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Picture for St Kieran’s Primary School

Global Learning in Practice: St Kieran’s Primary School

Location: 9 Bell Steele Road, Poleglass, Dunmurry, Belfast, BT17 0PB

Global Learning Lead Teacher: Louise Brady

Join Date: November 2015


Date of case study Interview: December 2016 (with more information received March 2017)

Key themes: Community connections, global learning in the curriculum, whole school events

St Kieran’s Primary School is located between West Belfast and Lisburn in the Poleglass area. There are currently just over 400 pupils enrolled at the school, with 84% of these on free school meals. The school provides a nurture room and a dedicated unit for pupils with mild learning difficulties.  

Before joining the Global Learning Programme (GLP) in 2015, St Kieran’s was already involved in a couple of initiatives which, like the GLP, have a strong focus on sustainability. It was taking part in the Sustrans Active School Travel Programme and had achieved its green flag through Eco-Schools.

Louise Brady, who teaches P4, was chosen to lead on global learning at the school, attending GLP training in November 2015. Education for a fair and sustainable world had been close to Louise’s heart for a while. She’d previously travelled to Uganda with Nurture Africa, a charity which seeks to empower vulnerable children affected by HIV and their families. This really opened her eyes to the importance of sustainable development.

Global learning in the curriculum

On her return to school after GLP training, Louise shared what she had learned with the rest of the staff, before reviewing the school’s current global learning practice. Other staff were a bit apprehensive, but Louise facilitated a global learning training morning with them. During this, she demonstrated the ‘biscuit game’, which can be used to teach children and young people about global inequality. The session was well received. Louise’s colleagues realised how relevant global learning was to their teaching and also recognised, ‘we do that’, when it came to many elements of global learning. Teachers were able to see how global learning is entwined across the curriculum and is especially visible in PDMU, World Around Us and RE. They were assured that it was not extra work, just a different slant on much of their current practice. The school has subsequently incorporated global learning into its WAU planning, identifying five achievable targets for improvement over the next three years. Global Learning also has its own dedicated action plan within the School Development Plan.  

In an attempt to encourage teachers to incorporate at least one specific global learning lesson per term into their WAU teaching, Louise has provided each year group with a folder for global learning topics, which includes links to relevant material. KS2 teachers are now required to highlight at least one global learning lesson in their six weekly planners. Foundation and KS1 teachers will begin to do the same thing during the next academic year.  

Click here to see examples of how global learning has been incorporated into various topics. Parents and Board of Governors have been kept informed about how the children are exploring global learning in class. Following some topics, the school council reports back to the Board on what they have learned.  There is also a colourful global learning display in one of the school’s main corridors, which is contributed to by the whole school. It is positioned so it is one of the first things anyone visiting St Kieran’s will see.

School community links

Since joining the GLP, St Kieran’s has been very active in its engagement with the local community and the local environment. Children from the school noticed that traffic lights had been burnt down regularly outside the school and decided to take action themselves. They joined forces with Colin Neighbourhood Partnership, which aims to give local people ownership of their area. The children created posters to go up on lampposts outside the school. These stressed the need for working traffic lights to keep children safe on their way to school and encouraged others to look after their area.

P5 and 6 classes from the school have also teamed up with the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership to learn about healthy eating and how to grow food. They completed a nature study at Colin Glen Forest Park. After visiting local allotments, P5 pupils planted flowerbeds and created an allotment/kitchen garden, which gave them an opportunity to learn first-hand how healthy eating and sustainable living link together.

Through all of this positive action, the children became custodians and advocates for their local area.

Global Learning Week

Global learning is now such a big part of life at St Kieran's that a Global Learning Week was held in March 2017. As part of this, Louise gathered colourful hand prints from every child and used these to create a rainbow display at the front entrance to the school. The theme was ‘together we can help change the world, one little hand at a time’.

Each year group or class (depending on what was most appropriate for the pupils) was asked to explore a specific country AND one of the new Global Goals agreed by the UN in 2015. The aim was to get teachers to try to link the goal and country together. However, if this was not possible, then purely exposing the children to a different culture and country was enough. Pupils also investigated their goal and what they could do to help achieve it.

Curriculum links were evident:

  • P2 had been looking at the Arctic so their goal was Life Below Water (Goal 14). They investigated over-fishing and linked this to literacy.
  • One of the P4 classes were studying instructional writing so the children wrote Recipes for Quality Education (which links to Goal 4).
  • Some P6 pupils were exploring climate change so they looked at statistics and handling data on climate change. This ties into Goal 13 on Climate Action.

These are just a few examples! The week culminated in a special Global Learning Day. On this day, pupils were allowed to attend school in the colours of whatever country they had been exploring in class in return for making a small donation to Nurture Africa. They were given an assembly about the Global Goals, during which some of their peers explained how the world is not as ‘well’ as it could be, but the goals can make it better!  At this assembly, pupils also heard from a guest speaker about the work of Nurture Africa, which allowed them to see how their donations would be used.

It was a fantastic week of learning. The children loved it and can now confidently talk about the Global Goals.

RDS Science Fair

In March, the school achieved another big global learning success when P7 pupils secured a place at the 2017 RDS Primary Science Fair. They have entered a project with a strong global learning focus and will be looking at renewable energy and the use of wind turbines. Their experiment ‘What makes a turbine strong’ will examine at the best materials needed to build strong turbines and connect this to sustainable development in Peru.

The impact of global learning

Through the various global learning activities incorporated into teaching at St Kieran’s, the children are gaining an understanding not only of their own local community, but also of the big wide world.  Louise believes global learning generates lots of useful discussion and enables children to start to think about themselves in a global context. It provides relevant, contextualised, real-life learning, which helps ensure children are really interested and engaged.

Discussing controversial or difficult world issues can be something of a challenge, but Louise still sees the worth in doing so, provided you approach tricky subjects carefully and understand how to gauge them towards your own class. If you can keep the right balance, Louise has found that global learning allows children to discuss issues in a way which increases pupils' knowledge, challenges their attitudes and allows them to think about different perspectives.

“Global learning is not extra work.  At the beginning you may need to source material for a particular lesson, but then its small steps and really runs itself. Global issues can be a way of opening up children’s eyes to what is going on in the world and getting them to see themselves as a global citizen.”

- Global Learning Lead Teacher Louise Brady

Resources to Support Classroom Practice and a Whole School Approach

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