The PIEE Project is a 3-year cross-community initiative which promotes shared education and provides links for schools from different community backgrounds, to enable them to learn and work together.
The Project, which focuses on schools with fewer than 105 pupils, will reach more than 1,900 children in 28 primary schools across 11 partnerships over the life-time of the initiative. It is funded jointly with The Atlantic Philanthropies and is delivered by the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB). The initiative is instrumental in developing cross-community partnerships between entire schools for the first time to deliver curricular, non-curricular and summer activities that include joint classes, events, shows, peer mediation and joint fund-raising projects.
Through the Project, pupils and teachers have the opportunity to create positive cross-community links and critically to benefit from access to resources and facilities available at partner schools, joint staff development and support from partners in delivering the revised curriculum.
Thirteen children from Ballycastle Integrated Primary School and Gaelscoil an Chaistil in Ballycastle travelled to St. Mary’s Primary School on Rathlin Island in May 2010 as part of the Project.
The children and teachers came together over two days and were involved in a range of activities designed to promote community relations, while also delivering improved academic and personal development outcomes. These included a nature visit, sport and art as well as outings to the island’s Catholic and Protestant churches. While the partnership is anchored within the schools, it is not just the children who are affected by the Project - the partnership goes wider and includes cross-community activities for pupils, teachers, governors and parents.
Sharon Dobbin, PIEE Co-ordinator, said: “PIEE enhances the quality of the education the children receive and enriches their experiences. More than that, the Project extends beyond the children and improves community relations for the communities of the schools.”
Pauline Devenny, a member of the PIEE Project Steering Group from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), added: “Relationships of teachers, pupils and relationships at a community level seem to be really improving.”
Principal of St. Mary’s Primary School in Rathlin, Ms Helen O’Halloran, has the final word: “While we’re on this residential we learn to share, to have fun and to be friends.”
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