Principals from Dickson Plan schools

Collaboration key for over 150 Dickson plan teachers

Over 150 teachers have taken part in the 2019 annual collaborative day for post primary Dickson plan schools.

Collaboration between post primary Dickson plan schools in Portadown and Tandragee has been in place for over 10 years.  This year, schools from Lurgan were invited to attend to observe the work which goes on, with a view to all seven schools engaging in the process in future years.

The aim of this collaborative day, which took place in February in Killicomaine Junior High School, was to review schools’ processes and streamline these where necessary or appropriate.  While the schools work together to strengthen the system, it is recognised that the retention of each schools’ individual ethos and characteristics is important.

To ensure the annual collaborative day is focused and meaningful, the host Principal, Mr Charlie McAleese, consulted with Principals and other senior staff to produce thematic, core agendas which centred on:

  1. Learning and teaching
  • what we teach (content)
  • how we teach it (pedagogy)
  • how well we teach it (assessment)
  1. Pupil interventions
  • academic
  • pastoral
  • behavioural
  • other
  1. Pupil attitudes and aspirations

Based on these core themes, the host VP and Heads of Departments produced their own agendas and acted as chairs of their respective sessions.   The minutes of all sessions clearly demonstrate the professional dialogue, decision making, action areas, and willingness to collaborate in future meetings on identified areas.  A separate special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) meeting was also held. 

Each session agreed “work-ons” within their own area of expertise and the collaborative approach has prompted many departments from the different schools to meet at other times throughout the school year to follow up on issues raised on this day.

An important aspect of the day of collaboration was the extended break of forty-five minutes, which allowed for further professional and social engagement and collaboration between colleagues.  This leads to the formation and development of the relationship between ‘new and old’ staff members.

Given the clear eagerness for collaboration, the Principals identified assessment as a key focus area.  A working party on assessment has been set up to give direction for future discussions.  This group will reflect on assessment practices at subject level and on the model of assessment used by each junior high for ‘transfer’ at the end of KS3.

With Lurgan College Principal Mr T Robinson, and senior teacher Mr D Irvine fully involved this year and expressing an interest in the concept of the collaboration day, it is possible that there could be over two hundred and fifty teachers involved in the 2020 meeting

With the potential for all Lurgan, Tandragee and Portadown Dickson schools to be represented, we look forward to the strengthening of the Dickson Plan organisational structure and processes, which will benefit pupils and enable them to achieve their potential.

The Dickson Plan model

The Dickson Plan is an educational model which other educational partners in Northern Ireland can study, visit to observe and potentially adopt. 

It comprises:

  • a primary school (4-11) education with no curriculum distortion in P6 and P7 and no anxiety over selection at 11
  • an 11-14 programme with a skills/content balance-weighted on the acquisition of skills and staff focused on one key stage and specialist in working with this age-group
  • the KS3 experience of increased responsibility and provision directed at just three year groups, results in transferring pupils who have increased maturity, experiences and skills compared to those moving to KS4 in an 11-19 school
  • selection for a ‘senior’ school at 14 by which time pupils and parents, in the main, accept the pathway on offer after their ‘transfer’ exam and can appreciate that it suits their child’s academic profile.
  • staff who are specialist in working with 14-18 pupils and preparing them academically for optimum performance in external examinations and pastorally for adult life
  • In the ‘senior’ school (KS4) with the aid of their Pupil Profile,  pupils can access a relevant academic or more vocational curriculum and excel in relevant exam subjects which they enjoy, match their strengths, and are related to their future needs.  The Colleges and Senior High School provide a wide range of courses which stretch and interest all pupil and serve the needs of all pupils for their future world of study and employment.

Further information on the Collaboration Day, the Dickson Plan or any of its schools can be obtained by contacting the schools.

Clounagh Junior High School – Mr R Hill  

Craigavon Senior High School – Ms R Harkness

Killicomaine Junior High School – Mr C McAleese

Lurgan College – Mr T Robinson

Lurgan Junior High School – Mrs L Currie

Portadown College – Miss G Gibb, Mr P Richardson

Tandragee J.H.S. – Mr W Brown