Trainee and newly-qualified teachers from Northern Ireland are helping to improve education delivered by a family of Catholic primary schools in Cumbria.
The St Ninian Catholic Federation in Carlisle is taking on increasing numbers of trainee teachers from Northern Ireland who have enrolled on the Primary PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) course at the University of Cumbria.
Students from Northern Ireland who follow the St Ninian training pathway at the university’s Carlisle campus are completing classroom placements in the federation’s two Catholic primary schools and several others around the city.
Chris Wilkins, executive headteacher of the St Ninian Catholic Federation, believes the collaboration has contributed to an upturn in his schools’ most recent Key Stage 2 test results.
St Margaret Mary’s School achieved the highest results in its history last summer whilst St Cuthbert’s achieved its best results for six years, recording impressive progress scores for literacy.
Chris said: “We work closely with the university to enable catholic applicants for the PGCE course to have a bespoke training route. We are also able to support our St Ninian’s route students with interview preparation and finding suitable positions if they decide to start their career in England.
“There is an obvious benefit to the federation too. New teachers bring new ideas and enthusiasm and add to our schools. Our curricular and extra-curricular offer has benefited from their combined experiences and skills.
“I am not surprised that this close working link with the University of Cumbria has coincided with improved results in both schools.”
A number of graduates have secured posts at its schools – St Cuthbert’s Catholic Community School, Botcherby, and St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Upperby.
They include Caiomhe Shortt (pictured) who completed the one-year PGCE course via the federation’s pathway in July last year.
She started her teaching career at St Cuthbert’s School in September 2018, just a few weeks before celebrating at her graduation in November.
An NQT, Caiomhe is working at a year 5/6 teacher leading a class of 9-11 year olds.
Caoimhe, 23, from County Armagh, described the support, training and guidance she received from the university as ‘invaluable’.
She said: “Completing my course with the University of Cumbria was very enjoyable. The facilities allowed me to have an independent university life and get all the help I required.
“Lecturers and mentors were supportive and open to helping on whatever aspect I required. Seminars are inclusive and interesting with all content available online, which is extremely useful. The fantastic environment around the campus at Fusehill Street, Carlisle added to the value of my learning experience.”
Dr Eamonn Pugh, senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria’s Institute of Education, said: “All of our student teachers, including those from Northern Ireland, receive aspirational training to become inspirational teachers. The course enables them to set their sights high, moving out of their comfort zone as they plan their early career.”
“Our relationship with the St Ninian’s Federation provides an exciting and growing pathway for students seeking qualification and employment in Catholic schools.”
The University of Cumbria provides intensive support for students from Northern Ireland and has close links with the NI Education Authority.
Those considering applying to the University of Cumbria have the opportunity to chat with current students from Northern Ireland.
Belfast-born graduate Paul Lawlor, who toured more than 30 schools across Northern Ireland in 2018, is part of the university’s team attending UCAS NI on 27 and 28 February 2019 at the Eikon Exhibition Centre.