General, Partnerships

Belfast Boys Model unveil new community mural

27th October, 2023

A new community mural designed and created by a group of year 10 students at Belfast Boys’ Model School has been unveiled in Ballysillan.

A group of school students stand in front of a colourful mural depicting a Belfast Boys' Model pupil in school uniform
Belfast Boys' Model students Brandon Ferris, Adam Fleck, Jake Ledey, Callam Courtney and Finley Hubershon celebrate the launch a new community mural, designed by students, in Ballysillan.

Funded through the Creative Schools Partnership Programme, a pioneering cross-government programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through National Lottery funding, the Education Authority and Urban Villages Initiative, the colourful artwork features an image of a Boys’ Model pupil at its centre. The mural was unveiled as students came together to celebrate the end of their two-year project, which also involved working with journalist Mark Devenport to create a community magazine with features on local people and stories about the local area.

Boys Model was one of eleven schools awarded funding through the Creative Schools Partnership in 2022. All the schools included in the programme were awarded funding of £15,000 to develop a two-year creative-based project that would bring professional artists into the classroom to teach new skills, support educational learning and strengthen community connections.

Visual artist Conor McGinley worked alongside students to develop the new mural, while creatives from Nerve Belfast taught pupils to use professional software tools to design and layout the news reports they has created for the magazine.

Julia Brown, art teacher and Creative Schools Partnership lead at Boys Model, explained: “For this very special project, the pupils worked across three different departments here within the school - English, Media and Art - to really get the most out of this unique learning experience. They have created a magazine, developing all the articles themselves, interviewing members of the community to write and then design up the stories, and they have also produced a fabulous mural, which is now on display across the road from the school.

“The overall outcome of this project is that we can see how the boys aspiration levels have really increased over the last two years, as they have had a chance to experience and demonstrate a range of new skills. This project has given them so many opportunities to flourish and it’s been wonderful to see how they have grown in confidence in all aspects of school life. Overall it has been such a beneficial project for the pupils to have had the opportunity to be involved in.”

Creative Schools Evaluation shows tangible benefits to students

A new report published this week by the Arts Council examined the impact of the Creative Schools Partnership within the 11 schools funded through the programme in 2022/ 2023. Conducted by Annabel Jackson Associates, the report compiled insights from teaching staff, principals, and students.

Evidence gathered through observations, face-to-face interviews and surveys, was overwhelmingly positive and highlighted the many outcomes of the programme.

Key findings included:

  • 91% of students said they felt their voice mattered and their ideas were listened to.
  • 83% of pupils said the Creative Schools Partnership project had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
  • 94% of pupils said they developed skills from the Creative Schools Partnership project.
  • 84% of pupils said the Creative Schools Partnership project had a positive effect on their relationship to learning, especially in making them feel happier in school.

Students referenced gains in confidence, critical thinking, empathy, leadership, creativity, behaviour and engagement in learning. For schools, advances were made in enhanced community cohesion, intergenerational understanding, teacher development, embedding of creative learning in developmental plans and new links forged between schools. Benefits of the programme were also seen in the community, with better connections made with schools, improvement in good relations and improvements in the physical environment.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “This data reflects on the last two years of the programme and demonstrates the enormous impact that the National Lottery funded Creative Schools Partnership Programme has had on participating schools and their wider communities.

“The model demonstrates how effective cross-departmental investment and collaboration can be. Many of the schools have been involved with the programme since it first launched but this latest funding investment has been a particular success story and, the fact that the schools continued on with their projects, through all of the pandemic and cost of living challenges which the last few years have brought, is a real testament to the value they place on this programme.”

The Creative Schools Partnership (CSP) Programme has been running since 2017 funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) through the National Lottery, Education Authority (EA) and the Urban Villages Initiative (UV). This tripartite relationship combines sector expertise and relationships with an area-based approach.

The eleven schools taking part in the Creative Schools Partnership Programme are Lisneal College, Belfast Boys’ Model School, St Joseph’s Boy’s School, Blessed Trinity College, Ashfield Girls’ High School, St Cecilia’s College, Mercy College Belfast, St Vincent’s Centre, Belfast Model School for Girls, Malone Integrated College, and St Colm’s High School.

Director of Urban Villages Joan O’Hara praised the enthusiasm of everyone involved in the project, commenting: “Urban Villages is delighted to be able to support this innovative project through the Creative Schools Partnership Programme. The different elements of the project have helped the students develop a wide range of new skills and will encourage them to continue to share their voices not just within school but in their local community. This will be especially evident through the local display of their fantastic colourful wall mural! Developing their creative skills and embracing new ways of learning will help generate new viewpoints, new thinking and new ideas which is key to building and maintaining good relations. Well done to all involved!”

To access the full report go to:

Students from Belfast Boys' Model talk about the work they have produced as part of the Creative School's Partnership Programme.