Skip to main content

News & Events

The Daily Mile Symposium

Dr Brenda McKay Redmond and Dr Barbara McConnell from the Early Childhood Studies Department of Stranmillis University College took part in a research symposium on the health benefits of the Daily Mile initiative on Friday 12th April at the Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick.

This symposium, entitled “What is the Daily Mile and is it any good for our Kids in NI?”, was part of the annual conference of the Northern Ireland Branch of The British Psychological Society. The symposium, which was chaired by Dr McConnell, who is also the Hon. General Secretary in NI of the British Psychological Society, brought together academics, practitioners, health professionals, teachers and the research co-ordinator from the Steering Group of the Daily Mile Foundation.

It began with academics from Ulster University presenting on their work around the Daily Mile. This was followed by Dr Colin Moran from Sterling University who presented on the first published Scottish study on the Daily Mile. (The Daily Mile originated in Sterling, where the head teacher, Elaine Wylie began it in St Ninian’s Primary School). Dr Brenda McKay Redmond then presented on a study that she has been implementing in Stranmillis with Year 1 ECS students during their ‘Children’s Health and Wellbeing Module’. This study facilitated students participating in The Daily Mile during seminar work, with the intention to motivate them to be The Daily Mile Champions in their settings and thus encourage more children to take part.

Following on from the research papers, Colette Brolly from the PHA and Clare Drummy, Physical Activity Co-ordinator for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, talked about how Health Professionals are supporting the implementation of The Daily Mile in Schools. The symposium ended with Philip Lavery and Rosin McMullan, Vice Principal and P.E Co-ordinator respectively from Mount St Michael’s Primary School in Randalstown, presenting a case study of their school introduce The Daily Mile and how beneficial they are finding children’s participation in it.

Dr Barbara McConnell, Chair of the symposium noted: 'This was an excellent symposium and it was so good to have academics, health professionals and practitioners together in the room to learn from each other.  We are very grateful that Emily Carson Research co-ordinator for the Daily Mile came along to hear the symposium and we are delighted that we are going to continue this network and have established a local partnership at Stranmillis to investigate ways to continue the research and participation in The Daily Mile. It was encouraging to hear that 222 schools - 27% of NI primary schools - have now registered for the Daily Mile in NI, but there are a number of schools still to register and we hope at Stranmillis to be able to support this work in collaboration with our partners.  The symposium was an ideal opportunity to hear about the real life practicalities from the staff at Mount St Michael’s, but I was so moved to hear the stories of how it is an inclusive, free intervention and how all children can participate at their own level.'

Barbara expressed her gratitude to all the speakers at the symposium, especially thanking Colin Moran, whose mother and aunt are Stranmillis alumni.

Top of Page

The Talk of Tyrone – Stranmillis ECS staff launch The Daily Mile

Talking, walking and running were the requirements at the launch in Omagh County Primary School of The Daily Mile (TDM) initiative when Dr Brenda McKay Redmond and Dr Barbara McConnell, Stranmillis ECS staff, were the invited guests.

The Early Years staff at Omagh County P.S. have been working at introducing The Daily Mile for their children under the enthusiastic direction of Emma Daley, their nursery teacher and current Stranmillis ECS Master’s student.  Emma wanted to introduce TDM  as it is a social activity where the children walk, run or jog, at their own pace, for 15 minutes at least three times a week.  It is fully inclusive and improves the health and wellbeing of children. Emma believes that TDM helps children to become more physically active, that it is sustainable and that the children are refreshed, returning to class ready to learn. The Early Years staff have also been working alongside Lesley Finlay & Eimear O’Kane (Western Health Social Care Trust (WHSCT) Health Improvement Department) and Oonagh Donnelly (Community Planning, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council) in the lead up to this exciting event.

Lesley Finlay, Physical Activity Co-ordinator for the Western Health & Social Care Trust, highlighted: “The Daily Mile is a simple, free way of promoting physical and mental health and also helps children focus in the classroom.  We are delighted that Omagh County have introduced the initiative in their school.  We have developed a range of resources to support Primary Schools who wish to participate in The Daily Mile including pupil certificates and classroom posters.”

Jill Funston, Principal of Omagh County PS, felt that the introduction of TDM in her school was significant because: “The Daily Mile removes barriers to the participation in physical activity. It is simple and inclusive. It introduces daily physical activity into children’s lives with the minimum of fuss. A valuable intervention in this time of austerity which costs nothing”.

The children celebrated completing their first mile by placing a sticker on their ‘The Daily Mile’ chart and enjoying a healthy picnic snack. What an achievement!
Brenda McKay Redmond insisted that: “Running along with the Nursery and Year 1 pupils as they embarked on their Daily Mile journey was the real privilege of the day.  Being part of this TDM launch initiative, and watching the children embrace the core principles of TDM was so exciting.  TDM was such a sociable event for the children as they had fun, ran and chatted with their friends, enjoying their experiences together.  Barbara and I wish all the children and staff every continued success in implementing this vital and valuable initiative and hope they will continue to be the Talk of Tyrone!”  

Further information on becoming a Daily Mile School can be found on TDM website and by contacting Dr Brenda McKay-Redmond TDM representative for N.I. on TDM Research Advisory Group




Top of Page

ECS Farewell Tea Party!

Staff from the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies [ECS] degree at Stranmillis held a farewell tea party for their final year tutorial group students who are about to graduate in July.

The tea party marked the end of their three years of full-time study; both staff and students enjoyed the opportunity to chat, reminisce and hear about future plans for the following year from the students.

In Year 1, ECS students at Stranmillis are allocated a Professional Development [PDP] tutor and are assigned to a tutor group for the duration of their course. They get the opportunity to meet in these small groups on four occasions each year to discuss their professional development. This PDP Tutor also visits and monitors them throughout their extensive placement activities, supporting their development as Level VI graduate practitioners. PDP tutors encourage the members of their tutor group to undertake the University College’s extensive programme of ‘degree enhancement’ activities which broaden and extend their knowledge and skills, over and above their degree content. The process ensures that graduating cohorts are ready for the next stage in their careers as they engage in postgraduate study, or enter the world of work in early childhood education and care.

The ECS team wish the ‘Class of 2019’ all the very best in their future careers and hope they will keep in contact with Stranmillis as they explore where their ECS degree will take them!

Top of Page

When a conversation on Twitter leads to a whole conference!

A rise in social media activity on how to best address ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACEs) demonstrates a growing global concern for those who work with children. Teachers, schools and other educational professionals are central to identifying children who are dealing with one or multiple ACEs and to provide appropriate support to them. ACE awareness is now an integral part of Stranmillis degree programmes and as part of our wider community engagement we were delighted to jointly host and organise a ‘Relationships for Resilience: Show-casing effective trauma informed practice’ conference.

The conference was a collaborative project between Stranmillis University College, Barnardo’s NI, Women’s Aid Federation NI and Connected for Life.  Representatives from each of these organisations formed the TIPER team (Trauma Informed Practice for Effective Relationships network) and organised the conference to inspire and deliver messages of hope and resilience.  The TIPERs agreed that there had been a lot of awareness raising around ACEs but that many practitioners remained unsure about what they could do next to break cycles of adversity and how to really make a difference.

Roisin O’Neill from Barnardo’s said:

‘We wanted to motivate practitioners and students and influence change across the different sectors to bring about a more trauma-informed and trauma-responsive society. The key message was to be about the power of relationships and human connections in bringing about healing and transformation, and helping children to thrive and fulfil their potential.’

The conference was attended by 200 practitioners and 50 students and was a huge success.  It was opened by Stranmillis drama specialist students, pictured with College tutor Dr Bronagh McKee who produced the drama to showcase the importance of trauma informed practice for teachers in understanding children’s reality of adversity.  This was followed by a powerful film - ‘Robert’s Story’ which told of a young local man’s journey from adversity and offending to resilience and hope. The keynote speech was from inspirational Jaz Ampaw-Farr, Resilience Ninja and TED Talk presenter, who told her story of growing up in the midst of appalling poverty, trauma and hardship and the five ‘everyday heroes’ (all teachers), whose belief in her literally saved her life.

Jaz took time to view Stranmillis student posters on adverse childhood experience and trauma informed practice and said

‘I’m blown away with the work that your (Stranmillis) students get in relation to trauma informed practice’ and tweeted ‘My reason for celebration today is connecting with these phenomenal women (TIPER team) leading the ACEs revolution in Northern Ireland’.

The afternoon provided a range of workshops that showcased and celebrated models of best trauma-informed practice from early years settings, schools and community groups across Northern Ireland. These provided delegates with innovative ideas, strategies and practice tools to help children overcome adversity, build resilience and fulfil their potential. The University College will continue to embed ACE awareness trauma informed practice in its core degree programmes and looks forward to hosting more events such as the one highlighted here.





Top of Page

Uganda Here We Come!

Mrs Diane McClelland, Stranmillis Literacy lecturer, visited eight primary schools in Uganda with a view to ascertaining how best the children and teachers in these schools could be supported. 

Diane is a trustee of a charity called Charlene’s Project which has been working in Uganda for almost ten years.  The charity was set up by a young girl, Charlene Barr, from Dollingstown, who had been a pupil in Diane’s P.2. class in Waringstown Primary School. Charlene, the adopted daughter of Dr Richard and Mrs Janice Barr, suffered from cystic fibrosis. Following a working trip to Uganda with her family in 2008, the country and its people captured Charlene’s heart.  When her condition prevented her from studying for her A levels, determined to make a difference, Charlene’s indomitable attitude was “If I can’t go to school, I will build a school for children who don’t have a school!”  While waiting for her double lung transplant Charlene mobilised many people, and along with the support of her family and friends, tirelessly raised money to build her first school in Africa. 

Very sadly, Charlene was never to have her life saving operation.  The weekend the foundations were laid of Charlene’s Project’s first school in Uganda, was the weekend of Charlene’s funeral. 

Following her death, Charlene’s family found her journals and diaries which spoke of her hopes and dreams to help the children of Uganda. The charity has continued to grow and it reached its tenth anniversary in 2020. It has supported communities in Uganda and Guatemala and also refugee children, through humanitarian, educational and medical support, including drilling water wells, and child sponsorship programmes.  In a bid to make a real difference the charity seeks to partner with other organisations working on the ground in the various countries and inputs into indigenous projects which have improved and continue to improve the lives of so many.

Reflecting on the trip, Diane said, “It is an immense privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees of such an inspirational charity which is making a real difference in so many ways educationally and medically to so many lives in Uganda.  Charlene’s heartfelt dreams continue to be realised as the work keeps on growing.”

As part of the recent trip with CEO Dr Richard Barr and fellow trustee, Mr Basil O’Malley, Diane visited a cluster of primary schools in rural areas of the Kiriandongo region of Uganda.  Time was spent meeting with management committees of each school, teachers, pupils and parents.  These schools and communities are being supported by Charlene’s Project alongside the charity’s longer-term vision of building a much-needed secondary school in the region.  It is hoped that Charlene’s Project will bring a team of teachers and student teachers to work alongside and support the teachers and children in these schools during the summer of 2020 and beyond in projects spanning a few years.

The last word must surely belong to the special girl whose vision started it all.  Charlene’s blog, Tuesday 18 August 2009, “The need of the children in Uganda shocked me, and I saw that they were even being deprived of something as small as an education, something which in this country we take for granted.” Having asked her family to go and find a school which needed rebuilding Charlene was delighted when they sent home news of the school they had found. Charlene’s blog continues “I really do feel like this is the right school to be starting my project with and I pray that it will be the first of many that Charlene’s Project has helped to contribute towards.”

To find out more about the charity Charlene’s Project, visit their website www.charlene’

To find out more about Charlene’s amazing story read “Chosen” the book she asked her brother, David Barr, to write, to promote the work in Africa and help support other adopted children.

Top of Page

New Play by Michael Ievers

Belfast in the 1970s – remember the colours, the music, the flares…. the Troubles.

The Professor and The Factory’ is the latest play from Stranmillis University College lecturer and national award-winning playwright, Dr. Michael Ievers. The premiere will be staged at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre in Newry on the 17th May, before the run continues at the Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter on the 24th and 25th June and at Studio 1A as part of the Open House Arts Festival in Bangor on the 9th August.

Commissioned by Marble Productions, this is Michael’s third play, and the cast includes not only the renowned political journalist and actor, Ivan Little, but no less than four Stranmillis alumni, in Dawn Murphie, Adam Baird, Michael McCandless and Jason Nugent. After the play’s performance Ivan Little is interviewed about his new book, ‘Reporting The Troubles.’

The Professor and The Factory,’ transports you back to Belfast in the 1970s, and to a moment in time when the ‘weemin’ had their say. It’s based upon a true story about the fortunes of a failing shirt factory so transformed by the arrival of a professor from Queen’s University that during the Ulster Workers’ Council strike of 1974, the women of the shirt factory repeatedly breached the barricades to keep the factory going. This is the story of these women.

Top of Page

PLiCS Trip to Poland
At Wawel Castle, decorating eggs and receiving course certificates
At Wawel Castle, decorating eggs and receiving course certificates
At Auschwitz; Easter market decorations
At Auschwitz; Easter market decorations

On 7th April a group of ten BEd students from Stranmillis and St. Mary’s University Colleges with two lecturers, Dr Anita Gracie and Dr Gerard McCann, met for the first time and headed off to Poland for a week-long intensive course in Internationalisation and Diversity.

This course involved learning about how our partner universities, Krakow and Krosno, facilitate international programmes for multicultural groups of students and how they use technology to collaborate with university classes across the world. The students had the opportunity to participate in one of these classes with East Carolina University via videoconference link where they discussed whether English will remain the global language in the future, and what form of English should be taught to students to best facilitate global communication.

The students and staff also heard about local Polish Easter traditions and then did some traditional craft activities such as decorating eggs with découpage, yarn-wrapping and sequins. They were able to share some traditional Belfast fudge with the international students as we all worked together – this went down a treat!

Another aspect of this course was going on field-trips to sites of historical interest. The group visited Auschwitz and reflected on how this place was an emotional and sobering reminder of what happened when people failed to see the common humanity and inherent worth of every single person on earth. They also also visited Lancut (pronounced Winesoot…?) Castle, where they marvelled at the lavish extravagance of the interior decoration of this ‘mini-Versailles’. On the last day of the trip they had the opportunity to learn about glassmaking - the primary industry of the town of Krosno where they had been based for the last four days.

One of the main benefits of this programme was the opportunity for the students to really get to know one another and to learn together about how diversity and globalisation is shaping the university experience for students all over the world and indeed, how technology and internationalisation are shaping how the world communicates – Professional Learning for a Changing Society in action!


Top of Page

Making LINKS in Israel through peacebuilding in the Early Years

Jill Magennis, Stranmillis Lecturer in Early Years Education and PhD student in the Queen’s School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, recently returned home from a study visit to Israel; she reflects on this visit below:

‘I recently spent time in Israel in association with the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) and the LINKS network which is part of the international Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) in partnership with UNICEF, Yale, Harvard and New York University which seeks to support the development and evaluation of early childhood development (ECD) programmes in societies affected by conflict.

My PhD is associated with the LINKS network, led by the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation under the direction of Professor Paul Connolly. LINKS currently works in six countries and is seeking to expand the network to include additional partner countries, including Israel.

My visit enabled me to continue data collection for my doctoral studies and I also had the opportunity to engage in the Bi-National Meeting: Israel and Northern Ireland, organised by Professor Margalit Ziv from Kaye Academic College of Education and Professor Dorit Aram from Tel Aviv University in partnership the MOFET Institute. This provided opportunities to discuss current research surrounding peacebuilding in early childhood in Israel and also learn more about the international work of LINKS shared by colleagues from Queen’s University, Belfast: Professor Paul Connolly, Dr Sarah Millar, Dr Laura Dunne and Dr Nicole Craig. This was also in collaboration with Dr Siobhan Fitzpatrick (CEO) and Pauline Walmsley (Deputy CEO) from Early Years – the organisation for young children. The meetings explored possible opportunities in the future to work together to support the development of early childhood development (ECD) programmes that seek to contribute to peacebuilding in Israel. A number of similarities were identified between this work and various initiatives being undertaken through the LINKS partner countries.

Speaking of the visit, LINKS Director, Professor Paul Connolly said: “We have had a very productive and inspiring two days learning about the work currently being undertaken in relation to ECD for peacebuilding in Israel and sharing experiences and perspectives. The issues facing the early childhood sector in Israel are complex and challenging. We were impressed by the commitment of colleagues working in this context to promote inclusion and respect for diversity and to challenge prejudices and discrimination.”

Thank you to Professor Connolly for his support in making this visit possible - I found it to be both productive and insightful as I continue my exploration into the experiences of educators in relation to promoting respect for diversity and ways forward for peacebuilding in conflict affected societies. My immediate priority is to complete my PhD. However, there are opportunities for me to continue and extend my research in this area with colleagues in Israel as part of my ongoing involvement in the LINKS network.

I would like to thanks my colleagues at Stranmillis, Dr Noel Purdy, Dr Patricia Eaton and Dr Glenda Walsh for their ongoing support with my studies and enabling me to make this visit possible to complete this phase of my doctoral studies. I look forward to sharing this work on peacebuilding with students across our PGCE, BA in Early Childhood Studies and BEd Primary in relation to PDMU, inclusion and cultural diversity. 

“…to inspire others, we must continue to think of peace and know that peace is possible. What we dwell upon we help bring to manifestation. One little person giving all of her time to peace makes news. Many people giving some of their time can make history.”  - The Peace Pilgrim

To find out more about CESI and the Links network, click on the links below:

Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation:

LINKS network: 

Top of Page

CS Lewis and the Imagination
Dr Jerry Root with Dr Barbara McDade and Dr Anne Heaslett
Dr Jerry Root with Dr Barbara McDade and Dr Anne Heaslett
Bottom: Dr Root with Friends and Fellows of the Belfast CS Lewis Institute
Bottom: Dr Root with Friends and Fellows of the Belfast CS Lewis Institute

A public lecture entitled, ‘C S Lewis and the Imagination’ was hosted by the College on the 14 March.

Dr Jerry Root, distinguished academic and C S Lewis scholar from Wheaten College in the United States delivered a stimulating address to a packed lecture theatre, which included representatives from the C S Lewis Institute, Belfast. Dr Root has not only written extensively on C S Lewis but has also lectured on the subject for 34 years in eight countries across the world.

Fifty-six years after his death Lewis is still regarded as a great Christian apologist. But he was also a great imaginative writer and is internationally recognised for his fantasy, science fiction and children’s books.  A major theme explored in Dr Root’s lecture was how C S Lewis used the power of storytelling to deal with many of the complex aspects of human existence. It was Lewis himself who described how reason can be ‘the watchful dragons’ that are difficult for us to steal past. Reason can inhibit our understanding of God’s love and grace. With a story we have the opportunity to get involved - to feel the impact of these great truths on our lives.

The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session which reflected the engagement of a deeply appreciative audience.


Top of Page

Shared Education Training Modules delivered by Stranmillis

Stranmillis University College has been delighted to offer a number of the Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) training modules as part of the Shared Education Signature Project (SESP), which the Education Authority (EA) has the responsibility for taking forward and implementing. 

The overall aim of this project is to increase the levels of sharing across schools in NI and to improve the educational and reconciliation outcomes in schools who are working collaboratively.

To date, the College team within Stranmillis has delivered 28 courses to over 400 teachers from all phases and sectors, in a range of specialist areas.  The modules offered have included ‘Playful Learning in Practice’ (led by Dr Glenda Walsh); ‘Community Connections in Practice’ (led by Dr Barbara McDade) and ‘Delivering Shared Education at Primary Level’ (led by Dr Norman Richardson) and ‘RE’ (led by Dr Norman Richardson and Dr Anita Gracie).  More recently, two new courses, ‘STEM in the Primary Classroom’ (led by Dr Irene Bell and Dr John McCullagh) and ‘Drama Basics’ (led by Dr Andy Brown), have been added to the suite of professional training modules offered to teachers.

These TPL modules have been providing teachers across the province with the opportunity to take time out of the classroom to reflect on practice and ultimately to embed effective practice in Shared Education into their teaching.  One of the key aspects of these courses is that practitioners have the opportunity to work and plan with their Shared Education partners, reviewing their existing practice and identifying plans for future development, as they support children and young people in their respective schools on their individual shared educational journey.  A further key element of the courses is that teachers have the opportunity to listen to others’ experiences and share good practice. 
The majority of the courses adopt the 2+1 model within which teachers come together for two days, plan in the interim period and then come back together for a follow-up day to present their personal reflections and plans for the future with regard to further developing this work with their partner schools.

The Shared Education TLP has received very positive feedback from participants, including comments such as “(it is a) long time since I’ve been on such an enjoyable and informative course!” and “Thank you for your clear insight which has enabled us to plan for the way ahead”.

Photos on the right:
Top: Dr John McCullagh – ‘STEM in the Primary Classroom’
Middle: Dr Andy Brown – ‘Drama Basics’
Bottom: Playful maths in action! From ‘Playful Learning in Practice’

Top of Page

Meeting Three at Ballymagee!

Dr Barbara McConnell met no less than three former ECS students when she paid a visit to see one of our current students at Ballymagee Primary School in Bangor.

It is that time of year again - when a majority of Stranmillis Students are on placement. The second year Early Childhood Studies [BA (Hons) ECS] students are no exception; in the second semester they attend a three week block placement in a Foundation or Key Stage 1 class. Here they have the opportunity to plan playful activities for a group of children, as well as shadowing the class teacher.

Their personal tutor, who has followed them through the degree to offer advice and guidance on their professional practice development and who has visited them in all their previous placements, visits the students in their school placement and supports them as they reflect on their learning and progress. 

Dr Barbara McConnell was visiting one of her tutor group in a Primary 2 Class in Ballymagee Primary School when she encountered no less than three former ECS graduates employed there. 

She reports, ‘This year I was visiting a Year 2 student in Ballymagee and I was absolutely delighted to find that my student was in the class of a previous ECS graduate, Gillian Balfour. This was such an enriching experience for the student as Gillian was able to relate to the student, having previously completed the ECS degree before also going on to complete the PGCE in Early years at Stranmillis . We are so grateful to all our placement providers who accept and support our students when on placement and I certainly look forward to visiting all the settings each year.

This year it was lovely to not only meet Gillian, but the other past ECS graduates in Ballymagee. I had the opportunity to visit the classes of both Rachel Anderson and Martin Cram, and was delighted that I was able to get a photo with Gillian, Rachel and Martin.  It is so rewarding to see our graduates not only providing quality learning experiences for the children, but also supporting the next generation of ECS graduates. But it was not only past students who I met - again it was lovely to meet with the school’s SENCO, Lorna Welsh, a friend and colleague who I first met when I studied in Stranmillis ‘a few years ago’.

A big thank you to all the past Stranmillis Alumni Graduates who support our students during this important aspect of their degree.’

Top of Page

PGCE students have a "Tree"mendous time outdoors in Waringstown!

Margaret McMillan in 1925 famously commented, “The best classroom and richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky.”  Our PGCE class certainly experienced this first hand recently. 

As part of their work on outdoor learning, the PGCE class were treated to a Forest School experience in the grounds of Waringstown Primary School. Despite the blustery weather and threatening rainclouds, all students, pupils and staff were appropriately attired to participate in an enjoyable outdoor learning experience. Upon arrival and before braving the elements students and accompanying lecturer Mrs Diane McClelland were welcomed by the principal Mr Carl McCambley, were treated to refreshments then given a presentation on the history of Forest Schools in Waringstown P.S. by the VP and Forest School Coordinator Mr Martin Gault.  Martin went on to explain the planning for the session and risk assessments - all valuable considerations for outdoor activities.  Following this, everyone embarked upon an interesting and engaging Forest School session in the lovely grounds of Waringstown P.S. where the children, in groups, ably assisted by PGCE students, began their map building activities. 

Bethany Megaw reflected as she observed:
“There were small groups of children working co-operatively and sharing their ideas to create aerial or ‘bird’s eye’ views of the primary school premises, using only natural materials such as sticks, stones, bark and leaves. The open-endedness of the task meant that not one group produced the same outcome, with a variety of 2D and 3D constructions.  The groups then took turns to explain their creations with the rest of the class and answer any questions from them. It was wonderful to observe the discussion between the children and how engrossed and interested they were, and how they learned from one another.  It was evident that the outdoor experience provided endless opportunities for learning, supporting children’s holistic development. It was wonderful to be a part of the morning and see the children’s excitement and enjoyment in their learning throughout the activity.”

Natalie Soteriou also found the whole experience very beneficial, stating that:
“The trip to observe the Forest School input in Waringstown was incredible. I was blown away by how creative the children were with their responses.  Furthermore, in feeding back to their peers the children were able to use words like creativity and imagination as well as detailed descriptions about the resources used alongside their planning and execution of the activity. The self-evaluation between the pupils where they questioned one another regarding their work was interesting and gave an effective insight into the children’s development of Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities.  The enthusiasm of every child in getting ready to go outdoors was wonderful to see - there was no reluctance to get involved by any child. At the conclusion when asked if they preferred indoors or outdoors to do the same activity the children unanimously voted outdoors!”

Finally Kelly Toye found the experience very beneficial for teachers and children alike very affirming:
“I thoroughly enjoyed the visit to observe forest school in action. I was very impressed with the level of interaction from the children. I witnessed one child, who had been displaying challenging behaviours in the classroom, become very motivated and focused on the activity. The conversations this child engaged in were fantastic and he was able to describe his activities in detail alongside what he had learned. The joy in his face was so evident and he was genuinely loving the task. It was a pleasure to witness such a conducive learning environment.  The outdoors also enabled the teacher to build up an effective rapport with the children in a different setting, as they all enjoyed participating in valuable activities in a relaxed and open learning environment. This has definitely encouraged me to explore further and develop forest school teaching within my own practice.”

Lecturer Diane McClelland undoubtedly shared the students’ and children’s passions for Forest School commenting that the day was “…a truly enjoyable experience as we saw the  children and student teachers benefitting immensely and in so many ways from learning together in the outdoors.” 

Sincere thanks to staff and pupils at Waringstown P.S. for making us feel so welcome and enabling us to participate so fully in their outdoor learning programme.


Top of Page

Enjoying Life in Hong Kong
Top: Tara, Bethany, Emma, Patrick
Top: Tara, Bethany, Emma, Patrick

Four Year 3 BEd Primary students – Emma Smallwoods, Tara Grant, Bethany Curry and Patrick Forster – are spending a semester in Hong Kong on their International placement. Each of them share some thoughts below:

Emma Smallwoods:
Néih hóu from Hong Kong! Hard to believe we have been living Hong Kong for just two months and it already feels like home. A highlight for me has definitely been the Chinese New Year celebrations. It was fantastic opportunity allowing me to become immersed in the Chinese culture and learn more about Chinese traditions and beliefs. Having the chance to teach in a local primary school has been fantastic and is allowing me to critically compare the education system in Hong Kong to Northern Ireland. This has been a once in a lifetime experience and I am enjoying every single moment. I would highly recommend an international experience to anyone interested as it allows for personal and professional development as well as memories and friendships that will last a life-time.

Tara Grant:
Hong Kong has exceeded all our expectations. International placement has benefited us all as we have grown as individuals and as teachers within the primary school in which we are teaching. Making friends with locals has enabled us to see what life is like in Hong Kong, and how the world is much bigger than our little haven back in Northern Ireland. From Disneyland, to hiking mountains, eating pigs’ intestines, visiting temples and so much more, Hong Kong is a place we are nowhere near ready to leave.

Bethany Curry:
Over the past few months Hong Kong has become a home from home. This vast concrete jungle has something for everyone: beaches, shopping, hiking and a variety of food! Having placement in the primary school has allowed me to appreciate the similarities and differences between the education systems of Hong Kong and Northern Ireland. I’m also pleased to say that I have ditched the ‘stabbing method’ of my chopsticks for a more skilled approach. Being able to spend Chinese New Year in Hong Kong was so special! After having many reservations about taking on an International placement, I can honestly say that this is the best decision I have ever made and would encourage others to take the same opportunity.

Patrick Forster:
It’s very hard to sum up this amazing place in a few sentences. Honestly, Hong Kong has everything you want - beautiful beaches, quaint fishing villages, epic hikes, impressive skylines, endearing markets, an interesting history and a charming culture… and that only scrapes the surface. Alongside this, the international placement is the perfect opportunity not only to learn about another education system and gain a greater appreciation our own, but also to learn about yourself in a way you could never do in Northern Ireland.

Top of Page

Environmental Learning Day

Level 1 Early Childhood Studies students and Level 1 Health Physical Activity and Sport students from Stranmillis came together on Monday 25th February to take part in the first Stranmillis Environmental Learning Day.

The students engaged in workshops given by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Forest Service, Habitat for Humanity, Ulster Wildlife, Forest Schools and Sustrans. These interactive workshops provided students with a range of practical activities such as hunting for bugs or tile painting. Each student took part in at least three outdoor workshops and they had the opportunity to explore the biodiversity around the campus.

Stranmillis, in partnership with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is working to become the first Eco Campus in Northern Ireland and the Environmental Learning day helped address a number of the key themes identified in its priorities.  Beginning with the outdoor learning theme, this event provided students with the opportunity to consider the impact that they personally have on the environment. The day ended with students making a commitment to personally change one of their actions to help reduce the impact they have on the environment.

Commenting on the day, the Chair of the College’s Eco Group, Dr David McKee, said “This was a very interesting and enjoyable day and we thank ‘Keeping Belfast Beautiful’ and all the workshop providers for their inputs. The day provided an opportunity for our students to learn about the importance of environmental issues and what practical steps they can take to help address them. The students thoroughly enjoyed the workshops on campus and we hope this will be the first of many such days".


Top of Page

Safer Internet Day 2019
Constable Susan Moody (centre) with School Based Work coordinator Dr Brian Cummins and Child Protection and Safeguarding coordinator Dr Bronagh McKee
Constable Susan Moody (centre) with School Based Work coordinator Dr Brian Cummins and Child Protection and Safeguarding coordinator Dr Bronagh McKee
Constable Catherine Tumelty, PSNI Belfast Area Training
Constable Catherine Tumelty, PSNI Belfast Area Training

The theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day was ‘Together for a Better Internet’, and on 5th February Stranmillis students joined in with the global initiative to inspire conversation about using technology respectfully, responsibly and safely.

Prior to Safer Internet day, a series of talks, lectures and seminars took place, starting with a presentation on Cyber Crime Prevention to Year 3 and Year 4 BEd Post Primary students by Constable Susan Moody from the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) Cybercrime Centre. As students prepare to go on placement, this session reinforced the importance of safe internet practice, not only for them as young teaching professionals, but for the pupils they will be working with.

In partnership with the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland and the PSNI, Dr Bronagh McKee, Stranmillis Child Protection and Safeguarding Coordinator, also organised a number of Virtual Reality: Keeping Safe Online training sessions. Participants included all 4 year groups in the B.Ed Post-Primary programme through modules in Personal and Professional Learning and School Based Work and final year BEd Primary students as part of Degree Enhancement. Student feedback was very positive, with comments such as: “The resources are excellent…”;  “This is such an important topic to teach children in schools.”;  “I’d recommend this training to anyone working with young people.”

Bronagh said: “This training builds on the learning and teaching that our students received in relation to ACE awareness (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma informed practice during Prevention Month (November) in Semester 1.  Stranmillis student teachers are looking forward to delivering the training to children in schools and to their parents, carers or guardians. We are delighted to continue our partnership work with both the Safeguarding Board NI and the PSNI”. 


Top of Page

Former Stranmillis Student Sam McCready Remembered
Sam and Joan McCready with College Principal Dr Anne Heaslett in 2018
Sam and Joan McCready with College Principal Dr Anne Heaslett in 2018

The Stranmillis community was saddened to learn of the death of the well-known actor and gifted playwright Sam McCready. Sam was a student at Stranmillis from 1956 to 1960.

It was at Stranmillis that he met his future wife – Joan - who was also studying to become a teacher. After holding a number of teaching posts, Sam returned to Stranmillis College as Head of Drama from 1978-1982 before moving to the University of Maryland in the USA as Professor of Theatre.

Sam and Joan were welcomed back to the College in 2018. During their visit they shared many happy memories of their time at Stranmillis.
We are very grateful for Sam’s contribution to our College community and extend our deepest sympathy to Joan and the family.

To read more about Sam McCready’s life, go to this Belfast Telegraph article:

Top of Page

Year 3 Essay Competition launched by Stranmillis in partnership with GTCNI
Pictured from left to right: Mr Peter Weir MLA, Dr Noel Purdy, Jasmine McDermott, Jasmine's English teacher Mrs E Graham, and Glenlola Collegiate School Principal, Mr Eric Thompson.
Pictured from left to right: Mr Peter Weir MLA, Dr Noel Purdy, Jasmine McDermott, Jasmine's English teacher Mrs E Graham, and Glenlola Collegiate School Principal, Mr Eric Thompson.

For a prize of £200, generously sponsored by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), Year 13 pupils are invited to submit an essay of 1500-2000 words answering the question “What have your experiences of being a pupil taught you about effective teaching and learning?”

With the deadline of 1st April 2019 approaching, full guidelines for entering the 2019 competition can be found by downloading the information leaflet here:

(entitled 2019 A4 Essay Competition Flyer).

Last year, pupils were asked to write an essay beginning with the sentence “If I was Minister of Education at Stormont, I would…

Last year the competition was won by Jasmine McDermott from Glenlola Collegiate School in Bangor, who received her prize from Stranmillis University College’s Director of Research and Scholarship, Dr Noel Purdy, and former Minister of Education, Mr Peter Weir MLA.

You can watch Jasmine read her winning entry here:



Top of Page

80th Birthday Celebration for Betty

The staff from Hospitality Services were delighted to come together on Friday 25th January to celebrate a marvellous milestone in the life of one of their number – Betty Craig’s 80th Birthday!

Betty has worked in Stranmillis University College for over 25 years as the evening cashier in Chatz Restaurant, looking after the students who reside in the Halls of Residence. She is a highly respected member of staff, much loved not only by her friends and colleagues, but also by the students who adore her.

When the College was choosing a name for the new Coffee Shop in Central Building our students voted en mass to name it ‘Betty’s’, which just shows the  high regard in which she is held.

As you can see from her photograph she is renowned for her youthful looks, elegance and style.  She has such a positive attitude and pleasant personality and it is an honour to work alongside her. We all hope she will continue to work amongst us for many years to come as she is such an asset to have in our work team and an inspiration to all of us. 

Many Happy Returns Betty!

Top of Page

Stran Student Presents at St Mary’s ‘TeachMeet'

For the past number of years St. Mary’s University College has run an event called ‘TeachMeet’. The event is organised by Dr Matthew Martin and St. Mary’s students. For the first time, one of our Stranmillis students, Kate Ritchie (Year 2 Primary), took part, accompanied for moral support by fellow student Emma-Jayne Wright and Stranmillis lecturer Gillian Beck.

The purpose of the TeachMeet is sharing good practice, so a number of students, recommended by their SBW tutors, came to share their experiences - both the challenges they have faced and overcome and the good practice for which they have been commended. No staff are invited so that students can both share and talk freely at the event. This allows their peers to get great ideas, and also some encouragement for the year ahead.

This year a CBBC presenter for ‘Supermovers’ was there with the programme producer to demonstrate the possibilities of CBBC resources. Students shared ideas for group work, PDMU, literacy, WAU and Mathematics. They also shared some very successful behavioural management strategies. Many gave links to the students so that they could print off and use the resources they had presented.

Kate Ritchie talked very honestly about her SBW journey and how she grew in confidence and capability over her six weeks of teaching during her Year 1 School Based Work last spring. Her candour was appreciated by the audience.

Gillian Beck says: ‘I would like to thank Kate for opening up this new partnership. We hope to extend it next year, with more students participating and attending. So I invite staff to get nominating and would love Stranmillis students to let me know if they would be interested in co-organising this event next year.’

Top of Page

Early Years Educators and Peacebuilding in Israel
Visiting a Jewish kindergarten
Visiting a Jewish kindergarten
Visiting urban and rural kindergartens
Visiting urban and rural kindergartens

Jill Magennis, Stranmillis Lecturer and PhD student in the Queen’s School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, reflects on a recent visit to Israel:

‘In collaboration with the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) and the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding, I recently travelled to Israel as part of my doctoral studies to learn more about the experiences of educators in relation to promoting respect for diversity and peacebuilding. During my 15 day visit I met with various teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the issues they are experiencing. This helped me to deepen my appreciation of the similarities and differences across Northern Ireland and Israel and ways forward for peacebuilding in conflict affected societies. I enjoyed visiting Talpiot College of Education in Tel Aviv, Masar Institute for Education in Nazareth and Kaye Academic College of Education in Beer Sheba and meeting with early years teachers to learn more about their role in peacebuilding. 

During my time I visited a range of kindergartens (attended by children aged 3-6 years) including Jewish religious, Jewish secular, Arab and Bilingual settings. I interviewed both Jewish and Arab teachers from a range of areas across the country and I found this experience to be humbling to help me in my personal journey of learning about both the conflict and aspects of culture/religion. My goal is that my research will offer hope and understanding across regions to support the work of peacebuilding for young children in the future. The role of early years educators is vital in fostering respect for diversity and building more peaceful communities, and the words of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (2013) are a useful reminder about the rationale behind this visit:  ‘Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity’.’



Top of Page

PGCE and Fane Street Pupils simply having a wonderful Christmas time!

PGCE student Katy Savage-Miskimmin reflects on the planning for and delivery of Christmas workshops for around 90 children from Fane Street Primary School which took place in the Early Years Centre at Stranmillis on the 4th and 7th of December.  

‘As part of the assessment for the PGCE ‘Implementing a Play- Based Curriculum’ module the PGCE class were required to design fun and engaging Christmas workshops for three Foundation Stage classes. 

The PGCE class was split into three groups and were allotted 45 minutes per session, making sure that all areas of the N.I. Foundation Stage Curriculum were embedded within the activities.  We all knew that these sessions would be busy, so planning was instrumental to the success of all our workshop sessions!  We were all very excited at the prospect of creating an activity each (five per group) for the children coming; ideas and themes were abundant! We all put ourselves back into the tiny shoes of a Primary 1 or 2 child and we all reminisced fondly of how we loved Christmas.  The children from Fane Street Primary School had the opportunity to play and engage with some beautiful activities based around Christmas Eve, Christmas around the world and Santa’s reindeers.

We decorated the Early Years Centre in the Orchard Building to capture the children’s imagination and also to make the morning more magical for them.  During the workshops, the children had a short introduction to their morning of play, followed by the play session where they could choose freely where they wanted to play. This was followed by a quick plenary and of course a Christmas song of the children’s choice! Over the three sessions the children had the opportunity to make reindeer food, play in Santa’s Winter wonderland, make Christmas wreaths and decorations and they even had the chance to be Santa’s star bakers! The overarching aim was to highlight the important role that play has in a child’s learning and how it is the ideal medium through which children can learn.  All of the children involved were completely enchanted with the activities, and some even wanted to come back the next day! 

The play workshops provided such a great learning opportunity for all involved (children and adults!) and we would like to extend our thanks to the children and all those involved for making such an experience possible!’

Fane Street Foundation Stage teacher Joy Irwin commended the morning: ‘The PGCE students were fantastic!  They were all very well prepared and provided a wide range of age-appropriate activities for the children.  They used good questioning techniques to develop the children's expressive language, and the children were all very engaged in the activities’.

Some of the children also shared their feedback on the morning:

Child A – ‘I like to make letters for Santa and posting them’.

Child B – ‘I made a decoration.  I put more glue on, it fell off, I tried again and then it worked!’

Child C – ‘My favourite thing was … everything!’

Lecturer Jill Magennis concluded: ‘These workshops bring together much of the learning that has taken place during Semester 1 of the PGCE programme. Well done to each of the students who put in such effort to plan and implement imaginative play experiences to help both children and adults prepare for Christmas!’


Top of Page

Norman’s an Honorary Fellow!

Stranmillis University College recognised Dr Norman Richardson’s outstanding and dedicated service in promoting music and performing arts by making him an Honorary Fellow of the College at a presentation at the staff Christmas dinner by the Chair of the Board of Governors, Professor Sir Desmond Rea.

Norman lectured in Religious Studies at Stranmillis from1997 until 2014. Throughout his career he has been involved in cross-community and interfaith work. This interest has been reflected in his role as Trustee and Membership Secretary of Northern Ireland Inter-Faith Forum and his involvement with the Corrymeela Community. In 1999 he was awarded the MBE for services to education and the community in Northern Ireland. He has a long and impressive list of research publications which culminated in the awarding of a PhD by publication from the University of Warwick in 2012. He continues to be involved in research projects in the following areas: history, background and pedagogy of RE in Northern Ireland; teachers’, young people’s and public attitudes to religion/belief and RE; religious and ethnic minority perceptions of RE; RE and Human Rights; and ‘collective worship’ in schools.

In addition to all of this, since his official retirement in 2014 he has continued to contribute to the College through part-time lecturing and he makes a significant voluntary contribution to the College community by giving many hours of voluntary service to the Stranmillis, for example by: taking the lead in organising the College’s annual Celebration of Christmas in Words and Music which is one of the highlights of the year; by being a member of the Stranmillis University College Choir; and by directing the Staff Chorale; by arranging and conducting vocal and instrumental music for various groups and ensembles.

Congratulations Norman!

Top of Page

Christmas Celebration 2018

The annual Stranmillis ‘Celebration of Christmas in Words & Music’ took place at St Bartholomew’s Church on Thursday 13th December.

The College Choir and various instrumentalists under the direction of lecturers Jayne Moore, Frances Burgess and Norman Richardson led the large congregation in traditional carols including ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, ‘See Amid the Winter’s Snow’ and ‘Silent Night’. In addition, choral, instrumental and ensemble pieces, including some by BEd music specialists, 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, Professor Sir Desmond Rea, Chair of the College’s Board of Governors, Dr Martin Hagan from St Mary’s University College and Jessica Werner, an International student from Germany.

Many thanks to all who helped to make the evening such a successful and inspiring celebration of Christmas.

Top of Page

Celebrating RE through engagement and discovery with Euston Street Primary

BEd Primary students Oisin Morgan and Joy Smyth reflect on a recent event in collaboration with Widening Participation:

‘On the 27th November, we as Year 3 RE Area of Specialism students organised a day for a P7 class from Euston Street Primary School, Belfast at Stranmillis to celebrate RE and to raise awareness of various world religions. Overall, it was a very successful and enriching day which has allowed us as RE students to develop our leadership skills in preparation for possible future roles as RE coordinators in schools.

The day began with icebreaker activities to allow us to get to know the children and for them to know us. We encouraged them to think about their own similarities and differences with games such as ‘All Change’ - a game that was clearly quite new to them. This relaxed start enabled us to build a good rapport with the pupils which from the start. The pupils were then split into three groups which rotated between each of the three sessions which lasted approximately 40 minutes. Each session focused on a festival in one of three world religions – Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.

We – Oisin and Joy - both chose the Hindu festival of Diwali as the focus for our lesson, due to the opportunities such a lesson can create. Our lesson focused on developing the children’s understanding of the importance of light within Diwali and from this the children created their own diva lamps - a key feature of the Diwali story. Throughout the entirety of the planning and delivery stages of the day, the key role which co-ordinators of any subject have became apparent as they try to promote an engaging and inclusive approach to their subject areas.

We concluded the day by bringing all of the groups together for an interactive quiz to question their knowledge gained throughout the day within Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. We felt that the children were fully engaged within all of the learning experiences. The pupils arrived with little awareness of religious diversity; however by the end of the event they were able to discuss the various celebrations that are important to various people in our society today’.

Primary 7 teacher at Euston St PS Emma Millar commented: ‘The activities were set at an appropriate level and the children enjoyed the hands-on nature of all of the activities and the resources that you had to offer in specialised fields that schools wouldn’t always have. The only complaint from the children was that they couldn’t stay longer, which was lovely! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and hope to be back again some time in the future’.

Lecturer Jill Magennis concluded: ‘This event brought together aspects of connected learning through interactive RE activities to deepen the children’s knowledge in different religious festivals. This new aspect of assessment was a real success – thank you to Jayne Hamilton (Widening Participation Officer) for the practical support and well done to all of the students involved!’

Top of Page

e-Bug Comes To Stranmillis

Dr Philip Veal and Dr Christine McKee from the Public Health Agency visited the College recently and held a number of e-bug training workshops for all Year 2 BEd Primary and some Post-primary students.

The workshop disseminated the classroom activities and lesson plans available from the online resource . All the resources and learning activities are mapped to the Northern Ireland Curriculum for each key stage.
Dr Veal explained the threat which antibiotic resistance could pose in the very near future and the role education can play as a front line defence.

“If we can reduce childhood infections then we will be able to reduce the use of antibiotics. Simple measures like using tissues to cover sneezes and good hand hygiene can go a long way to reducing the spread of infection.”

Dr McKee used a simple spray gun filled with coloured water and concealed in a child’s mask to demonstrate that coughs and sneezes really do spread diseases. The further spread of bacteria and viruses by shaking hands was demonstrated using hand cream sensitive to ultra-violet light; ordinary decorative glitter works equally well.

The online resources also include games and investigations based around helpful and harmful bacteria, food hygiene and how to look after your teeth.

All participants received their own toy antibiotic guardian to warn off those harmful microbes!

Top of Page

Barbara does ‘LIFE’ at Harvard
From left: Fr Paddy White, Dr Barbara McDade, Dr Irvin Scott and Dr Nicola Brady.
From left: Fr Paddy White, Dr Barbara McDade, Dr Irvin Scott and Dr Nicola Brady.

College lecturer Dr Barbara McDade recently had the opportunity to attend the first ever convening of ‘LIFE’ held at the Graduate School of Education in Harvard, Massachusetts, USA, accompanied by Fr Patrick White, Director of Youth Link NI and Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches.

LIFE is being led by Dr Irvin Scott from Harvard and aims to bring together leaders in faith communities and education to consider how social capital within faith communities can be used to support the work of schools and improve educational outcomes for all young people. At the institute attendees had the opportunity to consider three key areas:

1. Creating partnerships between schools and faith-based organizations

2. Social-educational capital exchange

3. Supporting educators of faith

Reflecting on the experience, Barbara said: “It has been wonderful to get to know Dr Irvin Scott over the last eighteen months. We share a passion for the work of the LIFE Institute and are keen to explore the ways in which churches and faith-based organisations can partner with schools in the area of educational underachievement. I am delighted to have been invited to be a part of the LIFE Institute Design Team and look forward to taking this work forward with colleagues in Northern Ireland and Boston."

If you are interested in finding out more about LIFE, please email

Top of Page

Undergraduate Awards 2018 – Two ‘Highly Commended’ Stranmillis Students!

The Undergraduate Awards are promoted each year in Stranmillis as staff encourage students to submit their work. This year two Stranmillis students were ‘Highly Commended’ in the Education category – Naomi Boyd and Laura Ervine. Both graduated last July and provided lovely photos from graduation day!

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 2017/2018, The Undergraduate Awards Programme received 4,887 submissions from students from 180 different nationalities in 333 institutions across 46 countries in 25 different subject/area categories, one of which is Education.

Naomi Boyd was a BEd Post-Primary student whose main subject was Business and Enterprise. She comments: ‘I submitted my final year dissertation, entitled ‘Positive mental wellbeing in young people: Whose responsibility is it?’ This piece of work investigated the importance of mental health wellbeing in teenagers, the barriers to accessing mental health support, the role of educational stakeholders in overcoming these barriers and the necessary support for mental health required of schools. I submitted the dissertation for the Awards with the encouragement of my dissertation supervisor, Patricia Corrigan. As the dissertation was 10,000 words, I had to cut it down to meet the lower word count of the awards. This didn’t take too long and the whole process was very simple. I submitted it not expecting much after discovering that the scale of the Awards is huge, so I was very pleasantly surprised to receive the news that I was ‘Highly Commended’. I put a lot of effort into the research, but it’s very gratifying to get this award. I am currently in a temporary post teaching business studies, ICT and health and social care and enjoying the opportunity to put my four years of education at Stranmillis into action.’

Laura Ervine, a BEd Primary student, says: ‘With improving achievement in Numeracy being a predominant focus in education policy and Numeracy being my specialism, I chose to focus my dissertation on how to promote positive attitudes and increase parental engagement in mathematics. I never expected that I would end up submitting my work to the Undergraduate Awards, never mind achieve ‘Highly Commended’. Therefore, I wish to thank my dissertation supervisor, Dr Pamela Moffett, for encouraging me to submit my work and avail of this excellent opportunity. I feel so privileged to have my work recognised by the Undergraduate Awards. It has really boosted my confidence and makes a great addition to my CV. I am currently working in Waringstown Primary School and am thoroughly enjoying my first year as a newly qualified teacher. I am looking forward to putting my research into practice throughout my career and strongly advise all current students to make the most of the opportunity to submit your work to the Undergraduate Awards - you never know what the outcome may be!'

Top of Page

Student Research Conference 2018

This year’s Student Research Conference was held in the Drama Theatre on Monday 22nd October 2018 and was very well attended by Year 3 BEd students and Year 2 BA and BSc students.

The keynote address was given by Suzanne Fillis, who is currently completing her PhD at Queen’s University and is a graduate of our BA and MA programmes.  Her presentation on ‘The Trials and Tribulations of Research in Early Years Education’ referred to her own research ‘journey’ and provided encouragement to students about to embark on their first piece of independent research.

This was followed by presentations from three of last year’s graduating students who each presented their outstanding final year dissertations.  Laura Ervine (BEd Primary) presented on ‘Can Mathematics Resource Packs Promote Positive Attitudes Towards and Increase Parental Engagement in Mathematics?’ while Naomi Boyd (BEd Post-Primary) addressed the topic ‘Positive Mental Wellbeing in Young People: Whose Responsibility Is It?’  Shannon Elliott (BSc) then presented a poster presentation on her ‘Investigation of Primary Teachers’ Perceptions of Barriers Preventing the Delivery of the Recommended Amount of Quality Physical Education.’  Each presentation was followed by an opportunity for students and staff to ask brief follow-up questions.

The final presentation was delivered by two members of academic staff: Dr David McKee and Stephen Wallace spoke on the topical subject of ‘Physical Activity for Health: Is your Smart Device telling you the Truth?’

Dr Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship commented: ‘As in previous years, the student research conference is a celebration of the very high standard of undergraduate student research at Stranmillis, and serves as an encouragement to those students planning their final year dissertations.  Well done to everyone involved.’

Top of Page

Lifelong Learners Explore Nendrum

The Lifelong Learning class studying the Archaeology of Ireland met at Nendrum on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough on Tuesday 30th October.

The purpose of the visit was to explore the Early Christian monastic site. The day was particularly bright and sunny as thirteen members of the class, along with LLL tutor Dr Des O’Reilly examined the outlines of the ancient workshops, living quarters and the school for the monks. In addition, the group looked at the medieval church and the round tower and discussed the exposure of the site to the Viking attacks of the 9th Century.

An added feature of the Nendrum monastic site is the remains of the sea wall behind which the ponded waters of the tides powered a tidal mill, considered the oldest tidal mill in the world and dated at 603AD.

After the visit, the party had a well-earned lunch at Daft Eddy’s on Sketrick Island before departing for home.

Top of Page

Using Chess to Develop Pupils’ Thinking Skills
Ross Harris and Mark Newman from the Ulster Chess Union with Stranmillis staff and students and pupils from Strandtown PS.
Ross Harris and Mark Newman from the Ulster Chess Union with Stranmillis staff and students and pupils from Strandtown PS.

Students at Stranmillis University College have been working with the Ulster Chess Union to develop chess clubs in our primary schools.

In addition to looking at teaching strategies and resources, the students have been focusing on how to develop thinking skills and strategic thought through chess. Research recognises that when children are playing chess they are developing the computational thinking skills of problem solving, creative thinking and pattern recognition. Additionally, children learn sportsmanship, how to be calm under pressure and patience.

The Ulster Chess Union (UCU) have been challenging both staff and students through upskilling games, and thanks to the generosity of the UCU in supplying chess sets to the College, the students are now in the position to bring this thought provoking game into our schools. The Stranmillis students will be undertaking this work as part of their accreditation for the International Association of STEM Leadership.

Top of Page

Namaste, As-salamu alaykum, Shalom: RE Specialists Stay Local to Explore Global

BEd Primary Year 3 students Taylor McCoy and Amy Finn reflect on recent field visits as part of their RE Area of Specialism:

During weeks 6 to 8 we had the wonderful opportunity to visit three different places of worship to investigate a variety of world religions. This opportunity allowed our group to talk to some of the members of each faith about their religious beliefs, practices, symbols, artefacts and places of worship. Throughout the three weeks, we had the pleasure of visiting a Hindu temple at the Indian Community Centre, a mosque at the Belfast Islamic Centre and a synagogue at the Belfast Jewish Community. All of them are located within fifteen minutes of Stranmillis.

The three visits were highly enjoyable, educational and reinforced for us the importance of providing pupils with an experience of exploring the diverse religious culture within their local communities in a positive manner. We were also surprised to find how local and accessible all three of the places of worship were. The visits provided an enlightening experience for some of us, allowing a new or more informed understanding of religions different to our own.

We would like to thank all those involved from the three places of worship. Their stories and insight were very much appreciated and we hope to see them in the near future with classes of our own.

Lecturer Jill Magennis comments: ‘These field visits were important to meet the overall purposes of the module, which include a critical exploration of aspects of religious and cultural diversity as experienced in Northern Ireland and how these may be included effectively in the curriculum through RE and PDMU. Throughout these visits students were able to have a unique opportunity to visit places of worship in Belfast to ask questions of leaders from the Hindu, Islamic and Jewish faiths. Such opportunities are extremely important to build and sustain more peaceful societies’

If you were wondering about the headline ….

Namaste’ is an Indian greeting literally meaning ‘bowing to you’
As-salamu alaykum’ is an Arabic greeting meaning ‘peace be upon you’
Shalom’ is used as a salutation by Jews when meeting or parting; it means ‘peace’

Top of Page

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!

Top of Page

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.

Top of Page

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.’

Top of Page

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 !”

Top of Page

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  .  


Top of Page

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.”

Top of Page

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!  

Top of Page

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).

Top of Page

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 .

Top of Page

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 .

Top of Page

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

Top of Page

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.”

Top of Page

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."

Top of Page

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.

Top of Page

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.

Top of Page

‘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.’ 

Top of Page

‘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!


Top of Page

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

Top of Page

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!”

Top of Page

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.


Top of Page

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!


Top of Page

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.'

Top of Page