The Shared Education ‘Sharing From The Start’ programme, has made a £100,000 technology investment. Preschools and nurseries involved in the programme have received equipment including laptops, projectors, webcams and broadband infrastructure. As part of the investment preschool staff have also received online training, upskilling them in the latest resources and supporting settings in Continuing Professional Development opportunities.
(Left) Caroline Connon, First Steps Preschool. (Right) Julia Henderson, Mossley Nursery School with some of their new equipment
Sharing From The Start involves early years settings throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border counties forming cross-community and/ or cross-border partnerships, and the children taking part in joint curricular classes, improving educational outcomes and promoting good relations. The initiative is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
Pauline Walmsley, Chief Executive Officer of Early Years – the organisation for young children commented “Although the last number of months have been challenging, it is clear from the continued commitment and dedication shown by the preschool settings, that Shared Education remains an integral part of their development planning and vision for their setting. With ongoing restrictions in place which do not currently support peer face to face contact, we have been working closely with preschools to develop innovative and creative methods for facilitating virtual engagement across communities. This significant IT investment that we have made enables settings to adapt and remain focussed on continuing to deliver high quality outcomes for children.”
The Glen Outdoor School for Early Learning, Donegal and The Model Creche, Donegal
The programme, which is now in it’s fourth year, is bringing positive attitudinal and behavioural change amongst children, parents, teachers and the wider community. This is being achieved through the implementation of purposeful, direct and sustained curriculum-based contact between children of predominantly different religious backgrounds and different ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds. To date, over 7,000 preschool children have been benefitting from participation in Shared Education classes and over 150 preschool practitioners have built their capacity to confidently facilitate.
Margaret O’Doherty, Bligh’s Lane Nursery with her new webcam
Pauline added “There has of course been missed valuable pre-school experiences as a result of the pandemic. Thanks to the wonders of technology, which we are so pleased to be able to provide, this investment will go some way towards alleviating that – and help strengthen their shared education, keeping those relationships between partner settings going. Investment in IT for early years and improving connectivity are always important topics, but especially so in times like this.”
Loughinisland preschool children Zooming with their friends at Glasswater preschool
Sharing from the Start is administered by Early Years working in collaboration with the National Childhood Network and the Fermanagh Trust. Together these three organisations have a strong track record and over twenty years experience of working for the benefit of children and good relations development.
Preschool leaders receiving Microsoft Teams training
First Steps Playgroup, Ballymena Nursery and Castle Tower Nursery are just some of the settings who received equipment. The three pre-schools have been partnered together for a number of years as part of Sharing From The Start and are excited to use their new TV, webcams and laptops to carry out their shared lessons virtually. The training received has allowed staff to become more efficient in the technology which will in turn help children be able to connect with their friends in their partner preschool. The preschool leaders have been planning their online lessons together, pleased to have this equipment which will keep everyone connected much easier and allow Shared Education to continue.
L’Derry / Donegal:
Bligh’s Lane Nursery School in L’Derry, Stepping Stones Playgroup in St Johnston and Cockhill Community Pre-School in Buncrana have been partnered together for a number of years as part of Sharing From The Start and have found that Shared Education has been great for the children to make new friends, have new learning experiences and also improving staff development. Some of the IT equipment they have received include wide angle cameras, providing great coverage of the room so all children will be visible in their online shared classes.
In recent months Loughinisland Preschool and Glasswater Preschool have adapted and come up with innovative ways to carry out shared education virtually. The children have been sending paintings and photos to each other so they can learn names and faces of their partner preschool. The preschools have started their ‘Zoom’ lessons together, pleased to have this equipment which will keep everyone connected much easier and allow Shared Education to continue.
Mossley Nursery and St Macnissis Preschool partnership – Principal Julia Henderson said “In Mossley Nursery School we were fortunate to be provided with a tv, laptop, and webcam to enable us to connect with our partner school as our current IT facilities didn’t support this. We are lucky to have been working very closely with our colleagues in St Macnissis virtually in our support cluster during this difficult year, this has been invaluable. We now cannot wait to use it with our classes for the project!”