Global learning in practice: Ardnashee School and College
Location: 15 - 17 Racecourse Road Derry/Londonderry, BT48 7RE
Global Learning Lead Teacher: Dan Byrne
Join date: May 2015
Date of case study interview: September 2016
Key themes: Assemblies, learning about the environment
Ardnashee School and College in Derry educates more than 270 pupils between the ages of 3 and 19 with a range of special educational needs. The school is spread over two campuses and its grounds include a unique outdoor play and educational facility known as the Playtrail, which is managed by local charity, the Liberty Consortium. The Playtrail is open to the local community, as well as to pupils, and encompasses many great features including a sensory garden, aquaponics project, woodland fairy walk, straw bale eco-house, and community allotment scheme.
Ardnashee joined the Global Learning Programme (GLP) shortly after it launched in Northern Ireland and has become one of the programme’s early success stories. The school joined the GLP on the back of its participation in the Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) - one of several awards schemes which complement GLP participation. There has always been a strong global dimension within the school and, in particular, a drive to integrate SEN children and young people into the international world.
The school’s lead teacher on global learning is Dan Byrne, who is originally from Australia and full of ideas. He attended GLP training in May 2015, finding the content excellent and enjoying the opportunity to share good practice with other teachers.
Auditing global learning
Dan returned from the training and identified the areas within the school where global learning was already taking place and could be built upon. He also identified fresh opportunities. Since then, global learning has been cascaded throughout the school and Dan has brought his colleagues on board with the programme. He regularly shares global learning content with other teachers, such as details of key global dates which they may wish to mark with their pupils.
Global learning topics are regularly covered during school-wide assemblies led by Dan. These are designed to be image rich, text light and interactive. They aim to make pupils think and to generate discussion back in class, which may in turn cause teachers to address questions and engage with issues they had not previously considered. Even if an assembly is not solely focused on a global learning issue, Dan tries to ensure at least one slide brings a global dimension to the topic. He hopes other staff will eventually be able to take their own global learning assemblies.
A particularly successful assembly on water was held towards the end of the 2015/16 school year. This explored how children in some other parts of the world do not have access to clean water and the reasons why this might be the case. During the assembly, Dan supplied clean and ‘dirty’ water to pupils and asked which they would rather drink! This elicited a strong response and Dan believes it ensured the subject matter would stay in their minds.
As someone who is good with technology, Dan likes to make his own resources and would encourage others to do the same. For example, he created a special comic worksheet for use with the water assembly. Made using the Comic Life app, the comic was circulated to teachers so they would have material to work from if they wished to continue teaching about access to clean water in their classrooms. Dan also regularly sources global learning resources from the internet and shares particularly good examples with fellow staff for use in their own classes.
Global learning on the school grounds
The school’s extensive grounds offer plenty of scope for focusing on the environmental aspect of the GLP and taking global learning out into the world. Climate change and sustainability are key global learning themes, which GLP schools are encouraged explore. Dan enjoys being able to show pupils real-life examples of what they have discussed in class. Pupils regularly visit the garden and play a role in caring for it and the wider environment. Even those with complex learning difficulties can engage with global learning in this way.
At the time of writing (September 2016), Dan was involved in planning a barbeque on the school grounds with a Middle Eastern theme, which will be attended by both staff and pupils. He hopes this will stimulate conversation and resemble the Belfast Mela, an annual multicultural festival held in the city. The barbeque will introduce the pupils to a culture different from their own and encourage them to experience new flavours. More may be held in future to explore other flavours and cultures.
If Dan and the rest of their staff bring usual level of enthusiasm to this project, it’s sure to be another global learning success!
“You’ve got to take the classroom out into the world, show pupils real-life examples, research other places and look at photographs and footage. Pupils respond much better to this than if you are just talking with them. You’ve got to jettison the classroom into the atmosphere and come down somewhere else so kids know there’s a huge world outside.”
- Global Learning Lead Teacher Dan Byrne