Schools from across Northern Ireland have been awarded €3.8m in the last three years through a European funding programme.
Since 2014, 42 schools in Northern Ireland have benefited from Erasmus+, the EU’s flagship programme for education, training, youth and sport, and through it, are hoping to help pupils develop as global citizens.
Research has revealed that the number of school staff approved to teach, train or job shadow through the funding nearly doubled from 22 to 49 in that period, and from 2018, more schools can benefit from an increase in funding to support school exchanges of pupils and staff.
Erasmus+, which is managed by the British Council and Ecorys UK, provides funding to help internationalise students, including through; learning foreign languages, having access to staff with international experience, learning with peers from other countries and cultures, and engaging in international collaboration via online learning.
One school to benefit from funding in 2017 was Belfast Boys’ Model School in West Belfast. Through their project - Labour Integration in Europe – they partnered with schools in Germany, Italy and Norway, and aimed to build more qualified and confident future job-seekers by improving the pupils’ employability and career perspectives.
The project began in 2016 and since then pupils from the school have travelled to the co-ordinating school in Germany, where they visited engineering sites, the Mercedes Factory and an electronic company. They also welcomed their fellow pupils to Belfast, where they visited companies including Coca Cola.
Speaking about the project was Ian Patterson, Head of Learning Technology at Belfast Boys’ Model. He said: “This project has opened our pupils’ eyes to just what’s possible. Before many of them had never travelled outside the UK, let alone considered working in another country.
“These pupils are from the Shankill and Sandy Row and have always been very inward looking, but now they have raised their own expectations with many thinking of studying further afield and not just as Queen’s or Ulster University - with some considering apprenticeships or even studying or working across Europe.
“For our students, staying with an exchange family or just eating different food has provided them with experiences that they will never forget and encouraged them to challenge themselves and do better.”
Before the project finishes in Belfast in Spring 2019, further trips to Germany and Norway are planned, and the schools continues to collaborate online via the online portal, eTwinning.
Speaking about Eramsus+ was Deputy Director, British Council in Northern Ireland, Jonathan Stewart, who said; “Our international partnerships are at the heart of everything we do and initiatives such as Erasmus+ enable students to understand issues of worldwide importance gain a sense of social responsibility and develop the skills they need to succeed in a global workplace.”
“ We are delighted that in 2018, with the introduction of Erasmus+ School Exchange Partnerships, more schools than ever will be able to use the new funding to support both pupil and teacher exchanges between schools form different European countries.”
"In view of the EU referendum, cultural connections between the UK and other European countries are as important as ever. We will continue to work in partnership with other European countries and international institutions to create opportunities, build connections and engender trust."
Jane Racz, Erasmus+ UK National Agency Director, said, : “Many organisations in Northern Ireland have been successful in bidding for Erasmus+ funding for a range of worthwhile projects, to improve the education and training landscape and the prospects of thousands of young people.
“The funding available to the UK in 2018 is at its highest to date, at around €170m, and there are a few changes to the programme which should make it easier for organisations to apply. We are particularly keen for schools in Northern Ireland to apply for funding for the new school exchanges, to benefit from links with schools across Europe.”
In 2018, an extra €12m will be available for UK schools and colleges to take part in School Exchange Partnerships. With the UK taking part in Erasmus+ as usual in 2018, and application deadlines having just been announced, €30 million is available in total to UK schools to apply for Erasmus+ activities in 2018.
Funding deadlines for Erasmus+ 2018 have been announced and schools can apply through www.erasmusplus.org.uk.
Erasmus+ is just one of a number of programmes available to schools through British Council Northern Ireland. For more information visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org, www.erasmusplus.org.uk or follow on Twitter at @BCouncil_NI.