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Global learning in practice: Ulidia Integrated College

Location: 112 Victoria Road, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, BT38 7JL

Global Learning Lead Teacher: Sandra Patterson

Join Date: November 2015


Date of case study Interview: December 2016, with additional information received June 2017

Key themes: Whole-school events, learning about the environment, connected learning

A co-educational, grant-maintained integrated school, Ulidia Integrated College is based in Carrickfergus on an elevated site commanding good views of Belfast Lough. It provides post-primary education for over 580 children from the East Antrim area. Though most students have local roots, there is an increasingly diverse ethnic make-up within the school, including children from the Chinese, Polish, Indian, Lithuanian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and African communities.

Global learning is led within the school by the Head of Geography, Sandra Patterson, who was chosen for this role because of her interest in world issues and development. She attended Global Learning Programme (GLP) training in late 2015 and ever since has been strengthening global learning practice within the school.

Collaboration & global learning

There is a strong history of collaboration throughout Ulidia. Global learning was already taking place in the school, particularly among the committed staff and pupils in the school’s Eco-Team. Teachers throughout the school recognise that connected learning opportunities provided across multiple subjects make topics more meaningful for pupils. The school’s participation in the GLP, with its emphasis on taking a whole school approach to global learning, has further extended this joined-up strategy.

Using tools and skills acquired through attending GLP training, Sandra was able to work with her colleagues to evaluate the Ulidia’s global learning provision and frame plans for future development. They identified where global learning was already taking place within the school so this could be further consolidated. There was no shortage of good examples to draw upon. Click here to see how global learning has been successfully taught at Ulidia through a range of popular subjects.

Sandra found evaluating the school’s global learning extremely useful. She believes it gave extra credibility to the school’s involvement in the GLP. In particular, it enabled her to go the management and show them exactly where the school currently was with regards to global learning, as well as where it wanted to be in future.

Championing the environment

Ulidia is an extremely environmentally-conscious school, which ties in brilliantly with the GLP’s focus on sustainable development (one of five core global learning concepts). One of the first things you see upon entering the school grounds is a massive wind turbine, which helps power the classrooms and hallways.

As an Eco-Ambassador School for the Eco-Schools programme, Ulidia has already achieved four Green Flags and has been identified for its excellence in teaching the Global Perspective topic. Every year, the school celebrates Green Day, a day of whole school environmental action, which was devised by Sandra. Students go off timetable, participating in activities to promote care for the environment locally, nationally and globally. Throughout the day, different year groups are mixed together as pupils engage in active learning.

Each Green Day is slightly different from the last. Guest speakers from organisations such as Eco-Schools, Trócaire, Ulster Wildlife, Queen’s University Belfast and ISL Waste Management talk to students about a range of local and global environmental issues. Pupils also take practical action to improve the local environment, such as carrying out litter picks. During the last couple of years, Ulidia has begun to invite pupils from other schools to take part in Green Day. In 2017, Acorn Integrated Primary, Whiteabbey Primary and St Nicholas Primary were all involved in marking the day.

Sandra hopes future Green Days will continue to incorporate strong global learning and community elements.

A ‘Zero Waste’ school

Ulidia was the first school in Northern Ireland to achieve ‘Zero Waste’ status, meaning it sends none of its waste to landfill. The school works closely with ISL Waste Management to maintain this status. Using segregated bins, pupils are encouraged to sort litter at the point of disposal. It’s a great way for all pupils at the school to actively care for their planet. Although some minor contamination still occurs, secondary sorting at the local ISL plant, coupled with composting ensures 0% of waste is being put to landfill.

Collaborating with ISL Waste Management has been a positive experience. There have been whole school and whole year group assemblies about waste, visits to a local recycling centre and education workshops informing pupils about recycling and where waste goes. Some Year 12 students were even involved in the creation of an energy app designed to support KS3 Science and Geography pupils, which is still available for download (mobiles only). Older sixth form pupils have also been given opportunities to gain skills for employment.

Work on fair trade

Through Ulidia’s involvement in the GLP, Sandra became aware of the Fairtrade Schools Award (which is often recommended to teachers as complementing GLP participation). This award scheme provided a framework through which to develop the school’s existing work on fair trade. Ulidia had a longstanding commitment to fair trade, with the topic studied within Geography, Home Economics and LLW across the key stages. Some great projects had already been undertaken, such as a whole school quiz on fair trade with prizes of Fairtrade Maltesers up for grabs! All form tutors were asked to share a PowerPoint presentation on fair trade with their classes, before following this up with the quiz questions.

By taking part in the Fairtrade Schools Award, Ulidia was able to gain official recognition for all of this excellent work. The school was delighted to be granted the FairActive Award by the Fairtrade Foundation at the end of 2015/16 school year. Sandra hopes the school will work towards achieving further Fairtrade awards. This may involve incorporating the study of fair trade into their Eco-Schools work for the Global Perspective topic, thus covering two different awards with the same core work. Meanwhile, students continue to engage in regular fair trade activities, for example, they recently celebrated Fairtrade Fortnight 2017.

Making links with other schools

During GLP training, Sandra enjoyed networking with other teachers. Sharing ideas with them enabled Sandra to make professional contacts and ask, ‘Here we are, how can we help each other?’ She made a very useful connection with another Head of Geography in a nearby school. The two have become friends, exchanging examples of work and ideas. For example, they discussed how best to engage with the World’s Largest Lesson - an annual, worldwide lesson on the Global Goals to which educators across the globe are encouraged to contribute.

Attending the GLP training also gave Sandra the confidence to contact neighboring Acorn Integrated Primary School looking for opportunities in relation to area based planning. This resulted in Ulidia students visiting Acorn regularly to mentor P4 pupils and help the school achieve its first Green Flag through the Eco-Schools programme.

International links & charitable work

Ulidia has historically raised funds for a project in Kenya, which involved students travelling to Kenya to assist with the building of schools and drainage systems. The students experienced what life was like for young Kenyans the same age as themselves. Since joining the GLP, the school has developed a relationship with a school called Lycee Pole from Fort Dauphin in the Anosy Region of Madagascar . This has included collaborating on a Young Reporters Project through Eco-Schools. Pupils from the two schools were tasked with writing a joint article about Global Goal 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption) and how it relates to the cocoa industry. Students in Madagascar looked at production end, while those in Ulidia focused on exploring fair trade, consumption and recycling, incorporating their existing links with ISL Waste Management.

The project provided Ulidia pupils with opportunities to learn about their connections to the wider world. They were able to see how their choices as consumers impacted on the lives of others, which in turn led them to understand that they could influence positive change simply by making more informed, responsible choices in what they buy. The project gave pupils the chance to advocate for the rights of others and recognize the power they had to speak out. It also combined learning in many different areas, including literacy, numeracy and ICT. You can read the resulting final article here.

A group of Ulidia students were also recently involved in another project centred on Madagascar. A year 10 class contrasted water supplies here in NI with the situation in Madagascar. They learnt about the technologies available in both countries, but were keen to do something practical as well. As a result, they decided to raise money for the construction of a borehole well for a primary school in Madagascar. Cautious about sending out the message out that everybody living in Madagascar is in need, they avoided stereotyping and shared more balanced messages about the benefits of sustainable technology. The pupils aimed to raise £1500 and reached this target in April 2017 after just five months of fundraising, making it another success story for the school!

Benefits and conclusion

Ulidia’s global learning journey has so far been smooth sailing. Connecting pupils’ learning across a range of subject areas has made a lot of sense for everyone. Teachers have benefited from shared planning and implementation and enjoyed working together. The pupils have been motivated to learn and able to see the relevance and connections in what they were learning, with similar themes and skills being

According to Sandra, parents are appreciative of the many opportunities Ulidia provides for their children and recognise how global learning benefits them, particularly in relation to building their sense of empathy. Involvement in the GLP and the support of her management team has given Sandra and her colleagues the confidence to take global learning to their whole school.

Sandra is delighted with how global learning is developing within Ulidia. Her time leading on the GLP has been very positive and she clearly has a lot of enthusiasm for the role. One particularly good moment for Sandra was assisting with Ulidia’s celebration of Integrated Education Week 2016. The theme of this week was ‘Harmony’ so Ulidia held a talent show with different cultures represented through music, dancing and foods from around the world. Sandra was particularly struck by an Irish-Indian dance mash up created and performed by two close friends. Not only did their performance reflect the true essence of the theme, but by being comfortable enough to share with the rest of the school, it demonstrated the confidence the girls had in their own cultures.

“Global learning themes hit so much of the curriculum for KS3 and GCSE. I would say to any school considering getting involved in the GLP to just go for it. Global Learning is definitely worthwhile, with lots of benefits for pupils. It gives them a more holistic view of the world, enables them to see the benefits of living in a global society and aids their understanding of their role as voters of tomorrow.”

- Global Learning Lead Teacher Sandra Patterson

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