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Knocknagin Primary School, Desertmartin

Shared Education

We have a very successful Shared Education partnership with Desertmartin P.S. Below is a History of the partnership. You can visit their website at www.desertmartinps.co.uk - Keep an eye out for our pupils in their pictures!

For approx. 35years there has been a link between Church of Ireland P. School and the neighbouring Catholic school, Knocknagin Primary School. Initially the contact was only between principals. This gradually expanded to include teaching staff and the schools were part of a local ‘cluster group’ which met on a regular basis for teacher planning or for new NEELB initiatives to be delivered to staff. Only occasionally did the children come together for projects or one off lessons.

Approximately 10 years ago, the then principal of Knocknagin P.S and the principal of Desertmartin P.S decided to make the link between the schools more ‘formal’ and enrol for the pilot of the PIEE project. The ethos behind this project was that children would learn to respect each other through regular working together. As the schools are within a mile of each other and the children from both schools were living in the vicinity, regular contact would not be a problem.

Then Knocknagin’s principal changed. However, the new principal was very enthusiastic about the project and for the next five/six years , we gradually have built up a strong, thriving partnership.

We all believed right from the start that everyone in school should be involved. Everyone, both staff and pupils therefore had ownership of this project….so from the beginning, there was no ‘opt out clause’ and everyone took part. The governors of both schools believed strongly in the partnership.

In the first years of the PIEE project, the numbers of children in both schools and the staffs were almost identical so Key Stages of children worked together. A variety of projects and trips took place, at first out of school and then within each other’s schools. It was carefully monitored so that children spent roughly the same amount of time in each other’s school. Staff ‘team-taught’ the classes together so children always had their ‘own ‘ teacher in the classroom.

The next step involved ‘Friday Clubs’. This involved all children in KS2 and all four members of teaching staff. The children were divided into 4 mixed groups. Each member of staff was responsible for a subject ie. PE, music, art cooking. The principals remained in their own schools and the other two members of staff taught in their partner school. The children rotated, one teacher a week for the four week cycle. This allowed all members of staff to become familiar with all pupils and also meant that the children were no longer always with their ’own’ teacher. It also introduced the fact that parents now were going to the partner school to pick their children up.

The following year we applied for ‘the shared teacher’ which was being funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. Our bid was successful. A joint Board of Governors was formed from DPS and KPS. It was decided that our shared teacher would be responsible for delivering the World Around Us to all our pupils (along with Eco-schools and PDMU) and that these lessons would be delivered in joint classes. When the shared teacher was appointed, she was ‘based in’ both schools. She moved between schools each day and children were also transported between the schools each day. Parents picked up at both schools.

A detailed timetable was dawn up. All staff worked together with CASS, who helped us draw up a rolling WAU scheme through topics ensuring breadth and progression from P1-7 throughout both schools. Every child took part in joint classes at least twice each week. Children were picked up from each other’s schools regularly. This was an extremely successful year, cementing the relationships at all levels. As well as WAU, both schools reached silver level in Eco-schools. At the end of the year, the schools together put on a performance of the musical, Cinderella , this involved all pupils and our performance was a sellout! A wonderful experience for all involved.

The following year, we were granted funding for approx. 6 months. Our shared teacher followed a similar timetable with all children being involved.

PIEE funding then ceased. However, the staff, governors, parents and children felt our partnership was so successful and had come so far that it was felt it should continue. Sharing played a major part in the Area Based Plan for the two schools.

For the last 2 years, there has been another change of principal at Knocknagin, and our partnership continues to thrive. Now the joint classes are taught by our current staff. We plan together for shared education. Every child from P3-P7 has two shared classes each week where WAU is the main thrust of the lessons. P1+2 have one joint play session each week and it is hoped to increase this when possible.

This demands a big commitment for all staff. Children have to be transported up and down the road during break/lunchtimes. Both staffs need to be aware of individual children’s needs and medications. Specific times have to be set aside for planning etc. But we believe that what our children achieve through this partnership, both academically and socially far outweighs any disadvantages.

We have been successful in attaining funding through the Shared Education Signaturec Project for the next three years. With this new funding, we hope to have all staff trained in Linguistic phonics, introduce and develop that throughout both schools to benefit all the children, while still continuing the level of shared classes as before. The partnership continues to thrive and goes from strength to strength.