‘Educating for life’, progressing shared education - Antrim Grammar School
Mrs Jenny Lendrum, Principal
Antrim Grammar is part of a three-school shared education partnership with St Benedict’s College, Randalstown and Parkhall Integrated College in Antrim.
The three schools are also involved in ‘Moving Forward Together’, an education, community and peace building partnership comprised of 19 nursery, primary, special and post-primary schools in the Antrim and Randalstown areas. Though ‘Moving Forward Together’ many joint activities take place including staff training, numeracy, literacy and SEN work. Staff from across each of the schools can share good practice and support pupils from across all sectors and communities.
Developing post-primary connections
The three post-primary schools began working together formally through shared education three years ago. Funding through the Shared Education Signature Project allowed the schools to begin working on a unified ‘Learning for Life and Work Scheme of Work’. Teachers across the three schools planned and developed the lessons together and the team taught key lessons throughout the year. In the first year of the project, pupils in Year 8 from across the three schools received these lessons. In addition a joint student council was established and the prefects in each of the schools came together to focus on peer mediation and anti-bullying. There was an opportunity for staff development with the PE departments from the three schools joining together to learn about different sports including rugby, Gaelic, soccer and camogie. In the second year the project focused on tackling underachievement. A total of 40 pupils were identified as needing support and took part in a volleyball themed leadership course. The pupils’ attitudes towards school improved over the course. In year two, teachers were included in developing the unified the Learning for Life and Work project for Year 9 pupils. Staff collaboration continued with Heads of Departments coming together to work on the new GCSE curriculum specifications which were introduced to all schools. Relationships between staff in each of the schools developed and working relationships outside of the shared education project have grown, leading to a greater level of partnership on all levels. The schools are now in the third year of the project. By the end of this year all Key Stage 3 pupils will be involved in the Learning for Life and Work programme. The schools were successful in achieving Peace IV funding to enable the joint student council to work together on a project looking at the development of a 3G pitch on the Antrim Grammar site and its benefits for the community.
Educating for life
Commenting on the progression of shared education, Mrs Lendrum said “the concept of ‘them’ and ‘us’ between the schools has broken down, our pupils are now in constant contact with one another, it has brought our community closer together. We are now regularly sharing good practice. Friendships between pupils in different schools have grown and school staff have enhanced professional relationships at all levels.” “We now celebrate success together as a community. We plan to extend this work further and engage with parents going forward.”
“There are challenges, particularly as we are at post-primary level and the logistics of matching timetables and calendars can be difficult. The benefits definitely outweigh these challenges. Our school’s motto is ‘Educating for Life’; to grow as a person a pupil must grow in character and in culture. Shared education gives pupils an understanding of who they are whilst growing mutual respect and understanding for other cultures.”