St Mary’s High School Explores Divided Past, Shared Future
ST MARY’S High School in Downpatrick is going from strength to strength and recently the school participated in an important cross-community initiative designed to build bridges for the future towards a more peaceful and shared society in Northern Ireland.
Ms Louise O’Prey, Head of Drama at St Mary’s High School, organised a project for all St Mary’s Year 8 pupils with link school Knockbreda High School to explore the concept of ‘Divided Past, Shared Future.’ Following a successful funding application, St Mary’s were able to provide a range of practical activities for the pupils.
The Head of Drama from St Mary’s High School, Ms O’Prey, had participated and successfully completed the Exploring Skills in CREDIT (Classrooms Re-imagined Educational Diversity and Inclusion for Teachers) and Extending Skills in CREDIT at Stranmillis University and this helped to drive this initiative forward for the school.
Pupils attended an overnight residential to Corrymeela where they explored issues of division, diversity, inclusion and community cohesion through a range of active and interactive approaches.
As a follow up activity all Year 8 pupils from both schools travelled to Belfast where they toured the murals on the Falls and Shankill Roads and heard of local people’s experiences of division and community relations. They also had an opportunity to write messages of hope on the Peace Wall and spent some time learning traditional Ceili dancing and bilingual songs at An Culturlann in the Gaeltachet Quarter of Belfast.
The next stage of the project involved pupils from Knockbreda High School visiting St Mary’s for a day of Shared Learning. They participated in four workshop sessions with our Year 8 pupils which included: drumming: lambeg and bodhran, drama: identity and an ethnic minority’s workshop. The pupils also worked together to create Shared Murals in the Art department, expressing their personal identities and shared interests.
Pupils have been recording video diaries of their experiences and the school hopes to showcase some of them along with their artwork at a celebration event and exhibition in Downpatrick in the last term.
School Principal Mrs Sheila Darling said: “As CRED is a now a statutory requirement in all schools, we at St Mary’s take great pride in leading the way in enhancing the provision of education for diversity, to enable our students to contribute more effectively to life in a globalised and shared community.
Through this and other projects ongoing in St Mary’s, the school is aiming to develop greater connectivity and enhanced collaboration with and between schools and communities from different phases and sectors which provides a more effective treatment of diversity issues in our schools.
St Mary’s were delighted at recently being awarded a Highly Commended prize from Stranmillis University for the ongoing work they are doing in this field. The shield was presented at a reception at Stranmillis attended by the principals of both teacher training colleges, the deputy education minister, bishops, IFI funders and a variety of other dignitaries.