Education Workshop goes ‘Beyond the Stereotype’

A lively discussion involving around 50 representatives from churches, schools and a range of other key organisations with a role in education took place in Portadown, on Friday (25th March) with a view to helping our children and young people to reach their full potential.

The workshop at Seagoe Parish Centre was hosted by the Transferor Representatives’ Council (TRC) – representing the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church in relation to education in Northern Ireland – and focused on a new research report from Stranmillis University College, Beyond the Stereotype: Approaches to Educational Under(Achievement) in the Controlled Sector in Northern Ireland.

The study, which was commissioned and funded by the TRC, aims to go ‘beyond the stereotype’ of the well-documented challenge of underachievement among Protestant working-class boys from disadvantaged inner-city communities, and to ‘cast the net wider’ to provide a broader and more representative picture.  Particular challenges in rural communities, which have not been reported extensively to date in previous studies, are identified with some school leaders speaking of the difficulty in motivating boys to work hard towards GCSEs.

Significantly, Beyond the Stereotype also finds that while pupils view educational achievement as largely related to success in external exams (such as GCSEs and A-levels), many school and community leaders (including employers) place greater value on a wider range of skills and abilities, and pupils’ mental and physical health, self-confidence, happiness and willingness to learn.

Dr Noel Purdy, who led the research through Stranmillis’ Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement, said: “We’ve certainly identified lots of challenges – there are big challenges facing controlled schools and indeed every school in Northern Ireland – but what we did see was a diverse, committed, community-orientated and innovative sector which is committed to maximising achievement for all children.  In other words, allowing all the children in schools to stand tall and achieve to their full potential.”

The TRC represents its member churches in all matters of education in the region, and oversees the appointment of over 1,500 governors to controlled schools.  The three churches transferred (hence the origin of transferors) their school buildings, pupils and staff into state control on the understanding that the Christian ethos of these schools would be maintained.

You can find out more about the TRC through its website at www.trc-churcheducation.org.  More information on the work of the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) can be found at www.stran.ac.uk/research/creu

 

CREU’s Dr Noel Purdy appointed as Chair of Irish Government’s Anti-Bullying Action Plan Steering Committee

Dr Noel Purdy (right) appointed as Chair of Irish Government anti-bullying action plan steering committee.

Dr Noel Purdy, the Director of Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU), has been appointed as Chair of the Irish Government’s Steering Committee to review its 2013 Action Plan on Bullying.

The Steering Committee met for the first time today at the Department of Education in Dublin, where the review was launched by the Irish Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD. It is intended that the review will take account of developments and relevant research since the 2013 Action Plan, considering areas such as cyber-bullying, gender-based bullying and sexual harassment.  The Steering Committee will comprise senior Department of Education officials, external experts and representatives of advocacy organisations.

Speaking of his appointment, Dr Noel Purdy said “I am very honoured that Minister Foley has invited me to chair this important review of the 2013 Action Plan on Bullying.  I look forward to working with colleagues in the south over the coming months to ensure that the revised Action Plan serves as a research-informed blue print to protect all children and young people from all forms of bullying.”

Dr Purdy is a longstanding member and former chair of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum and has led a number of significant research projects on bullying, including cross-border studies on bullying and special educational needs, and a recent five-nation European project on cyberbullying among young people, the Blurred Lives Project.  He recently chaired the Expert Panel for Educational Underachievement in Northern Ireland whose final report and action plan A Fair Start was published on 1 June 2021.

To find out more about the Steering Committee, read the Department of Education’s press release here.

Beyond the Stereotype – New Research Explores Views of Educational Success and Underachievement in Controlled Schools

A significant new research report into educational underachievement in controlled schools – commissioned and funded by the Transferor Representatives’ Council – has been launched by Stranmillis University College.

Beyond the Stereotype is based on group interviews with principals, teachers and pupils in eight primary and post-primary schools in suburban, town and rural areas, and also with school governors and other leaders in those communities.  The study aims to go ‘beyond the stereotype’ of the well-documented challenge of underachievement among Protestant working class boys in inner-city areas, and to ‘cast the net wider’ to provide a broader and more representative picture.  It raises important questions about the purpose of education and how we measure success.

The study finds that while pupils view educational achievement as largely related to success in external exams (such as GCSEs and A-levels), many school and community leaders (including employers) place greater value on a wider range of skills and abilities, and pupils’ mental and physical health, self-confidence, happiness and willingness to learn.

Particular challenges in rural communities, which have not been reported extensively to date in previous studies, are identified with some school leaders speaking of the difficulty in motivating boys to work hard towards GCSEs.  Disadvantage across generations and a lack of educational aspiration, often associated with inner-city working-class contexts, are also reportedly strong features of many rural communities.

Beyond the Stereotype also finds that schools lack support in terms of sourcing standardised tests for pupils, which are bought in from private companies in the absence of government-funded tests.  A resulting variety of approaches in testing at primary level mean that post-primary schools often test pupils within their first few days at their new school; this, in turn, adds to an impression among pupils that post-primary education is about tests and scores.

School leaders are doing “sterling work” in keeping education going throughout the pandemic with one positive consequence of this crisis being that “schools and families are often now better connected than ever before” due to the increased use of remote technology.

Many community leaders speak of their passion for supporting schools and helping local children to succeed.  A range of perspectives – supportive and critical – on the role of Protestant Churches in education is heard; the study affirms that where school leaders are open to church involvement (which cannot be assumed) and where a local church engages meaningfully, tangibly and unconditionally in its local school, “there is enormous potential to improve educational outcomes.”

Download the report here. 

Taoiseach announces research funding for Stranmillis-led ‘BUDDIES project’

An all-Ireland team led by Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) have been successful in being awarded a significant funding award for research through the Irish government’s Shared Island initiative and SCoTENS. The development was announced today in a keynote address to the Shared Island Forum by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

The BUDDIES Project will examine the role and potential of the Home-School Community Liaison (HSCL) coordinator in terms of addressing educational disadvantage across the island of Ireland.

The research will be a collaborative project with University College Dublin (UCD) and Marino Institute of Education (MIE).

Led by Dr Glenda Walsh, Assistant Director of CREU and Head of Early Years Education, the Stranmillis research team includes Dr Jill Dunn, Dr Ken Gibson and Dr Karen Orr, working in conjunction with southern partners Dr Seaneen Sloan at UCD, and Dr Cliodhna Martin at MIE.

Professor Colleen McLaughlin, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Cambridge, will play a role as an expert advisor.

The HSCL works at the intersection between home and school, supporting children and families in the process, particularly in areas of high deprivation and those at risk of educational underachievement. It is all about enhancing partnerships with families so that they value and support their children’s education more fully.

The research aims to provide a fuller understanding of the role of HSCL coordinators across the full educational spectrum and to guide policy-makers and practitioners in their knowledge and appreciation of the value of HSCL coordinators, particularly for those facing disadvantage.

Welcoming the news, Dr Glenda Walsh said “We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to work with University College Dublin and Marino Institute of Education on such a timely and significant project.  Positive home-school partnerships are hugely beneficial in terms of tackling educational underachievement so learning more about best practice in this field will no doubt prove beneficial across the educational spectrum.”

Director of CREU, Dr Noel Purdy, said “There is so much to be learnt from the sharing of experiences and expertise with our closest neighbours and so we are very grateful to SCoTENS and the Shared Island initiative for funding this north-south research.  I know that the findings will be keenly anticipated by school leaders, researchers and policy makers on both sides of the border.”

Home-schooling in the COVID-19 crisis: second survey launched

A team from Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) has launched a second survey for parents/carers home-schooling children aged 3 to 18/19 within the context of the renewed 2021 COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland.

CLICK HERE TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY.

The team are keen to gather information from parents/carers about the everyday realities of home-schooling, to compare with findings from last year’s survey. The last survey was really successful in informing the work of the Department of Education, the Education Authority, schools and voluntary sector organisations – we’d like to repeat that success, and find out how things have changed since last year.

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of CREU, explains, “This is an important and timely survey and we would encourage as many parents and carers as possible to take some well-deserved time out from home-schooling to complete the survey by noon on Monday 22nd February.  And please tell your friends and share the survey so that we have as many responses as possible, allowing us to have as representative a picture of what home-schooling is really like across all age groups and abilities in Northern Ireland.”

Click here to complete the survey.

The Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement is based at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.  It is committed to researching issues around achievement affecting children, their parents/carers and teachers in Northern Ireland and beyond, and is guided by the principles of rigour, partnership and impact.  Read our recent blog posts on homeschooling and other educational issues here here.  See also ‘Playful Ideas for Active Minds’ – free resources, ideas and activities produced by our PGCE (Early Years) students to minimize the impact of school closure on young children’s educational development.

 

Home-schooling in the COVID-19 crisis: survey launched

A team from Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) ran a survey for parents/carers home-schooling children aged 3 to 18/19 within the context of the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland. There is now a second version: CLICK HERE FOR THE NEW SURVEY.

The team of Dr Glenda Walsh, Dr Noel Purdy, Dr Jonathan Harris and Dr Jill Dunn are keen to gather information from parents/carers about the everyday realities of home-schooling for children who would normally be in day care, playgroup, nursery, special, primary or post-primary settings.

They will use the data gathered to better inform the ongoing work of the Department of Education, the Education Authority, schools and voluntary sector organisations who are already working to support parents/carers in their home-schooling efforts.

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of CREU, explains, “This is an important and timely survey and we would encourage as many parents and carers as possible to take some well-deserved time out from home-schooling to complete the survey by noon on Friday 8th May.  And please tell your friends and share the survey so that we have as many responses as possible, allowing us to have as representative a picture of what home-schooling is really like across all age groups and abilities in Northern Ireland.”

Click here to find the new survey.

The Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement is based at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.  It is committed to researching issues around achievement affecting children, their parents/carers and teachers in Northern Ireland and beyond, and is guided by the principles of rigour, partnership and impact.  Read our recent blog post on homeschooling here.  See also ‘Playful Ideas for Active Minds’ – free resources, ideas and activities produced by our PGCE (Early Years) students to minimize the impact of school closure on young children’s educational development.