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The Brenda Shawshank Redemption: a parkrun inside the walls of a prison!
Brenda trying to get into Magilligan Prison!
Brenda trying to get into Magilligan Prison!
Brenda with Tim and Morgan!
Brenda with Tim and Morgan!

On International Parkrun Day and World Mental Health Week 2018, Stranmillis Early Childhood Studies lecturer Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond was very privileged to be asked to be a visiting parkrunner to Lower Drummans Parkrun, which is inside the walls of a prison! 

The first ever Lower Drummans parkrun took place at Magilligan on the 6th January 2018 and continues every Saturday morning with prisoners and staff taking part. The official name does not include the word ‘prison; instead it is known as Lower Drummans Parkrun after the townland in which it stands.

Brenda has now completed all 28 parkruns in Northern Ireland!  Brenda said: “After having completed my challenge of 21 parkruns for the Early Childhood Studies Degree 21st Anniversary Celebrations I was inspired to continue the journey to complete all 28 in N.I. That amazing journey has ended with a parkrun inside the perimeter walls of a prison. I would never have imagined that my last parkrun in N.I. would have been with inmates and staff at a medium security prison which is embracing the parkrun fitness phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Parkrun definitely involves the ethos of inclusivity.”

As Chrissie Wellington, Global Head of Health and Wellbeing has said, “Parkrun’s mission is to help create a healthier and happier planet, and to do this our events need to be accessible to as many people as possible, including people who do not otherwise participate in parkrun.  This is the case for HMP sites and parkrunning within prisons will provide regular physical exercise and volunteering opportunities for prisoners, building hope and aspirations, recognising and celebrating people’s strengths and progress, promoting skill development and fostering agency and empowerment.”

It is thought that parkrun can be a unifying force for good in the desisting from crime and changing lives for the better.  Allowing inmates to take part can reduce reoffending and help people better reintegrate post-release.  The staff register the prisoners, print off personal barcodes, process results and manage the website.  Inmates do not include their surnames, and emails about the results are sent to family members.  Matt Shields, Parkrun Ireland’s Lead Ambassador has said: “Lower Drummans parkrun is blazing a trail in Northern Ireland by demonstrating the positive and significant impact that parkrun can have for both prisoners and staff.” 

New research by Morris and Scott (2018), has found that the impact of parkrunning on mental health extends far beyond physical activity and has the potential to support people outside the traditional mental health services. Participants in the study reported that parkrun gives them a sense of identity – being part of the ‘parkrun community’ and increasing confidence.  It also helps to reduce isolation, depression, anxiety and stress, and gives participants space to think.  Volunteering opportunities at parkrun events increase inclusivity as people who do not want to, or are unable to, run or walk can participate by volunteering.  The flexibility of parkrun – which can be for whatever purpose an individual chooses, means goals include simply attending, getting faster, visiting different parkrun events and regular participation.  In addition to achieving at a parkrun, it is about a sense of self confidence to achieve in other areas of life. 

When parkrun was established 14 years ago on what has now become known as International Parkrun Day, its founder Paul Swinton – Hewitt successfully created what is now a parkrun community of 5 million registered park runners in 22 countries worldwide.  Parkrun is having a tangible impact as it is the largest free physical activity and the largest provider of volunteering opportunities on the planet. It is the leading light in breaking down barriers to participation, combating inactivity, fostering diversity and promoting inclusion.  Parkrun is a community of equals, whose friendships, community cohesion and personal empowerment are just some of the reasons why participation in parkrun can lead to improved mental and physical health.

Just 21 more countries to run in now, Brenda!

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Chloe’s an Irish Dancing Queen!

Year 2 BEd Primary student Chloe Dunlop has become All Ireland Irish Dancing Champion.

Chloe has been dancing from the age of three and has been placed 1st in the All Ireland Championship, 1st at the British National Championships and 3rd in the World Championships. She has also had many more podium placements. She says that she has currently ‘retired’ from competitive Irish dancing to concentrate on her studies at Stranmillis but she still takes part in displays and shows - for example she was in Poland during the summer.

Chloe says that Irish dancing has allowed her to travel widely and meet people from all over the world. Her team also won the All Ireland Drama Championship two years in a row. This is a team event which allows teams to portray characters and tell a storyline through dance and drama.

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Stranmillis Lecturers Attend the EECERA Conference in Budapest

Dr Glenda Walsh and Dr Barbara McConnell represented Stranmillis University College at the EECERA conference in Budapest in August.

Glenda and Barbara commented that this year's conference was definitely a special one. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a truly enriching learning experience, providing opportunities for them to share their own work, listen to the cutting edge research of others as well as networking of course - meeting old and new friends.

They said: ‘What topped it this year has to be the venue -the beautiful city of Budapest! What a wonderful city in so many ways - the people, the food and definitely the architecture - truly amazing! And what made it even more special was the opportunity to travel down the majestic Danube by night on the Euròpa Ship for the Gala Dinner- absolutely amazing and definitely worth the LONG journey to get there. Yes extremely shattered after the few days there but very worthwhile. A big thank-you to all of the organisers involved.’

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ECS Students have Safety on their RADAR!

Year 1 ECS students visited the RADAR centre in Belfast on Friday 28th Sept 2018 as part of their Year 1 Induction programme.

RADAR is Northern Ireland’s first fully interactive, safety and life skills education centre. On the visit students focussed on life skills to keep them safe as they begin University Life. They had the opportunity to consider fire safety, drink and alcohol awareness and driver safety. The centre provided students with the opportunity to explore dangerous situations in a risk free, fun environment. 

Dr Barbara McConnell, Senior Lecturer in ECS in Stranmillis said: “At Stranmillis we take student welfare very seriously. This year we wanted to ensure that our students are aware of the risks that they face on a daily basis as they begin to lead more independent lives. The fun activities at RADAR encouraged them to consider the impact and possible consequences of the decisions they make e.g. not texting while driving or the impact of alcohol on decision making. The RADAR centre is a fabulous resource and it is such a pity to hear that due to funding issues it will close at the end of this year. Our students thoroughly enjoyed the day and they reflected what a fabulous resource it would be for all children in Northern Ireland to take advantage of. In particular the students loved trying out the ‘beer goggles’, especially watching their tutors and fellow students negotiate the obstacle course whilst wearing them !”

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Digital School House continues to grow in Northern Ireland
Dr Irene Bell (second from right) with Shahneila Saeed (centre) and some of the Lead DSH teachers from Northern Ireland.
Dr Irene Bell (second from right) with Shahneila Saeed (centre) and some of the Lead DSH teachers from Northern Ireland.

Dr Irene Bell, Head of STEM at Stranmillis, has been appointed the ‘Regional Academic Lead’ for Northern Ireland for the Digital School House Programme.

The work of Digital School House combines fun, creativity and innovation to deliver computing and computational thinking in the classroom. Thanks to the generosity of UKIE, PlayStation, Sega and Warwickshire County Council, schools throughout the UK are being supported in staff development, resources and mentoring to deliver an exciting playful approach to teaching associated with this imaginative programme which is fully underpinned by academic research and education philosophies.  Fully trained Lead Teachers in Digital School Houses are released by their school to undertake play based learning in computing with primary teachers and their pupils within their learning communities. Digital School House ensures that “Digital School House Lead Teachers are ever-empowered, confident and inspired to deliver Creative Computing in classrooms across the UK.”

Following the success of last year, the Digital School House Programme in Northern Ireland has continued to grow and develop to the extent that a ‘Regional Academic Lead’ has been appointed for the province. Dr Irene Bell is delighted to be the regional lead and is excited to be working with our schools throughout the province in this innovative but vital work. The announcement was made at the UKIE Headquarters in London at their annual launch.

This event also saw the release of the latest research report on the perceptions of over 2,000 pupils on ‘Online Safety: A pupil’s perspective’. This extremely interesting piece of research was undertaken by Shahneila Saeed, Director of Education UKIE. Industrial partners also continue to expand in their support for schools with UBISOFT being welcomed into the family at the event.   

Why not check out the approaches and resources at  .  


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Stranmillis Welcomes the Class of ‘58

As the start of term approaches, the College is set to welcome our latest cohort of ‘eager young minds’.  But what will they be doing and what stories will they have to tell in 60 years’ time?    

On Wednesday 5th September, we were delighted to welcome some eager, but slightly older, minds back to campus, 60 years on from their first trepid steps through the gates of Stranmillis to start their initial teacher education journey. Over 60 of the Class of 1958 attended a  reunion for a lunch, a walk around the campus and reminiscing on times past, times present and 60 years that have seen them teaching and shaping education in the furthest corners of the world. Some are still teaching!

Mrs Margaret Brown was one of the organisers of the event.  Margaret started her Stranmillis journey in 1958, before a long and distinguished career in teaching; and it is a journey that is still going strong in the Brown household today. 30 years on from Margaret’s first day at Stranmillis, son Andrew walked through the gates to start his undergraduate journey; and 30 years on from that, the Brown passion for education will be passed on to the new Class of 2018  by that same, 30 years older and wiser, Mr Andrew Brown, now Head of Arts and Humanities at Stranmillis. Andy was one of the speakers at the reunion event.

Recounting their time here, one of the alumni described  it as “a  time of great freedom and adventure that gave me a growing sense of self-worth”, and when asked what advice she would give the class of 2018, she said: “You may not have an impact on every pupil you teach, but your life will be well spent if you help just a few of them on their life’s journey. It’s better to light one candle than cure the darkness.”

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Doors Open for European Heritage Day

As part of the European Heritage Open Day programme, organised by the Historic Environment Division of the Department for Communities, the College opened its doors for visitors to see around the campus and hear about some of its history.

Part of the wider European Heritage Day Celebrations which take place in around 50 countries across Europe, the programme is Northern Ireland’s most popular celebration of built heritage. With over 70% of the buildings on campus being listed, and the majority of our 46 acre grounds being a designated conservation area, Open Day visitors were able to enjoy tours of the Main Building and Stranmillis House, as well as a guided tour of the grounds with Dr Richard Greenwood.

Around 80 visitors from all over Northern Ireland took up the opportunity to tour the grounds and buildings. They were also able to meet and speak with a number of our Lifelong Learning tutors to hear more about some of the exciting short courses on offer at the College during this academic year. One very apt course, particularly given the theme of the day, and which was actually taking place at the time of the campus tours, was the Traditional Basket Weaving course, where the students were producing their own traditional willow skib using locally grown, harvested and seasoned willow.

The visitors included a number of former students from the 1950s and 60s. Whilst current students use the Students’ Union Executive Boardroom in the basement of Stranmillis House for meetings, for one visitor that room brought back fond memories of visiting an aunt who worked at Stranmillis when part of the Boardroom was her aunt’s bedroom! Another former student reminisced about her time at Stranmillis while looking out over the College Hall from where the Marketing Office is now on the first floor of Stranmillis House; that was also her bedroom when she was a student!  

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Bobby Savage’s Secret War

Stranmillis lecturer and award-winning local playwright Dr Michael Ievers has just published his latest play. He describes the story of how it was inspired by his uncle’s life and the contents of an old box…..

"Marble Productions NI is a professional theatre company that commissioned me to write a play for them during the summer, but the play is actually based on a true story, which was discovered last year in the contents of a tin box in my parents' attic - a box that had apparently remained unopened since World War II.  After months of subsequent research through public and military records, "Bobby Savage's Secret War" is closely based on a true story about my uncle that was finally uncovered only by a chance contact with British Special Forces. The play chronicles a brief time in Bobby’s brief life, but yet a life that stood with countless others to confront the best and the worst of humanity in a war that must never be glossed over….."

Marble Productions NI is a young professional theatre company bringing theatre and culture to people in a new and innovative way! They will be staging a series of “Cultured Spirit” evenings across a range of venues in September:
The Lagan Barge on the 13th & 14th September; Bangor Studio 1A on the 19th, 20th & 21st September; Derry Playhouse on the 22nd September; The Black Box on the 24th & 25th September.

Sponsored by Slice of Heaven and RubyBlue Vodka, each evening will feature sampling of complimentary food and drink that is crafted in Northern Ireland, along with music from up-and-coming local singer-songwriters, including Lucy Robinson, and a staging of "Bobby Savage's Secret War", which will be the first in a series of short plays set within particular periods of NI history. This will be followed by the context set and anecdotes told by contemporary and charismatic historian, Dr Stephen Goss.

And to continue the Stranmillis association, one of the lead characters is played by Jason Nugent, who recently graduated from Stranmillis with a Bachelor of Education degree in Technology and Design.”

Tickets are on sale at

("Bobby Savage's Secret War" is published on Amazon ISBN 9781718189805).

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Clearing 2018 – BEd (Post-Primary)

Very few people have the ability and opportunity to inspire and help young people achieve their potential and make a real difference to their lives. If you have that passion to make a difference, teaching is a hugely rewarding career. Stranmillis  University College currently has availability on our BEd (Hons) degree programmes in post-primary education in:

Maths and Science
Technology and Design
Business and Enterprise
Religious Studies

For further details or to apply, please email .

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Clearing 2018 – Health, Physical Activity and Sport

Stranmillis University College offers BSc(Hons) and Foundation Degree programmes in Health, Physical Activity and Sport.  The courses are designed to develop the knowledge and skills of those hoping  to develop  careers in a range of organisations in the fields of health promotion, education, fitness, physical activity, physical education (PE), and sport.

The Foundation Degree programme is run in conjunction with Belfast Metropolitan College. On successful completion of the Foundation Degree you will have the opportunity to progress to Year 2 of the BSc (Hons) Degree in Health, Physical Activity and Sport at Stranmillis University College. A number of places currently are available on the BSC (Hons) and Foundation Degree programmes. For further details or to apply, please email .

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Clearing 2018 – Foundation Degree, Early Childhood Studies

The Foundation Degree  in Early Childhood Studies, has been developed to meet the needs of students with a passion for working with children, young people and their families  in the Early Years sector  - education, care, health or play.

The course is delivered through a combination of classroom teaching and practical work placements. The Foundation Degree programme is run in collaboration between Stranmillis University College and the Regional Colleges. Places on the course are currently available at Belfast, Ballymena, Derry/Londonderry, Lisburn, Newry, Newtownabbey and Omagh.  On successful completion of the Foundation Degree you will have the opportunity to progress to Year 2 of the BA (Hons) Degree in Early Childhood Studies (full-time or part-time) at Stranmillis University College.. For further details or to apply, please email .  Degree in Early Childhood Studies (Year 1 of 2.5 years)&cid=PT

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Tor Bank Partnership
From left: (1) Chloe-Anne with Yvonne and Kate in Betty's; (2)Joshua - portering with William and Darren;                 (3) Conor gardening with Niall
From left: (1) Chloe-Anne with Yvonne and Kate in Betty's; (2) Conor gardening with Niall; (3) Joshua - portering with William and Darren.

Following the success of the last two years, Stranmillis was delighted to host three more sixth-form pupils from Tor Bank School on work experience each Tuesday morning during the 2017-18 academic year.

Each week Chloe-Anne helped Kate and Yvonne to serve the customers in Betty’s coffee shop, while Joshua worked alongside the members of the portering team to deliver internal mail and set up rooms.  Meanwhile Conor worked outdoors with Niall in the gardening team. 

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship, commented “I would like to thank the hospitality and estates teams for supporting our work placement students so enthusiastically again this year, but most of all I would like to thank Chloe-Anne, Joshua and Conor for all their hard work throughout this past year.  We really enjoyed working with them and wish them every success as they continue their studies.”

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Stran is First NI Eco Campus
Members of the Eco Campus Committee
Members of the Eco Campus Committee

Working in partnership with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Stranmillis University College is delighted to become the first Eco Campus in Northern Ireland.

The college occupies an 18 hectare (46 acre) site in South Belfast and has made a long term commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its business activities. Key themes to be addressed in the 2018/19 year include the promotion of active travel to reduce the use of cars, promoting biodiversity on campus and reducing the amount of paper used on campus. Planned work includes: increased facilities for, and access to bikes; wild flower meadows and outdoor learning; and a programme to make greater use of electronic documents to reduce the amount of printing and paper use.

Commenting on the initiative, the Chair of the Eco Group, Dr David McKee, said “This is an exciting development for Stranmillis University College which will enable us to reduce our environmental impact and to educate staff and students about the importance of environmental issues and what practical steps can be taken to address them."

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Computing At School Conference June 2018
Top: Shahneila Saeed, Head of Education UKIE, Digital School House delivering the keynote.
Top: Shahneila Saeed, Head of Education UKIE, Digital School House delivering the keynote.
Bottom: Stephen Howell, Microsoft, discussing developing Computational Thinking through Microsoft MakeCode.
Bottom: Stephen Howell, Microsoft, discussing developing Computational Thinking through Microsoft MakeCode.

The 5th annual ‘Computing At School’ (CAS) Conference was a celebration of the outstanding achievements this year of CAS in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to yet another full attendance at the event, Dr Irene Bell started the day by introducing the ‘British Computer Society IT Educator of the Year’, Mr Eamon O’Hare, from St Malachy’s High School, Castlewellan. Both runner-ups, Dr Caroline Pereira-Lynch from St Catherine’s College Armagh and Mrs Beverley McCormick, Newbuildings Primary School, were also warmly congratulated by their fellow teachers.

Conference attendees also celebrated the success of 42 teachers in Northern Ireland who, thanks to a Google Educator Award, will receive a full bursary to undertake the Guided Route of the BCS Certificate in Computer Science Teaching. The resources created by this project will be made available to all teachers in the province free of charge and the newly qualified teachers will each be mentoring another school in their learning community.  The third piece of news to celebrate was the addition of another two Digital School Houses (DSH) in Northern Ireland. Conference attendees welcomed St Mary’s College, Derry and St John the Baptist College, Portadown into the DSH group. Digital School House has been a major success in the province, and even more exciting was the fact that the Head of Education for UKIE Digital School House, Shahneila Saeed, was the keynote speaker at the event. Inspirational, captivating and exciting were some of the words used to describe Shahneila’s talk. When you can get 100 teachers at the end of June to play ‘Cat, cat, mouse, mouse’ and chase balloon cheese round a lecture theatre in explaining how to make a computer game … then you know you have a winning speaker!

The day was filled with the latest ideas in teaching computing in schools at all levels, not forgetting a full day of support for our secondary teachers in learning programming language Python. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) gave the after lunch talk. Teachers were eager to learn more of the exciting opportunities that exist within cyber security. Staff from the NCSC have promised to return in the Autumn term to support Northern Ireland teachers even further in this crucial aspect of computing and digital literacy. Last year St Catherine’s College Armagh were the UK runners-up in the NCSC CyberFirst Girls’ Competition. Next academic year we want the winners to come from Northern Ireland!

Thanks must go the UKIE Digital School House, Citi and PwC for supporting the event.

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CPD and APA Celebration Event

On Thursday 14th June we joined with CPD Students, Associate Placement Assessors and Graduate Interns celebrating all the achievements from the past year.

A huge number of students took part in Stranmillis CPD Courses this year, studying a range of courses - from SEN to Forest Schools to whiteboard training - to name but a few.

The guest speaker at the event was Lady Rosemary Salisbury who provided an inspirational speech on her life and the importance of Continuing Professional Development for all.

The CPD Brochure for 2018-2019 is now launched and is available to download now via our website: CPD Brochure 2018 2019

We hope to welcome new and old students to Stranmillis this coming year.

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‘Every mile is worth my while!’

Overwhelmingly .... 4,000 children along with hundreds of staff in 40 schools all over N.I. signed up and took part in the Early Childhood Studies Degree Celebration Walk.  Schools in every county in N.I. took part in The Daily Mile initiative on World Outdoor Classroom Day on the 17th May 2018 - some for the very first time!

The Daily Mile Foundation is a charity established by Elaine Wyllie in 2016 – the Pride of Britain Award winning former head teacher of St Ninian’s Primary School in Scotland, where the Daily Mile first began.  Elaine wanted to provide every child the opportunity to walk a Daily Mile each day in their school, and she has seen the initiative work as a long-term health implementation in many schools.  Supported by INEOS, she is now working with a small team to build the Daily Mile’s global community with schools, local councils, sports bodies and other charities. In Northern Ireland 105 schools are registered with the Daily Mile ( ) and globally 4,200 schools in 31 countries are signed up. 

Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond was invited to launch the Daily Mile at Mount St.Michael’s Nursery and Primary School in Randalstown as the school were participating in the ECS Celebration Walk on the 17th May.  All 430 children from the Nursery and Primary School took part in the Daily Mile and continue to do so every day.  Brenda felt that the children fully endorsed the Daily Mile core principles: “The children had fun whilst walking and running with their friends.  The fact that this is a fifteen minute walk / run during their school day which is fully inclusive for every child, whatever their age, ability or circumstances, is so encouraging.  The children were out in the fresh air and the weather is a benefit, not a barrier.  The children who took part with me that day certainly enjoyed the warm sunshine and the welcomed ice pops afterwards.” 

The Daily Mile has been so successful as there is no set up, tidy up, or equipment required, and no training of staff is necessary; children walk / run in their trainers - it’s social, non-competitive and fun.  The children return to class ready to learn; such an activity improves fitness and helps towards attaining or maintaining a healthy weight, whilst encouraging children to be aware of their health, mood, behaviour and general wellbeing.

A massive thank you to all the schools, their children, and their staff, many of whom are past ECS graduates, who walked or ran with us on our Celebration 21st Anniversary Walk.  What a walk we had! Remember - ‘Every mile is worth my while’, so let’s help children ‘get fit for life.’ 

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‘Yes we can!’ Stranmillis Students Shine at Primary Science Conference

Stranmillis students shared their innovative practice at a primary science conference held recently in the College.

This annual event, organised by Dr John McCullagh and Dr Andrea Doherty, highlights and celebrates the high standard of classroom teaching and the curriculum development work carried out by students during the course of the academic year. The conference enables students to fulfil some of the criteria for accreditation to the ‘Stranmillis Student Teachers’ College’ (SSTC), which is included in the Degree Enhancement Programme. Based on the Primary Science Teaching Trust’s ( ) ‘Teachers’ College’ model the accreditation requires student teachers to evidence their competence in teaching, disseminating and engaging with the policy and theory which underpin their practice. The skills and experiences gained through the course of the accreditation are designed to develop student teachers’ sense of efficacy and agency and provide opportunities for them to network with schools in their community. As well as going some way to enhancing the quality of current science education, the scheme aims to nurture the potential science leaders of the future.

Year 4 BEd Primary student Isabella Roberts enthused the audience with an account of her Playful Science lessons based on the Disney film ‘Up’, which included using helium balloons and pupils’ school bags to estimate how many balloons would be required to transport the character Carl Fredricksen’s house to South America. Year 3 students Rebecca Carson and Ross Addidle reported on their findings from the ‘Numeracy through Digital Science Enquiry Project’ where they used data-loggers connected to iPads to develop Key Stage 2 pupils’ science enquiry and numeracy skills. Leah Shaw (Year 4) described how her she drew on her Art specialism to design creative and cross-curricular science lessons based on the topic of ‘Houses and Homes’. In her keynote address recent graduate Jennifer Swann provided a thoughtful account of her ‘science journey’ throughout her time at Stranmillis and reflected on the skills and competences she calls upon in leading primary science at Corran Integrated Primary school.

Following the presentations the delegates had the opportunity to engage with the many displays of work completed by students from both the Primary and Post-primary programmes.

The conference concluded on a positive note, with the announcement that funding (£10,000) has been secured from the Primary Science Teaching Trust to support further research and development of the SSTC model. We would like to thank the Trust for their continued support and encouragement and, of course, all our dedicated students!


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Stranmillis launches Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement

Stranmillis University College today launched a new Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement. The new centre, located at Stranmillis, will provide an important focus for research into one of the most significant and complex challenges facing society in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship at Stranmillis, commented: “Educational underachievement is highly complex and multi-faceted, and it has been the subject of numerous studies over many years.  These reports suggest that underachievement is closely correlated with social disadvantage, and that many of our children and young people face enormous barriers to learning, both inside and outside the classroom.  Research carried out at Stranmillis has been shaping educational policy and practice and unlocking pupil and teacher potential for almost 100 years.  It is important that through our new Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement we work to extend and deepen our understanding of educational underachievement across all sections of our community, and that we offer evidence-based responses which can inform not just policy in the boardroom but also everyday teaching and learning in the classroom”. 

The core aim of the new Centre is to engage in a focused portfolio of innovative, interdisciplinary research into educational underachievement in Northern Ireland.  The Centre’s objectives are to develop a comprehensive understanding of the nature and extent of educational underachievement and then provide evidence-based responses to the challenges of educational underachievement - responses that will be of significance to government, elected representatives and departmental officials, educational stakeholders, teachers, parents and, most importantly of all, to children and young people.

The launch was attended by over sixty leading educational stakeholders from schools, universities, statutory and voluntary sector representatives, as well as elected representatives from all the major political parties, including Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster, MLA, former First Minister.  The keynote address was delivered by Will Haire, CB, Chair of Trustees at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

For further information about the launch, please contact Patricia O’Lynn on or 028 9038 4212, or Graeme Watson on or 028 9038 469

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Three Cheers for Early Childhood!

Thursday 10th May saw the annual Music@Stran Spring Concert present a showcase of talent to mark 21 years of Early Childhood Studies (ECS) entitled ‘Unlocking Childhood Potential’. The theme of the evening’s celebration involved many aspects of childhood - through music and dance alongside reflections from staff and students.

The evening was compered by Catriona Rogers, lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, who wove the story of the BA programme throughout the performances. The production featured an impressive vocal performance from ECS student Zara McNally singing ‘When I grow up’ from the musical Matilda, the College Choir offering wonderful renditions of children’s favourites ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic’ and ‘Old McDonald had a Farm’ and a Celtic music/dance from Claire McKinney and Judith Campbell. Ensemble highlights were provided by Year 4 music specialist students Sara Beattie, Rachel Gamble and Judith Allen in ‘Tale as Old as Time’, the talented Panto Band, the CU Praise Group singing ‘The Cause of Christ’ and the Staff Chorale singing ‘Forever Young’.

Lecturers Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond, Dr Barbara McConnell and Dr Bronagh McKee also shared stories of other events that have taken place during this coming of age year. Ms. Sheelagh Carville, Head of the Early Childhood Studies department shared the story of how the degree began in 1996 and led the way both at home and across the UK.  Sheelagh praised the foresight and commitment of the University College in sustaining the degree programme since its inception.

The evening was a wonderful celebration of the work of ECS both locally and internationally, featuring a ‘Fields of Life’ presentation following a recent visit to Uganda by students and staff with a focus on Early Childhood. Dr John McMullan interviewed two ECS students, Emily Wilson and Cherith Watson, who shared their experiences of their time in Uganda.

A birthday celebration would not be complete without a birthday cake and this was presented to Professor Sir Desmond Rea (Chair of Board of Governors) by the University College’s Principal, Dr Anne Heaslett. They were joined for the ‘cutting of the cake’ by some ECS students who have themselves recently turned 21. Then students, staff and their families enjoyed a delicious slice with a hot beverage at the end of the evening!

Overall the event was testament to the support and commitment of music staff Jayne Moore, Frances Burgess as well as Norman Richardson, digital technician Graeme Watson and artistic director Andy Brown

Compere Catriona Rogers commented: ‘It was a pleasure to compere the Music@Stran event and to help highlight the many talents of our students and staff. The BA Early Childhood Studies degree goes from strength to strength and it is a joy to be a part of the ECS team at Stranmillis.'

Lecturer Jill Magennis reflected on the event too: “It was a wonderful evening which allowed us to share the journey and celebrate the success of ECS. Thank you to all those involved - a truly uplifting evening. Here’s to the next 21 years!”

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Enrol for the ECS 21:21 Celebration Walk

Calling all principals and teachers:

The Early Childhood Studies Department at Stranmillis University College is celebrating the 21st Anniversary of our BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree.  In association with this the ECS department would like to invite you, your school and your schoolchildren to participate in a 21:21 walk/run on Thursday 17th May 2018. 

On this day we would like to invite at least 21 schools and 21 nursery schools across Northern Ireland to have a minimum of 21 children from the Early Years and Foundation Stage classes (and the rest of the school if you wish) to walk one mile in their own playgrounds.  This would tie in with World Outdoor Classroom Day which is on May 17th and link in also with the Daily Mile initiative in which all schools are being encouraged to participate. There is no set up, tidy up, or equipment required, and no training of staff is necessary; children walk / run in their trainers - it’s social, non-competitive and fun and the children return to class ready to learn. Such an activity improves fitness and healthy weight, whilst encouraging children to be aware of their health.  It is fully inclusive as every child, whatever their circumstances, age or ability can succeed at The Daily Mile.

It would take approximately 15 minutes for the children to walk / run 1 mile and this exercise in a natural ‘outdoor classroom’ environment can rapidly improve self-esteem, relieve stress and anxiety, and can create happiness along with their friends. For teachers who already regularly take their children outside, the day will be a celebration of what they are already doing and a chance to inspire other schools to get involved.  For everyone the 21:21 walk / run / mile will act as a catalyst for more time spent outdoors every day and may even lead your school to sign up to the Daily Mile (  and ).

Capturing your 21:21 mile for Stranmillis with photographs and a small video clip will be a great way to celebrate your participation and the impact that getting outdoors has on the children. Your photographs, with the name of your school in the background of one of them, along with any video clips sent, may be featured on the Stranmillis web site and social media pages.  Stranmillis will also provide a certificate for every child who takes part in the 21:21 walk.  Please make sure that your photography and social media policy covers the children appearing in the photographs and the videos. 

For those wishing to take part in Stranmillis University’s 21:21 Celebration Walk, please register your commitment at  by Monday 14th May and a confirmation email will be sent to you. You will then be registered with Stranmillis to take part and hopefully some of our staff will make it to some of your schools on that day to walk with you and the children. 

Thank you in advance of your participation.

The ECS team at Stranmillis University College.


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ECS Students Prepare To Celebrate ‘Face Equality Day’

As a vital component of the Year 1 ECS module on Child Development, students investigate “Atypical Physical Development in Children”.  One element of this is the importance of ‘facial equality’, which allows everyone to feel more confident about their appearance, perhaps their unusual appearance.  This year’s Facial Equality Day is on Wednesday 23rd May 2018, which will launch a year of campaigning and actions across the UK specifically for children and young people with visible differences. 

Every year, around 15,000 children in the UK are born with a disfigurement, and many more acquire a disfigurement during their childhood.  86,000 children are estimated to have a disfigurement - 1 in 124 in the under 16 school population.  Whilst a ‘severe disfigurement’ is classed as a disability in the Equality Act (2010), it is important to note that the presence of a disfiguring condition does not mean that the child has any learning difficulty or cognitive impairment, nor very often any physical impairments either.  The discrimination they face, according to research carried out by Changing Faces (2017), arises through attitudes and behaviours of other people, who find it hard to envisage a successful and happy future for a child with a disfigurement.  Schools, colleges and universities must ensure that disfigurement is included in their anti-bullying and equality policies, which should lead to clear, positive perceptions of children with disfigurements as part of both school and wider communities. Teachers and all school staff including teacher training providers should receive facial equality training to build their knowledge, skills and confidence so that all appearance prejudice is responded to and addressed and discrimination is stamped out. Face equality should be included in the school curriculum and children and young people taught that inclusive environments have respect for face equality. 

With an awareness of our culture’s relentless focus on appearance and the huge pressure on us all to look good, the ECS students decided to create their own diverse facial masks while discussing simultaneously their attitudes and ideas about appearance, disfigurement and about being inclusive in our diverse society.  Designing ‘their own face’, gave them an unusual appearance and allowed them to imagine feeling vulnerable to being seen as ‘different’, to staring and invasive questions, to hostility or avoidance and how they may need extra support while in school to feel more confident about appearance and unusual appearance.

Dr Brenda Mc Kay-Redmond, Child Development module co-ordinator, feels that “If you are involved in the education of young children you need to know about appearance and disfigurement.  All staff need a basic understanding of the main psychological and social issues that arise when a child has a disfigurement.  We need to be able to anticipate the curiosity and the questions that children will experience and to prepare responses which will be socially positive for everyone.  Learning activities and resources enable all children and young people, including my students, to have effective interventions to address appearance anxieties and move beyond stereotypes.”

There are lots of ways for schools to get involved in Face Equality Day on the 23rd May,  both in the weeks leading up to #FaceEquality and on the day itself.  Individuals, organisations, companies and schools can sign the Face Equality Pledge. provides more information, ways to get involved and how to show your support.

Happy Facial Equality day from all ECS degree students at Stranmillis!


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Saphara Trip to India 2018

Stranmillis lecturer Dr Anita Gracie reports on a very successful ‘Journey with a Purpose’ to India by Stranmillis and St Mary’s students and staff:

'The word ‘saphar’ in Hindi means journey or pilgrimage and the motto of the Saphara charity is ‘Journey with a Purpose’. The purpose of our journey was to share our love, teaching skills, English language fluency and resources with the children in Sneha and Kaplani schools. Over ten days in India the ten students and two lecturers from Stranmillis and St. Mary’s fitted in more new experiences than we ever thought possible. From sightseeing at the Taj Mahal to trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, from the teeming market stalls in Delhi to the beaming faces of the children in Sneha who wished us “good morning, how are you?” every morning and “goodbye, see you tomorrow” as they left, we made memories which will remain with us forever.

The Year 3 BEd students worked in mixed teams with their counterparts from St. Mary’s to prepare lessons which were engaging, active and effective and their not inconsiderable talents in singing, art and dance meant that the language barrier was no barrier to learning as the children joined in with enthusiasm. It was my great privilege to deliver training workshops on two afternoons during the week to teachers from both schools, and it was humbling to learn that the Kaplani teachers had come down the mountain on mopeds (a journey of at least an hour on twisting mountain roads) after the end of their school day, to attend. We discussed child protection issues and raising self-esteem and it was evident that although these schools might be poor in terms of resources and equipment, they were richly blessed in having a staff who were completely devoted to the children in their care and determined to give them the best possible opportunity to overcome the poverty of their backgrounds.'

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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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