Staying engaged, continuing collaboration

Partnerships rose to the challenge of keeping collaboration going in changed circumstances and re-imagined shared education in a virtual context.

Sending virtual hugs for Christmas

Staying engaged, re-imaging collaboration

Is it possible to continue collaborating in Shared Education in the current circumstances must have been a FAQ for nearly every Principal when this term began? As the term closes schools have once again shown their resilience and capacity to adapt to the current version of the 'new normal'.

Adapting to a classroom barely imaginable 12 months ago was the first task teachers had to undertake. Of primary importance was the well-being of the school community and over 200 teachers took part in TPL on 'Weaving Well-being' and 'Mental Wealth' to help map the coming year in this key area. These sessions were expertly delivered by Leonedu and Fiona Forman. Future-proofing continuity in education was next on the agenda and the uptake of webinars done by Blended NI and the University of Ulster was equally high.

On the ground, partnerships were working together to finalise their action plan and commence the roll out of same in changed circumstances.  One partnership expressed it as follows: We want the pupils to become aware of their well-being and focus on positive activities at this time. We will also show them the important role they play creating positive experiences for others. We will help them realise the importance of friendship and the need to talk and discuss issues together.

Real time meet ups not being possible until Public Health Guidelines indicate otherwise, it was time to explore virtual engagement. St Brigid's Special School in Dundalk and St Oliver's NS in Carlingford hit the ground running in late September celebrating World Animal Day and then World Kindness Day together. They linked up virtually and commented on work done linked to these topics and exchanged in advance. Naturally, they missed meeting their friends in their partner school as some of the pupils tell in their video clips. 'I wish we could see each other' said Sarah to Shannon and 'Hi Martin. Remember me? I'm Mia'

Staying in Dundalk, St Vincent's Secondary School and Dundalk Grammar school are jointly developing a digital literacy programme to raise awareness of the science behind social media and will present it to First Years in both schools.  Before year end they intend to have completed a Peace blanket and donated it to charity.

The lead up to Christmas was another good moment to re-engage.  Pupils in Ballykelly Primary School and Faughanvale Primary School were paired with residents in local care homes and wrote letters and made cards and gifts for them.  They also formed a virtual choir to send some Christmas cheer to the homes.  Similarly, St Riaghan’s NS, Wood School and SN Crannog Buí in Ardara designed cards for Shanaghan House and showed each other their cards in a virtual meet up as well as telling each other some jokes and other Christmas traditions to celebrate the season. 

As schools close for Christmas, it’s time to say a big thank you to all the school communities who have shown leadership and resilience in keeping shared education going.  Have a happy Christmas and a restful break.