Ashfield Boys have something to write home about
Inspired by the local landscape, the history of East Belfast and its strong connection with arts and literature, pupils at Ashfield Boys have been putting pen to paper as part of a new project to develop their creative writing skills.
Ashfield Boys is one of 10 post-primary schools taking part in a new £120,000 pilot programme focused on bringing more creativity into the classroom, in order to improve educational outcomes for students. Jointly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds, Education Authority and Urban Villages Initiative, the programme is supporting projects in communities where there has previously been a history of deprivation and community tension.
The group of 18 boys aged 11-14, from year 8, 9 and 10, have visited a whole host of local landmarks over recent weeks to encourage them to think imaginatively about their local area, including Thompson Dock and the Pump House in the Titanic Quarter, and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Working with Fighting Words Belfast, which runs free creative writing workshops for 6-18 year olds, the group have been busy developing their own characters, story settings and ideas.
Jude Rainey, who works within the Learning Support Department at Ashfield Boys, commented:
“Our project is entitled ‘Write Down Your Street’ and it is inspired by the fact that right down the street from our school is the childhood home of CS Lewis. That was really the starting point for us to learn more about someone from our local area who was hugely influenced by the things around him in his local environment.
“It’s so important that our boys come out of school with a good education and English is a very important part of that. This project has been a great way to get the boys to use their imaginations to think creatively and to really get excited about writing.”
Nick Livingston, Director of Strategic Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:
“The Creative Schools Partnership programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can improve all aspects of learning. These include better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increasing confidence and self-motivation, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.
“Listening to the feedback from Ashfield Boys, it’s clear that the pupils have really enjoyed this project. Working with the highly skilled team of staff and volunteers at Fighting Words Belfast they have been given a fantastic opportunity to explore their creativity while developing valuable life skills which they can take forward into many other aspects of their learning.”
The Executive Office provided £52,000 funding for this programme through the Urban Villages Initiative. Linsey Farrell, Director of the Urban Villages Initiative said:
“This innovative partnership between the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Education Authority and the Urban Villages initiative enabled 10 post primary schools to think differently and in a very practical way work more creatively in the classroom.
“I commend and congratulate the students from Ashfield Boys for taking part in the programme. I have no doubt their experiences in this will serve them well in the future.
“The Urban Villages initiative is proud to be associated with this programme and thank all the partners and everyone in the Ashfield School community for making it a resounding success.”
The project is set to conclude at the end of June when the students will each receive a printed copy of their stories to take home, as well as sharing their experiences with pupils from Holy Trinity College, Cookstown.