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Schools Sharing across the community in Fermanagh

Published on:  16 Sep 2009

The new term in Fermanagh’s schools has got off to an exciting start, with teachers and pupils actively involved in a range of new shared education projects, under the Fermanagh Trust Shared Education Programme (FTSEP).

This ground-breaking pilot initiative has been established by Fermanagh Trust, thanks to £2.1m funding from the International Fund for Ireland – under its Sharing in Education Programme - and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Primary and post-primary schools across County Fermanagh are already benefiting from the funds for the three year programme, which enables schools to deliver part of the curriculum jointly with a partner school on a cross-community basis. It means that pupils will have more opportunities for cross-community interaction, helping to break down barriers between communities. FTSEP aims to promote positive relations between schools and create the potential for future joint working, sharing and collaborating across the community.

Catherine Ward, Programme Manager said: “School principals have expressed their enthusiasm for the initiative, reporting that in addition to the significant community relations benefits that can be achieved, there are enormous educational benefits. Overall, there has been tremendous support from all quarters.”

39 of the 44 primary schools in the County and two schools from across the border in the Republic of Ireland are engaged in FTSEP, along with five post-primary schools, explained Catherine Ward. The projects embrace a wide range of subjects.

“Over 1,500 primary school pupils, that is more than a quarter of all primary school pupils in the County and 160 post-primary pupils are expected to benefit from the scheme in the first year.”

Denis Rooney CBE, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “Our Sharing in Education Programme seeks to provide strategic opportunities for young people from different community backgrounds to learn and work together. In addition to furthering community relations by linking schools representative of the two communities in Northern Ireland, FTSEP is unique in that it will also create cross-border educational links. The positive contribution this initiative will have on the academic and personal development of young people in Fermanagh is vitally important and we are pleased to have provided funding for its implementation.”

CCMS congratulates all the schools taking part in FTSEP for their commitment and efforts. The participation of so many catholic maintained schools shows tremendous dedication of teachers to preparing all children for 21st century challenges with pupils growing and contributing to the common good. FTSEP will reinforce the social and economic benefits of working together while genuinely accepting and celebrating diversity which our schools embrace.

Barry Mulholland, WELB Chief Executive, said, “FTSEP is a welcome initiative which will provide primary and post-primary schools in Fermanagh an opportunity to build on relationships across their communities through acknowledging and celebrating diversity whilst bringing differences together”. He added: “As the Revised Curriculum has placed greater emphasis on developing skills which are key to a child’s progression in education and later life; and provides children with a broader and balanced education, this initiative will provide more flexibility for teachers and schools when delivering and meeting educational needs of all our children.”

Fintan Murphy, Principal, Holy Trinity Primary School, Enniskillen is one of many educationalists delighted to have secured funding for shared education from The Fermanagh Trust.

Mr Murphy said: “We have always worked with a number of other schools in the area. To date the very limited funds have allowed only a small amount of contact between pupils. This exciting new initiative has provided us with funding to involve 170 of our pupils in six educational links with classes in Lisbellaw Primary school, Jones Memorial Primary, and Enniskillen Integrated Primary School.”

“It has also made it possible to fund professionals with a level and range of skills which we cannot provide from within the school. Our pupils will have the opportunity, working with pupils from other schools, to work alongside professional music, drama and dance tutors. This will also provide an excellent opportunity for pupils and give our staff the opportunity to gain new skills to enhance their teaching in the future.”

John McCrea, Principal, Ballinamallard Primary School is also delighted with the funding support, which will facilitate links with teachers and pupils at St Columban’s Primary School in Belcoo.

Mr McCrea said: “Participating in FTSEP will enable us to encourage the children to share empathy with others, whether they come from different communities or cultural backgrounds”.

“By working together, side by side and screen to screen, sharing our thoughts and perceptions with each other while working through different areas of the curriculum, we hope to be able to overcome the tendency to focus only on our immediate community. We have much to thank the Fermanagh Trust for it is through them that we have been able to help this partnership become a reality.”

Joanna McVey, Chairperson of the Fermanagh Trust says that “The Fermanagh Trust is delighted to support shared education across both primary and post primary schools in County Fermanagh. The response from schools to date has been excellent with the majority of schools participating in the first year of the initiative, and the Trust looks forward to supporting the schools in their endeavours''

According to Lauri McCusker, Director of the Fermanagh Trust, ''Here in County Fermanagh we have to think innovatively to ensure we overcome the impact of living in a largely rural segregated community. FTSEP is a direct response to feedback we received from parents, schools and the wider community who highlighted the need and potential for collaboration between schools across Fermanagh. The initial feedback from principals, teachers and the young people in schools has been terrific'

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