Northern Ireland’s largest teacher education institutions, Stranmillis and St Mary’s University Colleges, have celebrated the success of a jointly delivered and International Fund for Ireland financed major teacher professional development programme.
Over 200 teachers, principals and youth workers across all phases and sectors of the education continuum in Northern Ireland who participated in the Classrooms Re-imagined: Education in Diversity and Inclusion (CREDIT) programme were commended at the special Making a Difference event held at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.
International Fund for Ireland Board Member Billy Gamble presented the Best School Award to Duneane Primary School, Toomebridge and the Best Teacher Award to Gemma O’Neill, teacher at Christ the Redeemer Primary School, Belfast.
Commendation for the Best School prize was also presented by Mr Gamble to Donegal Road Primary School, Belfast and the Best Teacher commendation was also awarded to Samantha Lewis, Drumlins Integrated Primary School, Belfast.
The CREDIT programme aims to equip teachers with the skills and confidence to deal with diversity, inclusion and community cohesion issues in school environments and beyond.
The International Fund for Ireland, through its Sharing in Education Programme, has provided almost £840,000 for the joint project. The Fund’s Sharing in Education Programme aims to facilitate integration, promote understanding and improve community relations in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties.
Speaking at the event, Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member said: “CREDIT has been a ground-breaking collaboration which crossed divides and promoted better understanding between both communities. Acknowledging the work, commitment and achievements of all involved is paramount and policy makers must now step up to the plate and support these types of interventions as part of their commitment to a genuine shared future.”
Dr Anne Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College, said: “The International Fund for Ireland’s support has made a real and immediate impact. Today we are not just acknowledging the achievements of the 200 professionals who excelled in their careers by participating in CREDIT but also sharing the great knowledge captured from this amazing programme so that it may benefit many others and stimulate future support.”
Professor Peter Finn, Principal of St Mary’s University College, said: “There has been a high level of demand for the CREDIT programme and this shows how much teachers have needed and valued professional development to empower them with the practical skills to address contact, dialogue and reconciliation issues in classrooms. We estimate that over 5,000 students across Northern Ireland have benefitted from our teachers participating in CREDIT. We are also very proud of the effective partnership in CREDIT between our two University Colleges.”
The CREDIT programme offered teachers three different course types: an introductory three-day course for teachers wishing to develop basic skills; a five-day version tailored towards those with a degree of previous experience who would benefit from more in-depth consideration of the pertinent issues; and a three- day leadership skills course for principals who wanted to lead the school forward in CRED practices in their school.
Participants were tasked with putting the programme learning into practice in their own school settings over an extended period before returning to the course to share experiences and plan strategies for the future good of the young people in their schools.
The Education and Training Inspectorate commented in the second interim evaluation of the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education Programme, “The quality of the work observed was always very good or outstanding” and “The project team focused strategically and incrementally on building the capacity of teachers not only to work with pupils within their schools, but to equip the teachers with the management skills required to develop the work with other teachers within the school.”
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