Thursday 30 April 2015


St Mary's Primary School in Mullaghabawn may be a small rural school, but this is a school with world aspirations.

Nestled under the shadows of Slieve Gullion, the school, which is home to less than 300 pupils, is going global by working with schools across Europe — as well as in China.

They recently scooped €79,725 under the Erasmus+ scheme, the EU’s flagship programme for education, training, youth and sport, and through it, are hoping to help pupils develop as global citizens. 

Eramsus+, which is managed by the British Council and Ecorys UK, is helping the County Armagh school work with five countries across Europe — Finland, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy, on two complementing projects. They aim to promote IT skills, environmental awareness, a second language and even a happier work environment. 

The first project, entitled Dissolving European Boundaries, will see the school work  and engage with countries across Europe using an online platform in which they will focus on  environmental matters  as well as culture and language — ultimately working towards achieving ‘Green Flag status’. Through it, the pupils have been designing logos, using their iPads for digital storytelling and creating the ultimate eco warrior mascots. This project will cumulate with the development of a virtual learning platform, which will provide a safe environment for both staff and pupils. 

In addition to this, the school also received funding to allow teachers to visit other educational settings across Europe and attend international training courses. The school hopes to learn best practice and explore educational systems, while also improving ICT skills and foreign language ability. So far the teachers have met in Mullaghbawn, The Basque Country, and most recently, in Finland.

According to Ciara Crawley, the Erasmus+ Coordinator at the school, this funding will help the pupils and teachers in insurmountable ways.

She said: “Through the project we hope to open our pupils’ minds so that they are not afraid to travel in later life, while also helping them acquire a second language. Even the younger pupils know what Erasmus+ is, and we can see that they’re already making new friends and connections.

“Hopefully Erasmus+ will make them feel part of the European community, while also enhancing their career paths and broadening their outlook on the world."

For Ciara, the benefits of the programme are far-reaching.

She said: “We firmly believe that a good project impacts on not only the school involved, but also the wider community, to which each school belongs. Here at St Mary’s we’ve developed a real community spirit — working with parents and grandparents and others within the local area. It's really important for us to have their support."

St Mary’s is no stranger to working on an international level however, having worked with the British Council for the past 12 years.

Ciara said: “We initially developed European contacts through Comenius, when we began working with our partner school in Finland. Since then, we've gone on to work with schools through the eTwinning programme and this has enabled us to develop further international links. Without these previous projects, one on this scale would have been a lot harder to accomplish.”

The school however is looking further east for the year ahead — with plans afoot to partner with a school in China.

Ciara explained:

“Last October a colleague and I were lucky enough to take part in an international study visit to China through the British Council. We visited many schools and brought back a lot of knowledge on their educational system. We enjoyed the experience so much that we’ve decided to work with one school out there which is home to 2,000 pupils — it’s sure to be an eye-opener!”

The project will see St Mary’s lead a cluster of ten schools in Northern Ireland who are forming links in China through the British Council’s Connecting Classroom’s programme. 

“This is great for us as a school as we’re used to working with schools outside of Northern Ireland but not with ones in our own backyard — it’s wonderful to have a chance to collaborate like this. Working with schools in China will also be amazing and it will complement the Mandarin classes that we already have in place here,” Ciara said.

“Partnering with China is also great for the local community — a few of the parents have business links there so we can think ahead about future career development as well as what it could do for businesses in the local community.

“Working in China may be something we've never done before — but it's sure to be a wonderful new challenge.”

Speaking about the schools global reach, Jonathan Stewart, Deputy Director of British Council Northern Ireland said:  “Our international partnerships are at the heart of everything we do and initiatives such as these enable young people to understand issues of worldwide importance, gain a sense of social responsibility and develop the skills they need to succeed in a global economy. 

“However, as demonstrated in Mullaghabawn, the international aspect of programmes such as Connecting Classrooms can also add value to local school collaboration and cross-community work.

“For schools, Eramsus+ is a crucially important programme, as it aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning from pre-primary through to secondary level. It’s also vital for actively raising the awareness among teachers and students about the importance of implementing an international dimension in their school activities.”

Erasmus+ and Connecting Classrooms are just a few of the programmes available to schools through British Council Northern Ireland. For more information visit, or follow on Twitter at @BCouncil_NI

Notes to Editor

-St Mary’s Eramsus+ projects are expected to last three years. The school secured funding through Key Action 1 and Key Action 2 grants to work with five countries across Europe.

-St Mary’s is one of 15 schools to benefit in the first year of Erasmus+ - with organisations across Northern Ireland receiving a total of €6.34m in funding


About Erasmus+

Erasmus+ is the new European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020. It significantly increases EU funding (+40%) with an overall budget of €14.7 billion (£12 billion) for the development of knowledge and skills and aims to increase the quality and relevance of qualifications and skills. Two-thirds of its funding will provide grants for more than 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad in 2014-2020 (compared with 2.7 million in 2007-2013). The period abroad can range from a few days up to a year. In the UK, it is expected that nearly 250,000 people will undertake activities abroad with the programme. Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of Lifelong Learning, including schools education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector. Erasmus+ provides funding for organisations to offer opportunities to students, teachers, apprentices, volunteers, youth leaders and people working in grassroots’ sport. It will also provide funding for partnerships between organisations such as educational institutions, youth organisations, enterprises, local and regional authorities and NGOs, as well as support for reforms in Member States to modernise education and training and to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability. Erasmus+ replaces the former Erasmus, Comenius, Youth in Action, Leonardo, Grundtvig and Transversal programmes which ran from 2007-2013.

When referring to Erasmus+, please use the phrase `The Erasmus+ UK National Agency is a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK`.

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About the British Council

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. 

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About Ecorys UK

Ecorys UK, part of the international research, consulting and management services company Ecorys, provides high-quality communication, research and technical assistance services across education, economic and social policy areas. Ecorys employs over 150 staff in the UK specialising in education and culture, employment and labour markets, economic and international development, communications, public grant managed programmes and capacity building. Our mission is to add value to public service delivery through our experience of the entire policy cycle. 

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For further information please contact:

Claire McAuley T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI