Barnish Primary
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"A significant strength in the school's links with the wider community is the very good partnership work it has developed with three other similar sized rural primary schools, with the support of the Primary Integrating and Enriching Education programme.....the children engaging in activities which allow them to explore and respect each others' cultural identity and traditions........The strengths of the school include the excellent links and partnerships maintained by the school to give the children educational experiences they might not normally receive."
Education and Training Inspectorate

What is P.I.E.E.?

The Primary Integrating & Enriching Education Project is a three year project which began in September 2009. It is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and the Atlantic Philanthropies. The work of schools involved in the project is monitored by Department of Education and it is managed by the NEELB.
The project has the full support of North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB), the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG).
The aim of the project is to develop sustainable, cross community partnerships of primary schools through collaboration. Its focus is on community relations and curriculum support in small/medium schools.

Why are we part of P.I.E.E.?

Barnish Primary were successful in applying to become a PIEE partnership with Armoy Primary, St. Olcan's Primary and our existing partners, Straidbilly Primary. These four schools have worked together for many years as two pairs of schools through SCRP and have come together as a group of four on occasions for specific projects such as drama and music workshops.

The PIEE project was the ideal way to provide a shared education for all our pupils while allowing each school to maintain its own unique identity. We were keen to avail of the longer term structure afforded by the PIEE project looking at building community relations as well as enhancing collaboration at all levels within the schools. We saw the project as a way to enhance further the good work that has already been done in community relations allowing us to embed it into school life and practices. We are delighted that PIEE enables our schools to be involved in realistic and meaningful activities for staff and pupils enabling them to work together and to build sustainable relationships.

As small schools we regard this partnering approach as a means of sharing resources in terms of materials, space and staff enabling us to access opportunities beyond each individual school's expertise and budgets.

How does it benefit our pupils?

From the outset we were determined to ensure that this project had maximum benefits for our pupils and for the quality of their learning. We based our project on the curriculum for the World Around Us and Personal Development & Mutual Understanding (PDMU) curriculum which forms part of the new N Ireland Curriculum.
As part of the project our pupils have been involved in many different activities including;

  •  Foundation Stage trips to the seaside
  • Trip to Rathlin
  • Activity days
  • Teddy-bears' Picnic
  • Story-telling sessions
  • Art Workshops
  • Reach for the stars project which included a trip to Armagh Planetarium and a video-conference with a NASA astronaut
  • Visits to other schools
  • Workshops with teachers from Cross & Passion and Ballycastle High School
  • Shared classes and field trip for "Unsinkable"

The opportunity to work together, to share resources and to have access to the expertise of the different teachers has resulted in the children's learning being further enriched. Meaningful friendships have been built among the pupils of the four schools and it is hoped that these relationships will continue into secondary school and beyond.

What other benefits are there?

The project has also been of indirect benefit to our pupils in a number of ways:

  • Teachers have shared expertise in implementing the new curriculum
  • We have shared resources throughout the four schools
  • School development work has been shared among the four schools
  • Teachers plan along with their colleagues from the other school to share ideas and to create a vibrant curriculum
  • By sharing information with our colleagues we can check on progress and benchmark the achievement of our pupils with those from other schools

What about the whole school community?

One of the aspirations of the project has been to spread the cross community ethos beyond the school and into the local community. To that end we have included our parents and governors in some joint activities.
We have had joint information sessions for these groups and the governors of the four schools are currently involved in a joint recruitment of a shared teacher.
The principals of the schools continue to meet regularly throughout the year
to discuss a wide range of school management issues and to share knowledge and expertise.
The Shared Education through PIEE has provided economic benefits for these schools as they have been able to access many more resources and provide more experiences for the children than they would normally be able to afford as small schools working independently.

What about the future?

Although we have come to the end of our three year project, there has been further funding secured to develop the project for one more year. The school year 2012 – 13 will be our most exciting yet in the project as we are currently recruiting a shared teacher who will work alongside the staff and pupils in all four schools to further develop our PDMU curriculum.
Beyond 2013 there are many aspects of the project that we can continue without funding such as shared school development work by staff and the principals of the four schools are investigating alternative sources of funding to continue with our shared pupil activities.

Link to Straidbilly Primary School Website