The Urban Villages - News

South Belfast Primary School awarded the first ‘School of Sanctuary’ in Northern Ireland

Blythefield Primary School is celebrating after becoming the first primary school in Northern Ireland to attain ‘School of Sanctuary’ status. The school, located in the South Belfast Urban Village area, embarked on becoming a School of Sanctuary over a year ago. Everyone from the staff, parents, pupils and wider community has embraced the ethos of a School of Sanctuary, creating a safe and welcoming space for newcomer children and their families.

L to R (back row) Sharon O’Connor, Chair, Education Authority; Catherine Roulston, Principal, Blythefield Primary School; Linsey Farrell, Director of the Urban Villages Initiative and Mark Browne, Deputy Secretary The Executive Office, and (front row) Blythefield Primary School pupils, Torre Brown and Keri Whittley celebrating after Blythefield Primary School became the first primary school in Northern Ireland to become a ‘School of Sanctuary’.
L-R (back row) Sharon O’Connor, Chair, Education Authority; Catherine Roulston, Principal, Blythefield PS; Linsey Farrell, Director of the Urban Villages Initiative, Mark Browne, Deputy Secretary TEO, Blythefield PS pupils, Torre Brown and Keri Whittley

As part of their journey, Blythefield Primary School has connected with other schools from around the world, celebrated Chinese New Year, created a Friendship club, hosted international student teachers, held a series of Small World workshops, learned African drumming and created a sanctuary garden.

Catherine Roulston, Principal of Blythefield Primary School said: “The School of Sanctuary project presented an opportunity to celebrate not only the cultures of the children who join our school as newcomers but also to celebrate and learn about the cultures of children who live in this community.”

Blythefield Primary School was supported by the Urban Villages Initiative in partnership with the Education Authority’s Intercultural Education Services on its journey to becoming a School of Sanctuary; and both are now ready to support other schools in Urban Village areas to do the same in the next phase roll out. The Urban Villages Initiative is a key action within the Northern Ireland Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ Strategy. 

Linsey Farrell, Director of the Urban Villages Initiative, commented: “Blythefield Primary School is a wonderful example of how a school can be a beacon in the local community and become a place of safety and inclusion for all and I congratulate them on their award as a School of Sanctuary.”

The school was officially presented with the award by Sipho Sibanda and Sara Hakim from Places of Sanctuary at a celebration event held in the school on Tuesday 27th June, in front of a packed assembly hall of dignitaries, parents, staff and pupils of the school. A recently developed Schools of Sanctuary Resource Booklet that was revised by the Education Authority, was launched on the same day.

Sharon O’Connor, Chairperson of the Education Authority added: “The Education Authority is proud to support the Schools of Sanctuary programme and are delighted to be launching the resource pack with our partners today. We want schools to embrace, celebrate and value Northern Ireland’s increasing cultural diversity. We are committed to ensuring that all children in our schools have the opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment and to be the best that they can be. I congratulate Blythefield Primary School on their achievement and I would encourage other schools to learn from their experiences, get the resource pack and start working towards being a school of sanctuary.”

Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum Celebrate Urban Village Programme in Derry

Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum have celebrated the success of the 'Resilience Programme’ in the Guildhall on Thursday 29 June. 

L-R (back row): Maolíosa McHugh, Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Seamus Ward, BBHF, Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative, Mr Gabriel Kelly, and children from Longtower PS.
L-R (back row): Maolíosa McHugh, Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Seamus Ward, BBHF, Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative, Mr Gabriel Kelly, and children from Longtower PS.

The programme aimed to increase educational achievement, enhance physical activity levels and improve diets for young people in Primary Schools and Youth Clubs in the TRIAX area.

The programme was funded by the Urban Villages Initiative and delivered by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum in Primary Schools including St Eugene’s P.S., Longtower P.S., Fountain P.S., Gaelsoil Eadain Mhoir, and Nazareth House P.S., and local youth clubs Longtower Y.C., Pilots Row, Youth First, Cathedral Y.C., and Bishop Street Y.C.

The programme offered two different elements helping young people to increase their educational achievement through additional Maths and English revision, physical activity sessions and information on healthy life styles. The schools and youth clubs enjoyed their celebration in the Guildhall on Thursday with the Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, Maoliosa McHugh, Linsey Farrell, Programme Director of the Urban Villages Initiative, Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum’s General Manager, Seamus Ward and Foyle MP, Elisha McCallion all in attendance.

Seamus Ward, General Manager of Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum believes that this programme helped target those young people who required support to achieve their full educational potential and encourage healthier life styles.  "The programme aimed to help young people in both primary schools and youth clubs to ensure they achieve a higher potential in their educational achievement through one-to-one and group support.  This was delivered through educational tutors helping  the young people better understand Maths and English to better prepare them for their GCSE’s as well as assisting primary school pupils who required support in these areas.“

“The young people participated in physical activity and for some young people in this area, this was the only form of activity they participated in outside of their usual P.E. sessions and playground time. The nutritional information helped young people understand the importance of a balanced diet and we feel these messages need to be consistently delivered to young people in this area to improve their diets. We at the Health Forum feel this programme was a good model of practice for the community and educational sectors working in partnership to deliver a whole community approach, supporting all young people. We would like to extend our thanks to Aileen McGuinness, Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum Programme Manager and the Urban Village Initiative for making this happen." 

Linsey Farrell, Programme Director of the Urban Villages Initiative commented, “The Resilience Programme’s innovative approach to education has really helped the young people involved to understand and explore issues such as the importance of physical activity, good nutrition, teamwork, mental health and dealing with the stress of exam situations. This has resulted in them developing new skills, improving their self confidence and giving them enhanced resilience and I congratulate all those involved in making the Resilience Programme such a great success.”

Ulster Orchestra’s Crescendo schools project expands to North and West Belfast following support from The Urban Villages Initiative

Thanks to funding support from The Urban Villages Initiative, the Ulster Orchestra’s musical workshops project, ‘Crescendo’, has been able to expand in partnership with the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Shankill Children’s Zone.

Pupils from Wheatfield Primary School in North Belfast show off their new skills with Morag Stewart, Principal Cello and facilitator of from the Ulster Orchestra Crescendo project, Maxine Hume, Principal of Wheatfield Primary School and Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative.
Pupils from Wheatfield PS in North Belfast show off their new skills with Morag Stewart, Principal Cello and facilitator of from the Ulster Orchestra Crescendo project, Maxine Hume, Principal of Wheatfield PS and Linsey Farrell, Programme Director

In January 2017, following a consultation and development phase, the Ulster Orchestra, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Shankill Children’s Zone started working with schools in north and west Belfast on an exciting new initiative to improve outcomes for children through music.

The aim of the project is to increase the resilience, aspirations and emotional development of children through a programme of music skills development, which will increase participants’ musical skills while contributing to their improved wellbeing and self-worth. The project will be monitored by the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Richard Wigley, Managing Director of the Ulster Orchestra said; “Thanks to the generous support of the Urban Villages initiative, we are able to deliver weekly workshops with primary 1 classes to develop fundamental music skills, before progressing to learning orchestral instruments in subsequent years. Partnerships such as this are vital in helping the Orchestra further develop our learning and community engagement activity.”

Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative, added: “This unique and innovative project has shown the value in using music as a tool for learning from a young age. The Ulster Orchestra used music as a catalyst to help improve Maths, English and all round confidence and it is clear to see how the young people involved have benefitted so richly and have thoroughly enjoyed the project. I was particularly impressed with how the members of the Ulster Orchestra interacted so effortlessly with the school children and the bond that had been formed over the course of this project. We were also treated to a special concert by the ever impressive Ulster Orchestra and the equally impressive school orchestra. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making this project such a fantastic success.”

Living the Green Way in EastSide

Sandy Uprichard and Wayne Irvine from the Urban Village Initiative team with Michele Bryans, Connswater Community Greenway Engagement and Volunteer Manager, Eastside Partnership at the launch of the Connswater Community Greenway ‘green walking’ map sponsored by the Urban Village Initiative.
Sandy Uprichard, Wayne Irvine from the Urban Village Initiative team with Michele Bryans, Connswater Community Greenway Engagement and Volunteer Manager, Eastside Partnership at the launch of the Connswater Community Greenway ‘green walking’ map

Residents in EastSide Urban Village have enjoyed a two day programme of events supporting and encouraging people to live ‘greener lives.’ The programme began with the launch of the Connswater Community Greenway ‘green walking’ map. The map highlights a number of picturesque walks along the Connswater Community Greenway aimed at improving health and wellbeing. It includes routes for people of all levels and abilities ranging from those out for a leisurely stroll to those out to really get their pulse racing. The maps have been produced with the guidance of medical professionals from The Arches Centre and are available from The Arches Centre or www.connswatergreenway.co.uk.

The ‘Living the Green Way’ event was organised by Connswater Community Greenway Trust and supported by The Urban Villages Initiative. The Urban Villages Initiative is a key action within the Northern Ireland Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ Strategy with one of its’ key commitments being to support healthy lifestyles and wellbeing of people in the EastSide Urban Village area.

Wendy Langham, Programme Manager of the Connswater Community Greenway, commented; “The Connswater Community Greenway walking map is a fantastic resource for people to come and enjoy walking around the area. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful attractions in East Belfast such as C.S. Lewis Square, the EastSide Visitor Centre, the James Ellis Bridge and the very beautiful Victoria Park and I would encourage people to get out, get active and have fun exploring.”

As part of the event, a number of exciting events took place around EastSide throughout Friday and Saturday such as a health fair, zumba, a clean-up of the area, hanging basket workshops, storytelling and the first ever market to be held in C.S. Lewis Square.

The Going Green Gardening Group, also supported by the Urban Villages Initiative was one of the many groups exhibiting at the festival. The Group operates out of Hosford the homelessness service of East Belfast Mission and are a group of gardeners working on community gardens across the EastSide Urban Village.

Diane Mitchell, a participant in the Going Green Gardening Group, said; “I enjoy working in the gardens because I learn new skills that I can use in my garden at home. I also like making the gardens look nice for other people to enjoy and I get to meet lots of people and make new friends.”

The Going Green Gardening Group launched their Table Top Mural project at the ‘Living the Green Way’ event. The project saw group members learn a range of new skills including art and design encouraging the budding artists to depict their favourite things from East Belfast such as C.S Lewis Square, Avoniel Community Garden and The Yard Men.

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