The stunning National Trust properties of County Fermanagh were the settings for a number of shared sessions between Brookeborough Playgroup and Smallfry Playgroup, Maguiresbridge. The two pre-schools have become partners as part of the Shared Education project ‘Sharing From The Start’.
As well as story time at Lisnaskea Library and playing at each other’s playgroups, this term children, staff and parents enjoyed visits to Crom Estate, Florencecourt and Castle Coole. They had opportunities to interact with each other and take part in nature walks and educational talks, including inspecting the frogsprawn and other creatures at Crom.
‘Sharing From The Start’ is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Funding enables pre-schools to take part in Shared Education projects improving educational outcomes and cross-community cohesion, inclusion and diversity. A number of neighbouring pre-school partnerships have been developed throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border Counties.
Leader of Brookeborough Playgroup Hilary Elliott said “This programme is a great opportunity for the children. It’s a chance to do new things and have a new way of learning.” Paula Mooney, leader at Smallyfry Playgroup added “We’re really seeing the children’s confidence, skills and friendships develop and we’re fortunate to have so much support and help from our parents. With shared education taking place between so many schools in Fermanagh, this programme is a natural fit for us.”
Administered by Early Years, working in collaboration with the Fermanagh Trust and National Childhood Network, the project aims to engage almost 10,000 pre-school children in shared activities on an ongoing and sustained basis by 2022. Together these three organisations have a strong track record and over twenty years experience of working for the benefit of children and community relations.
Audrey Rainey (Early Years), Programme Manager of ‘Sharing From The Start’ commented “It’s great to see such fun, curriculum based work like this taking place. The Brookeborough and Maguiresbridge playgroups have shown a real dedication and enthusiasm and we wish them well for the rest of their work together. This is what the project is all about, creating opportunities like this for the children, parents and teachers to learn and work together.”