An initiative that helps train new teachers from Northern Ireland is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019.
The University of Cumbria has been working to meet a demand from prospective students in Northern Ireland for postgraduate primary teacher training for the last decade.
Over 200 have studied at the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle since 2013-14.
This year 63 Primary PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) students at the university’s Carlisle and Lancaster campuses are from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
One of the current cohort in Carlisle is Aoife Murphy, 23, from Keady, County Armagh.
She is among 10 students who also have close links to the St Ninian’s Federation in Carlisle, a family of Catholic primary schools.
The St Ninian’s teaching pathway – a partnership between University of Cumbria and the St Ninian’s Federation - provides placements in Catholic primary schools across Carlisle.
Students also have the opportunity to complete two modules towards the Catholic Certificate of Religious Studies, which is needed to teach in Catholic primary schools in Northern Ireland.
Aoife (pictured) said: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher - my mum, dad and grannie were all teachers – but there’s huge competition for PGCE places in Northern Ireland.
“Friends of mine had studied in Carlisle, including my best friend who did the PGCE last year and is now an NQT at St Cuthbert’s School in Carlisle. Another is on a social work course. They loved it and encouraged me to go for it.
“I didn’t want to go somewhere where I’d be on my own but being here I realise that everyone’s in the same position as me. University staff and the people of Carlisle really care and are very helpful.
“I can also do two modules towards the Catholic Certificate, which can be quite expensive to do on your own. It’s really good to be working within the professional family of the Catholic federation in Carlisle too.”
Dr Eamonn Pugh, senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria’s Institute of Education, said: “Many graduates from Northern Ireland aspire to become primary teachers. However, there are very limited PGCE places offered there; getting on a postgraduate teacher education course is extremely competitive.
“Because we have partner schools across all parts of Northern Ireland, we can provide a school placement that allows students to be close to home. The extensive support we give to all of our students includes those from Northern Ireland. Examples include dealing empathetically with homesickness to working in partnership with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland to speed up the registration of graduating students who are seeking jobs there.”
Chris Wilkins, executive headteacher of the St Ninian’s Federation in Carlisle, said: “We work closely with the admissions team and education facility to enable catholic applicants for the university’s PGCE course to have a bespoke training route.
“So far this has been particularly attractive to Northern Irish students because of the excellent transport links and our established links with St Mary’s University College, Belfast.
“We are 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.
“We feel this unique course opportunity provides students with an excellent PGCE course with the University of Cumbria and the support and encouragement of the catholic teaching community.”
In the run up to the UCAS deadline next Tuesday (15 January), the university is offering prospective Northern Irish students contact with a current Northern Irish student. They are available to answer any specific enquiries prospective students may have about life at university or the courses offered.