31 August 2010

Assembly Education Service chalks up another successful year

As the Northern Ireland Assembly prepares for a new parliamentary session, we take time to reflect on the many achievements of our Education Service in 2009-2010 and look forward to a range of exciting new initiatives that will strengthen and enhance the service.
During the 2009 -2010 session our Education Service welcomed 516 educational groups, comprising some 15,544 guests from across primary, secondary, university and adult education sectors. Educational programmes are specifically tailored to meet the needs of all age groups and range from interactive workshops for younger students to detailed lectures on the Assembly and MLA Q&A sessions for secondary level and adult groups.
In May 2010, in conjunction with the UK Parliament’s Education Service, our Education team planned and delivered an outreach programme to schools across Fermanagh and Tyrone. More than 200 pupils from five schools participated in workshops on the work of the Assembly and the UK Parliament. From September 2010, the Outreach Programme will focus on schools that have not yet had the opportunity to visit Parliament Buildings or to participate in an Assembly Education Programme.
A further highlight this year was a visit to St. Colman’s College, Newry, where 300 pupils aged between 11 and 14 participated in a Citizenship day. Students enjoyed a lively debate and workshop where they participated in campaigning and voting. The young people also demonstrated their political savvy by establishing their own political parties and writing party manifestoes.
Our Outreach Programme is not limited to schools. In June 2010, we gave a lecture to nursing students at the Queen’s as well as delivering a bespoke Educational programme at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.
As well as trying to develop and stimulate an understanding and interest in politics in young people, we also offer programmes to teachers. In October 2009 we held our first conference aimed at teachers of A Level politics which included presentations on the work of the Assembly and provided an opportunity to engage in a Question Time style debate with a panel of MLAs. In June 2010 we held a conference for teachers of Key Stage 3 & 4.
June also marked the launch of our new Educational DVD –“A Snapshot of Democracy”. The film presents four bite-size chapters: an introduction to democracy, how the Northern Ireland Assembly works, how laws are made and importantly how young people can get involved and influence the decision making process. The DVD is now in post primary schools throughout Northern Ireland.
The Education Service is keen to harness and embrace new technologies and have piloted a number of interactive educational initiatives. A live video linkup held earlier this year between the Assembly Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and business studies pupils from Lurgan College was a great success. We are currently working with C2K - the body responsible for the ICT-managed services to all schools in Northern Ireland - to extend and promote the availability of video conferencing to schools, educational groups and a range of interested external stakeholders.
The 2010-2011 parliamentary session will mark the start of the re-development of our Education Website which will include an extended catalogue of educational and interactive resources. We hope that this will further enhance the educational experience of students and teachers keen to learn more about the work of the Assembly.
Enthusiasm for enriching the learning experiences of young people, demystifying the world of politics and encouraging participation in the democratic process are the cornerstones of our Assembly Education Service. Work continues apace with the continued expansion of current educational programmes as well as the development of new initiatives to inspire young people to engage with their political representatives and politics in general. More information on our education work and how you can get involved are on our website at http://education.niassembly.gov.uk