‘Learning without walls’ – Bees Nees and St Finian’s Newtownards

Bees Nees Early Years Centre and St Finian’s Early Years Centre Newtownards have been taking part in Shared Education, making new friends and availing of educational opportunities. The neighbouring preschools have been partnered together for the last five years under the Sharing From The Start programme.

A number of their Shared Sessions this year have taken place at Clandeboye Estate Forest School. The children had the freedom to move around the area exploring the forest. Outdoor learning, making cakes at the mud kitchen, climbing trees, making yummy toast over the fire. The two preschools have had a number of shared sessions this year focusing on a range of curriculum topics and they are looking forward to more events together.

Carol Mullan leader at St Finian’s said “The educational outcomes include developing a sense of self and belonging to a group. Reaching out to others, having the opportunity to continue building new friendships. Allowing the children to experience the wider world, learning without walls, freedom to explore the forest environment mixing with different children.”

Daphne Nicholl leader at Bees Nees added “Thanks to Sharing From The Start the children are gaining a sense of reconciliation knowing that even though there a differences we can still see similarities. We all have feelings and emotions, a sense of pride in where we come from and the group we belong to. However, we can still include others and gain friendships.”


Daphne Nicholl leader at Bees Nees and Carol Mullan leader at St Finian’s 


The Sharing From The Start initiative is supported through the European union’s Peace IV Programme and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. It involves early years settings throughout Northern Ireland and the Southern Border counties forming cross-community partnerships, and the children taking part in joint curricular classes, improving educational outcomes and promoting good relations.

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 of working for the benefit of children and good relations development. Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Department of Education in the Republic of Ireland.