting at the the British Council office in Kampala with Millicent Mugabi, and Mabel Kebirungi, Programme Managers. Both are involved in liaising with Higher Education partners and with the ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative, which Stranmillis has recently facilitated.

Finally, Barbara and John travelled 7 hours by road to the town of Lira to visit Dara Christian High School and Truth Primary School. These schools will host a staff and student delegation from Stranmillis at the end of March.
Lira, now peaceful, continues to recover from one of Africa’s longest-running civil wars. The near 20-year conflict ended in 2006 but the psychological scars of war remain alongside poverty and other daily stressors. However, there is much hope and joy to be found here and the enthusiasm and commitment to education there is an example to all.
We are excited about the potentially life-changing experiences that await the College team that travel in March as well as the 30-strong Students’ Union team that will go for two weeks in June. Hopefully these are just the start of many ventures to come.






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Primary Languages Report Launch

The Review of Current Primary Languages in Northern Ireland report, commissioned by the Northern Irish Languages Council (NILC), was launched at a special event at Stranmillis University College on Wednesday 15th March 2017.

Research led by Stranmillis lecturer Dr Sharon Jones has found that Northern Ireland’s children are being disadvantaged in the global economy because of a lack of curricular planning and recent cuts to the provision of additional language learning in Primary Schools.

The Primary Modern Language Programme was established in 2007 by the former Department of Education to support primary schools wishing to introduce a modern language. The programme was scrapped in March 2015 as a result of budget cuts. Against this backdrop the report’s authors were commissioned to map out and evaluate the current provision of additional language learning across Northern Ireland’s Primary Schools, and make recommendations for future development. To equip the Northern Ireland workforce with the linguistic skills and abilities to compete within a culturally diverse, digitally connected global economy, the report recommends that additional language learning should be a requirement built in to the Northern Ireland Primary Curriculum.

Among the key recommendations of the report are that:

• Additional language learning should be included as a statutory part of the Northern Ireland Curriculum to provide pupils in all primary schools with the opportunity to learn languages, ensuring equity of provision to all primary age children

• Curricular and cross-curricular guidance on levels of progression and other developmental criteria should be provided to teachers and schools.

• Age-appropriate resources, including e-resources, to support additional language teaching in primary schools should be developed

• A funded specialist qualification in Primary Education with modern languages in Initial Teacher Education should be introduced, along with funded support for modern languages in Continuing Professional Development programmes

• Further research into possible models of collaboration between schools at primary level and between primary and post-primary schools is undertaken to ensure progression in learning and to promote a positive transition between Key Stages 2 and 3

• There should be more effective area-based planning to ensure better linkage between the languages offered in primary and post-primary schools.

"Our study found that children in Northern Ireland enjoy learning languages; at primary school they are curious, confident and successful,” the report's lead author Dr Sharon Jones remarked. “Learning a new language and exploring new cultures broadens horizons and develops vital literacy and communication skills. If we want to grow a globally competitive, prosperous and peaceful Northern Ireland we should invest in giving all of the children in all of our primary schools this important opportunity".

The Review of Current Primary Languages in Northern Ireland report, commissioned by the Northern Irish Languages Council (NILC) will be launched at a special event at Stranmillis University College on Wednesday 15th March 2017.

To read a copy of the report, go to:,748093,en.pdf 


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PGCE Students Get Hands-On at the Ulster Museum

PGCE students and College tutors Dr Anita Gracie and Dr Richard Greenwood visited the Ulster Museum to find out about how the museum caters for visiting Early Years and Primary school groups. One of the students, Claire Durnin, reports:

‘Upon arrival we were greeted by Colleen Watters, Head of Learning and Partnership at the museum, who told us about the many things on offer for families, children and schools. We were made aware of the different ‘Discovery Centres’ available, which we then got to explore. We were told by the members of staff at each of the centres that visits can be tailored to suit the needs of all children.

In ‘Discover History’ we looked at many different world cultures, archaeology and changes over time throughout history such as the different homes, Ancient Egypt, how to dress like a Victorian and a rich collection of artefacts such as ancient bones.

Within ‘Discover Nature’ we came face to face with dinosaurs and were thrilled at the many wonders of nature. We enjoyed examining the fine detail of the exotic animals and mini-beasts such as beetles, butterflies and spiders, as well as seeing an elephant’s foot and a real dinosaur’s egg. We were introduced to ‘Stuffee’, a larger-than-life stuffed character who could be unzipped to reveal his internal organs!

After that, we were given the flexibility to explore and enjoy everything that the Ulster Museum offers, such as Natural Sciences, the Elements, Art zones and beautiful pendants. Not only did the PGCE Students enjoy the visit but we have also learnt new ideas and gained new transferable skills that can be used to introduce World Around Us topics to children in a practical, fun and hands-on approach.

The PGCE class would like to thank the College tutors for organising the visit, and all the staff at the Ulster Museum for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with us.’

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Matthew’s Hockey Success
(photo: Billy Pollock)
(photo: Billy Pollock)

Year 1 Health, Physical Activity and Sport student Matthew Nelson is on top of the world! Matthew has recently been selected for the Ireland Men's hockey squad to take part in the World League 2 Series being held at Stormont, Belfast in March 2017. Following their success in the Rio Olympic Games last summer, Ireland men's hockey are now ranked 10th in the world.

Matthew's achievement is even more significant as the first five years of secondary education were at Fort Hill College where he developed core sporting skills playing football and rugby, not hockey. His initial hockey development was through the youth section of Lisnagarvey Hockey Club and it was only when he transferred to Wallace High School for Sixth Form that he had the opportunity to play schools hockey and helped the 1st XI lift the Ulster Schools Burney Cup in 2015. Matthew also represented Ulster and Ireland at U18 level. As a result he quickly established himself as a regular member of Lisnagarvey 1st XI hockey club, winning the Irish Hockey League and Champions Trophy in 2016. Over the Easter holidays he will travel with Lisnagarvey to represent Ireland in the European Hockey League KO 16 event.

Being able to combine his passion for sport with a blend of practical and academic elements meant that the Health, Physical Activity and Sport course at Stranmillis was the natural course choice for Matthew.

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Mountain Biker Shannon Dreams of Tokyo 2020

Shannon Buller, Year 1 Health, Physical Activity and Sport student, has accomplished many things in her cycling career to date but hope that her Olympic dreams might become a reality.

Shannon, from Banbridge, began racing mountain bikes at the age of seven. Since then she has trekked up and down the UK and Ireland racing on the weekends for her club Banbridge Cycling Club, collecting multiple Irish National Points Series league and Championships titles along the way. In 2012 she made her first appearance representing Ulster at the UK School Games in London on the Olympic velodrome. In 2012 and 2013 she competed in the Interregional Mountain Bike Championships in Essex on the Olympic Mountain Bike course and 2013 saw her take her best result from this competition - 4th in the three –day ‘dirt crit’ event and 12th out of 68 overall.

Her best opportunity to date was also in 2013 when she got the call up to represent Ireland at the European Youth MTB XC Championships in Austria along with club mates James Curry and her brother, John Buller. This was one of her best experiences, but also the toughest with climbing in races reaching the height of Slieve Donard and temperatures of 30C.

After taking a year out from racing to concentrate on A Levels, Shannon now turns her thoughts to every athlete’s dream, the Olympics. Awaiting results from trials completed a couple of weeks ago, she hopes to get selection onto the Irish High performance team for track racing with hopes and dreams of Tokyo 2020.

But for now she is studying at Stranmillis, working towards her HPAS degree; she is enjoying the course and looking forward to what the future has in store.



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The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Risk Management…

Year 2 full-time Early Childhood Studies students, along with lecturers Catriona Rogers and Jill Magennis, took part in a visit to W5 Belfast as part of their ‘Management, Leadership and Professionalism’ module. The focus of the visit was ‘risk assessment’. ECS student Bex Atkinson reports:

‘Upon arrival at W5 we were greeted by an enthusiastic staff member, who delivered a brief safety talk and a timetable for the day. To start, we were given free time to explore W5 at their leisure. With over 250 interactive exhibits spread across 4 zones, there was a great deal to see and do.

We were asked to visit the various zones and exhibits, to note any risks we could observe and to consider what steps wecould take to minimise these. We were also asked to think about how bringing a group of young children would need to be organised and planned in advance so as to minimise risk to both staff and children.

Then Elaine Steele, one of W5’s Education Officers, discussed with us the risk assessment procedure at W5 as well as allowing time for feedback and questions. It was clear that running a venue like W5, or indeed planning a visit there, takes a lot of careful thought and consideration and it was impressive to see just how much attention to detail W5 have put into their venue and exhibits, with even the smallest of risks identified and managed.

The visit was a hit with the whole class, and many of us felt that we had not only enjoyed ourselves but had left with transferable ideas and learnt more about risk assessment in a practical hands on way, perfect for the kinaesthetic learners in the class! It also gave us all food for thought regarding our upcoming Year 3 placements, with many in the class saying they would now consider a venue such as W5 as an option for an alternative placement.

A huge thank you to W5 and to Catriona and Jill for organising the visit’.

Jill Magennis commented: ‘This visit to W5 was planned to help students explore the range of issues to consider when managing risk for young children. W5, with its extensive array of interactive activities, is ideally placed to deliver this training, and this proved to be an invaluable learning opportunity both to explore and to reflect. Thank you to W5 for a fun-filled trip!’

Catriona Rogers added: ‘We very much value the partnership made with W5 to enhance the Management, Leadership and Professionalism module. We look forward to further collaboration in the future.’

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Open Day 2017

Stranmillis University College Open Day took place on Wednesday 8th February 2017 and attracted over 700 pupils as well as teachers, parents and careers officers.

The sixth formers had the opportunity to hear talks on each of the undergraduate programmes on offer including Teacher Education, Health, Physical Activity and Sport and Early Childhood Studies. They also explored the campus and the many interactive displays showcasing partnership work and the achievements of our current students in multiple fields, and they met with staff who took time to speak to them about particular aspects of each course.

Visitors could also hear about the broader student experience such as international study opportunities and Degree Enhancement, the co-curriculum that students take alongside their degree programme to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience. The Student Support and Wellbeing Centre and the Students Union, located in the newly re-opened Stranmillis House, also welcomed students to hear about the full range of support and advice available to those choosing to study at Stranmillis.  Fine weather meant that students could better appreciate the beauty of the 18 hectares of well-maintained grounds and visit halls accommodation and the Refectory Building to get a taste of living on campus.

The day was enjoyed by all who came and for many students, confirmed their decision to apply to become a Stranmillis student.

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Careers Fair 2017

On Wednesday 8th February 2017, Stranmillis University College hosted the annual Careers Fair in the College Hall; this was a part of the wider Open Day event in the College. 

The Careers Fair attracted 54 graduate recruiters, from a wide range of sectors and locations, all keen to promote employment opportunities to our students.  The exhibitors were offering employment in a range of areas including education, early years and health and physical activity.  In addition opportunities for employment were being offered locally, nationally and internationally.  For teacher education students there were many opportunities available with excellent salaries and relocation packages. Fife, Aberdeen (looking for 100 teachers), Greater London, Manchester, and also further afield, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand and Brazil. From nursery right through to post-primary.  Other interesting options were promoted to Health, Physical Activity and Sport students and the Early Childhood Studies students.  Many of the organisations present expressed a strong interest in building partnerships with the College, with a number offering to host placements, fly students over for interviews, and provide accommodation.

It is clear from conversations over the course of the day that the employers value the potential and the capabilities of the Stranmillis graduate.  Many of the recruiters spoke in very positive terms about the engaging, able and articulate young people they had spoken with at the Fair, typified by “thank you so much for having us at your Career Fair yesterday. It was so well organised and attended and the packed lunch was a lovely touch! The students we spoke to were a credit to you all at Stranmillis. They were confident and open and inquisitive”. 

Some other comments from organisations:

Thank you for hosting the careers fair yesterday and a prime spot at the entrance to the hall.  We had some good discussions with your students which will hopefully lead to applications being submitted for the posts, and an enhanced awareness of the student placement opportunity for 2018”.

Thank you for inviting us to the career fair today. It has been a real pleasure to meet the students and other exhibitors today and we hope to be in touch with some potential teachers in the near future. Please keep in touch with us about any similar events in the future”.

From the student perspective:

Just thought you might like to know I've been offered a permanent job in London as a result of the careers fair yesterday! Going to make my decision tomorrow!”

In addition students were provided with additional opportunities to engage in appropriate and relevant volunteering activities, these being a way of further enhancing their personal portfolios as they prepare to enter the graduate employment market.

The underlying message to our students from exhibitors at the Careers Fair was very clear and powerful: high quality and well-paid employment is available beyond graduation. 

Once again we would want to express our thanks to the various representatives from each of the organisations present who gave so willingly of their time and expertise to make the Careers Fair a very successful event.    

We would want to acknowledge the hard work and effort of Ciara and Rosie in organising and managing the Careers Fair and in making it a very successful event.

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Celebrations at the 20th Charney Manor Primary Geography Conference

College lecturer Dr Richard Greenwood (Primary Education) attended the twentieth annual primary geography conference, held at Charney Manor in darkest Oxfordshire!

The conference is attended on average each year by around 30-35 teacher educators, consultants, principals and teachers from the UK and Ireland. This year, as it was a special anniversary conference and also saw the retirement from organising the conference by Professor Simon Catling, the attendance was a record 45 people and included colleagues from Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and India.

To mark the occasion (as well as the consumption of a specially iced cake!), Simon had asked each of the conference attendees to submit a paper, all of which would be published in a book of conference ‘precedings’. The final publication, launched at the conference, is a handsome 228 page A4 book entitled ‘Reflections on Primary Geography’, with 49 papers from the conference participants as well as from some others who could not attend. The topics range from papers on geography in primary schools to teaching and learning primary geography to primary geography in teacher education. Richard’s contribution was on teaching primary student teachers to avoid stereotype and prejudice when working with their classes on projects concerning developing countries.

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Foundation Degree Articulation Event

On Monday 20th February Stranmillis University College hosted a one-day event to provide advice, information and a point of contact for students hoping to articulate from the Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies into the BA Hons Early Childhood Studies at Stranmillis.  The event was organised by Paula Carlin (Direct Entry Support Tutor for the ECS Foundation Degree) and Careers Officer Ciara Love.

Six Regional Colleges across Northern Ireland offer a Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Studies.  Every year significant numbers of students articulate directly into Level 2 of the full-time and part time BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies completing their Foundation Degree studies to degree level. The event was well attended with 25 Foundation Degree students from across Northern Ireland.

The event included an ‘articulation’ information session, a careers talk, bursary advice and a Students’ Union tour of the College campus. The students also had the opportunity to meet current BA students over a sandwich lunch in Chatz, supported by Widening Participation. This opportunity afforded students the chance to hear first-hand about the university from the student perspective.

The event was planned to provide information to students and to help guide Foundation Degree students about their career and study options. The feedback from the students was very positive, suggesting that the event met its aims. Paula would like to thank all staff and students who were involved in making the event such an overwhelming success.

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ECS Make Magic with 'Nuudles'

The Year 1 Early Childhood Studies Child Development module has focused on Language and Thought.  With this thought in mind it was decided that it was a good time to be creative and develop a play session with magic ‘nuudles’.

Nuudles are colourful pieces of corn starch which just needed dampened to stick together, so the students got to work creating many interesting artefacts!

The purpose of the magic nuudle session was that it generated talk: conversations that involved meaningful descriptions and understandings.  Exchanges and listening skills were being enhanced as the various creations came to life!  As each child learns, they can use the assistance of others to enable them to organise their thought processes, and then create something on their own …. and that same process happened for the ECS students.  Thoughts on what was to be created developed through actively manipulating the nuudles. Tones of voice, inflections, intonations, grammar and the vocabulary of language were all purposeful, development of ‘language and thought’ certainly was an essential element of this activity.

The module’s co-ordinator, Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond, said: “This was an opportunity for collaborative and individual craft play time when students could demonstrate their use of appropriate words and conversations.  This activity can then be easily replicated on placement as the students confidently expose young children to words linked to the play activity. Encouraging and influencing language skills through craft play is a crucial part of an ECS student’s professional role”.

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Stepping into Diversity in the Classroom

Year 3 full-time and Year 4 part-time Early Childhood Studies students currently taking the optional module ‘Advanced Understanding of Diversity and Inclusion’, alongside their module coordinator Jill Magennis, enjoyed an informative and thought provoking seminar led by Yvonne Naylor on Monday 20th February. Year 4 part-time ECS student Sorcha Haider reports:

‘Yvonne spent four years as the schools worker at the Corrymeela Community and has gained a wealth of experience through her work as a teacher, youth worker and during the time she spent at the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College, Dublin.

Yvonne shared her experience and knowledge of working with young people in the area of community relations as a consultant and facilitator to deliver creative approaches in the areas of PDMU and RE which can be used within early years settings. During circle time, students were prompted with discussions surrounding concepts such as majority and minority, similarity and difference and their  perceptions of aspects of life in Northern Ireland.

In an informal and discussion based afternoon, students were encouraged to offer their viewpoints and the reasons behind them, while learning simple games and activities that could be easily adapted and used with young children in order to recognise and respect difference in their own communities and the wider world. The group developed their level of awareness and understanding, and they could see how useful this was, especially in light of the forthcoming Children and Young People’s Strategy on the need to support and prepare children and young people for a diverse and shared society. Energy levels were supported by moving around the seminar room in order to discuss associations or stories that were prompted by a collection of cultural and religious artefacts.

Yvonne also introduced students to her amazing collection of handmade knitted puppets which represented the numerous faiths and traditions of people living in Northern Ireland. Those creative enough to make their own puppets were provided with the patterns to take home and attempt!

Sincere thanks to Jill Magennis for organising the visit and to Yvonne for giving her time and sharing her experience to enhance all our thinking on this topical and crucial element within early years practice.’

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Students ‘Wing it’ at Bombardier

The Year 2 BEd Technology and Design students led by T&D technician Mark Fullerton had the unique opportunity to visit Bombardier, based in Belfast Harbour Estate, as part of their ‘Advanced Manufacturing’ module. 

The students’ experience started at the company’s Tool Engineering and Manufacturing Unit, where a presentational overview was given of Bombardier’s extensive product range, operational activity and the significance of the Belfast site for the global leader.  The presentation also covered the importance of engineering and tooling within the organisation, as well as the significant shift in design and manufacturing philosophy which had taken place, including the change from the traditional understanding of hard tooling to soft tools and rapid proto-typing. 

The students were then shown two distinctly different styles of advanced manufacturing, firstly in Bombardier’s Tool Engineering and Manufacturing department and then in its Wing Manufacturing and Assembly facility . The main purpose of the students’ visit was to enable them to see first-hand how a specific design philosophy infiltrates all areas of the advanced manufacturing process, helping to illustrate some of the taught theory. 

Within Tool Engineering and Manufacturing, the students saw how jigs and fixtures are created using a computer-generated model of a newly designed aircraft part.  They were taken through all the major design processes: initial concept drawing, detailed analysis, planning, programming, and rapid proto-typing.  The students were then taken through the manufacturing workshops where they were shown some manufacturing processes, including five-axis CNC machining, laser-guided inspection and final-testing, which all contribute to the production of the finished tools.  

After lunch, the students were given a unique insight to the cutting-edge manufacturing processes involved in creating a new advanced composite aircraft wing.  The guide explained how each individual layer is laser-guided into place, how the massive lay-up tools are moved around the factory semi-automatically and the importance of cleanliness within this environment.  He also explained the precision needed in every aspect of production, from controlling the temperature and humidity of the air to the giant machines used to accurately position stringers and supporting beams within the wing.  Finally, we witnessed some sub-assembly, final assembly and packaging of wing pairs, ready to be shipped to Montreal, where they are fitted to brand new Bombardier aircraft.  

Sincere thanks go to Bombardier, especially Adrian Legg, our sponsor, and Richard Lemon, our guide, who took time out of their busy schedules to accommodate the trip.


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College Launch of ‘Ulster Placenames’ Book

The 15th February marked a ‘first’ for our Lifelong Learning Department when historical geographer and popular tutor Dr Des O’Reilly launched his new book on Ulster Placenames.

At the well-attended event, Des explored the diverse origins of local placenames. Some, like Armagh (from Ard Mhaca- ‘the Hill of Queen Macha’) or Carnalea ‘the Mound of the Calf) had a mythological background, commemorating one the one hand a Celtic goddess and, on the other, the magical calf in Irish folklore. Several local names recall birds of prey such as ‘Drumiller, near Dromore which means ‘the Hill of the Eagle’.

Other names, Des explained, reflect battles long ago such as Carnalbanagh (‘The Grave of the Scotsmen’) near Ballymena or Port-na-spanniagh (the ‘Harbour of the Spaniards’) where the Spanish Armada came to grief near the Giant’s Causeway.

Des focussed on Belfast placenames such as ‘Stranmillis’ (the ‘Sweet Stream’) and Derryvolgie (‘the belly of the woods), a reference to the once dense forest in south Belfast.

Dr Éamon Phoenix, Head of Lifelong Learning, then formally launched Dr O’Reilly’s new book, An Illustrated Guide to the Placenames of Ulster, now available at Waterstones Bookshop. It was a busy afternoon for Des who had to rush off for a live BBC interview!

This event concludes our free Winter Spring Talks series. A fresh series of FREE off-campus Spring Walking Tours begins in May. Please check our Lifelong Learning web-site for details.



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Marty’s Success with the Round Ball and the Oval Ball!

Marty representing Collingwood in the AFL and County Down in GAA
Marty representing Collingwood in the AFL and County Down in GAA

Year 2 Health, Physical Activity and Sport student Marty Clarke has tasted success in Gaelic football in Ireland and in Australian Rules football in Melbourne:

Marty Clarke came to prominence in GAA circles during the McRory Cup campaigns of 2005/06. As captain he led his relatively small school, St. Louis Grammar, Kilkeel, to back to back finals. Unfortunately on both occasions the team was to miss out on the Ulster Colleges’ most prestigious GAA silverware. In September 2005, Marty was awarded man of the match on the biggest GAA day of the calendar, as his County Down team claimed an All-Ireland Minor title at Croke Park in Dublin. 

After completing his A-Levels in June 2006 Marty was selected to go on trial with ‘Aussie Rules’ Football League giant Collingwood FC, based in Melbourne. He signed his first professional deal in late 2006 and represented 'The Magpies' on 73 occasions across seven seasons. Regularly playing in front of crowds in excess of 70,000 people, Marty was a fans’ favourite and is regarded as one of the most successful Irish converts to the Australian code. Marty spent many pre-season training camps at high altitude, including four separate three week stints in Flagstaff, Arizona. He was one of ten team mates to climb down and out of The Grand Canyon on consecutive days, breaking the five hour mark on both occasions.

After returning home to settle in September 2014, Marty applied for entry to the BSc degree (HPAS) at Stranmillis and started the degree the following September. Now in Year 2, he is very content to be back in Northern Ireland. The welcoming nature of Stranmillis staff and students and the interesting mix of theory and practical elements in the degree have helped Marty come to terms with the lack of sunshine we experience here in Belfast compared to Melbourne!


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Stranmillis Formal 2017

On Thursday 9th February, the Students’ Union hosted the biggest event of the second semester: the Stranmillis Formal!

A record-breaking number of 268 people filled to capacity the Wellington Park Hotel on a brisk winter’s evening. The event began with a champagne reception at 7pm followed by a gourmet three- course meal at 8pm.
The formal awards followed shortly after, leaving many in stitches! This set the tone for the speeches that followed, where the Students’ Union President thanked the current student executive team for all their hard work and effort. The Incoming Students’ Union President, John Carville, was then officially welcomed alongside his Executive team for 2017-18.

After the sit-down meal, the awards and speeches, everyone made great use of the photo booth and candy cart, whilst enjoying a few hours to take some time to enjoy each other’s company and admire how everyone looked the part!

The evening entertainment concluded with everyone heading across to the Botanic Inn to dance the night away…

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Strictly Come Dancing with Robots …. and Drones

In February 2017, Primary 7 classes from six primary schools in Belfast and Bangor participated in two two-day events, entitled ‘Strictly Come Dancing with Robots and Drones’, hosted by Stranmillis and St. Mary’s University Colleges.

Over one hundred and sixty P7 pupils completed a series of STEAM-focused challenges using robots and drones, concluding with open-ended problem-solving challenges to program the robots to dance (complete with music and ‘costume’), and to program the drones for aerial acrobatics (STEAM is the STEM subjects with elements of Art).

These two-day events followed research conducted last year as a joint venture between Stranmillis and St Mary’s. The aim of the research was to ascertain if engaging in ‘hands-on’ practical activities could assist pupils to understand better some elements of mathematics, such as measurement and time. The research team is also keen to establish if the practical approach, which also involves creative activity, will better engage certain types of learner who might be ‘turned off’ by theoretical activity. While the two days were a fun experience for the pupils, a research element was included to focus upon particular measurements of the educational impact of STEAM experiences. Three research instruments were used:

a) two TIMSS-based tests, one taken just before the two-day event, and the second taken just after the two-day event;
b) a second P7 class that was not attending the two-day event similarly took the two TIMSS-based tests, to provide a direct comparison of the effect of the two-day event;
c) a learning preference survey was administered during the two-day event.

The research team was supported by over twenty undergraduate student teachers from each university college. The project provided an invaluable opportunity for the student teachers to work alongside their tutors as professional colleagues and collaborators. Within this insightful perspective, the students were additionally able to develop, extend and hone their teaching techniques within a learning environment that would rarely be otherwise accessible during their undergraduate education.

The research team secured funding to cover transport costs and provide hospitality over the two days.

The researchers are now focused upon completing analysis of the gathered data, and then consideration of longer term application of the project, perhaps by integration of the planning and delivery within the degree pathway for B.Ed. Technology & Design, and offering participating schools the opportunity to learn and integrate new technologies within their classroom practice.

The events were opened by Dr. Anne Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College, and Professor Peter Finn, Principal of St. Mary’s University College, both of whom also presented certificates upon completion to each of the participating schools: Loughview Integrated School; St. Kevin’s Primary School; Bunscoil Phobal Feirste; Rathmore Primary School; St. Peter’s Primary School; and Seaview Primary School. The events were also supported by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the research team was led by Dr. Michael Ievers of Stranmillis University College and Dr. Kieran McGeown of St. Mary’s University College.

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Queen’s Sport ‘Active Travel’ Project
Alice Christie - Year 1 HPAS student, Zara Burnison from Active Belfast, Chloe McIlwaine, Paul Loughran Vice President from Queen’s SU.
Alice Christie - Year 1 HPAS student, Zara Burnison from Active Belfast, Chloe McIlwaine, Paul Loughran Vice President from Queen’s SU.

Chloe McIlwaine is a Year 3 HPAS student and is the Active Travel Co-ordinator for students at Queen’s and Stranmillis. She writes about ways in which students are being encouraged to be more active:

‘Last week Queen’s Sport launched their new project Active Travel, which is aiming to increase the number of students undertaking active journeys in and around the Queen’s University campus and the greater Belfast area. The project will be implementing lots of different initiatives to engage as many students as possible, particularly female students between the ages of 18-21.

Various practical events and taster sessions will take place throughout the programme, from ‘Couch 2 5Ks’ to nutrition workshops. We are looking for student volunteers to also assist with the delivery of these information and nutrition sessions. Practical sessions such as ‘Kicksister’ will be run in the Students’ Union, in order to increase physical activity opportunities for those who are typically inactive. This class also helps to promote self-defence as it is a women’s only taekwondo class.

A ‘Leadership in Running Fitness’ course was held in the PEC on Saturday 11th February. From this, our student volunteers will also be helping to lead the Couch 2 5K sessions, encouraging participants while also ensuring safety. A nutrition workshop is being held in the PEC on Wednesday 8th March with limited spaces, helping to provide recipes and affordable healthy eating options for students. If you are interested, please see the contact details below.

Following a student survey which occurred in December 2016, we are working alongside Belfast Bikes as well as Sustrans to promote the use of bikes and bicycle safety. A cycling safety training course will also be run in the PEC, free to students, to help them feel more confident and safer on the roads when they are cycling.

By increasing awareness of opportunities for and benefits of physical activity, healthy eating and cooking, we want Stranmillis and Queen’s students to be living a healthier and more active lifestyle.’ 

To learn more about the project, please contact Chloe McIlwaine at

Also see #QueensGirlsCan  #OnYerBike @qubactivetravel

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Helen's New Start in China

Recent graduate Helen Moutray describes her time so far teaching English in central China.

‘My name is Helen Moutray. I graduated in July 2015 with a BEd degree, main subject Religious Studies. Having lived in Belfast for more than 20 years, I found it hard to imagine that I would be living and lecturing in China one day. Having never ventured further than the south of Europe, the thought of embarking on a 16-hour journey seemed very overwhelming and I had a lot of doubts in my mind.

In September 2016, I decided to go to China with my fiancé, whom I met when he was a student at Queen’s studying accountancy and finance. I was able to commence training and then employment as a TEFL teacher. Wuhan College is situated in Wuhan, the largest city in central China. On my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by my colleagues and the students that I would be teaching. Despite my fears and feeling homesick, the positivity and consideration of both the staff and pupils has enabled me to remain strong.

I currently teach eight English classes per week as well as being an organiser for ‘English Corner’ which meets on a Wednesday evening. I am responsible for teaching both listening and speaking skills as well as being a careers advisor to facilitate the development of the students’ interview and writing abilities. The classes range in size from 40 down to smaller seminar groups.

In my spare time, I enjoy learning Mandarin as well as visiting my fiance’s Chinese family in Changsha, Hunan Province. I’m getting used to the food! I enjoy most of it apart from the very spicy dishes! During my time off I have been able to visit some of the many landmarks China has to offer; so far I have visited Yellow Crane Tower (Huáng hè lóu), East Lake (Dōng Hú) and Orange Island (Juzizhou). Next semester I hope to travel to Beijing and visit the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and Lintong District, home of the magnificent terracotta army.

I would encourage all students to broaden their horizons, to embrace other cultures and to experience the beauty and wonders this world has to offer.’

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Talk Probes Irish Language in Northern Ireland

Dr Ian Malcolm, Lifelong Learning Irish tutor, Linda Ervine and Dr Eamon Phoenix
Dr Ian Malcolm, Lifelong Learning Irish tutor, Linda Ervine and Dr Eamon Phoenix

The third guest speaker in the series of Lunchtime Talks hosted by the College's Lifelong Learning Department was Mrs Linda Ervine. Linda, who is the Irish Language Development Officer for the East Belfast Mission (her own church congregation), spoke of her pioneering work in promoting the language at the Skainos Centre on Belfast's Newtownards Road.

Linda outlined how - as someone from a traditional Unionist background - she first discovered the Irish language and began to attend a class. Today she organises classes and cultural events around the language in the heart of Loyalist East Belfast.

Linda explained her passion for Irish, which she views as the shared heritage of everyone in Northern Ireland. 'Our placenames are redolent with it while 'Lamh Dearg na h-Eireann' ('The Red hand of Ireland') appears on Victorian buildings and Loyalist murals', she said.

Her talk prompted a lively discussion among the large audience on the place of Irish in contemporary Northern Ireland. It was noted that the Bible was first translated into Irish by the Church of Ireland bishop, William Bedell of Kilmore in the 1630s while Ulster Protestants were prominent in the 19th century Gaelic Revival.

The next Wednesday lunchtime talk (8 February at 1pm) is 'Ethics- An Introduction' by Dr Philip McAleenan. All are welcome.

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