Funding, Partnerships

Eleven schools receive funding to support landmark educational programme

19th December, 2023

Eleven post-primary schools in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry have been awarded funding to take part in a landmark programme which aims to boost educational outcomes for students by bringing more creative skills into the classroom.

Two young people in school uniforms stand beside an actress in panto costume and three adults. They are smiling. Behind them are auditorium seats.
St Colm’s High School is one of the schools that have received investment. Actress Christina Nelson is pictured with Patricia Lavery, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Richard Cushnie, Urban Villages Initiative, Marie O’Donoghue, Education Authority, alongside Aoife Shannon and Jay O’Halloran from St Colm’s High School. Over the next two years Christina will be working with pupils from St Colm’s on a new performing arts project.

The schools have been awarded grants of up to £15,000 each as part of the National Lottery Creative Schools Partnership - a two-year programme backed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative and delivered by the Education Authority.

The Creative Schools Programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning, including better reading, writing and communications skills.

Each of the schools awarded funding has been given the chance to develop their own bespoke project, working with professional artists to develop a range of skills from script writing and theatre production, to musical composition and performance. The projects will see students connecting with the local community, including care homes and day centres, as well as sharing learning outcomes with the wider school family, connecting with other year groups, parents and guardians.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“Since the Creative Schools Partnership Programme was first piloted in 2017, we have seen the enormous impact it has had on participating schools and the individual students who have had the opportunity to take part in projects. For many, this creative approach in the classroom has had a long term educational and social impact, opening up their minds to new creative ways of thinking and learning, as well as building confidence and self-belief.
“Thanks to National Lottery players and money set aside for good causes, the Arts Council is pleased to join with Urban Villages and the Education Authority today to announce two-years funding for 11 schools. We very much look forward to seeing how the projects progress over these coming months.”

Urban Villages Director Joan O’Hara said: 

“The Executive Office is proud to continue to support this programme and its delivery to schools serving Urban Village areas across Belfast and Londonderry. Creative Schools has already provided great opportunities for young people to enjoy new learning experiences through a wide range of creative projects, helping to boost their educational outcomes and build relationships within and across communities. By blending education, creative industries and good relations with a range of other priorities such as mental health and well-being, the Creative Schools show how Government can work together to deliver outcomes that matter to young people and to communities. I look forward to this partnership delivering more exciting projects this year.”

Barry Mulholland, Chair of the Education Authority said

The Education Authority fully endorses the work of the Creative Schools Partnership Programme. This strong alliance between government bodies shows how resources, when connected, can provide creative and innovative learning opportunities for our young people. This programme is a key investment in these young peoples’ future lives; they are learning about the need for collaboration, creativity and the importance of community. All of these components have the power to change lives, raise aspirations and equip them with the skills that will enable them to thrive in whatever career choices they make.”

Case Studies

St Colm’s High School, Belfast

Twenty-four pupils at St Colm’s will work with Christina Nelson (Dramatist) and Ellen Blair (Artist/Photographer) in a series of workshops to discuss and dramatise the issues that are important to them. They will explore various art forms including print mediums, self-portraiture, and dramatic arts to enhance and develop their sense of self. The project will also give focus to improving literacy skills and educational outcomes, as well as building self-esteem and self confidence.

The first year of this project will have an experimental focus concentrating on the processes. Students will have an opportunity to attend several performances - the first of which will be to the pantomime 'Hansel and Gretel' at the Lyric Theatre, staring Christina Nelson, one of the two lead artists they will be working with. The aim is to enhance the cultural experiences of these children. In the second year of the project, students will work towards a showcase event for family, friends and community.

Lisneal College, Derry~Londonderry

Funding for Lisneal College will allow them to build on a previous drama project completed through the Creative Schools Partnership Programme, looking at the impact of drugs upon young people in the community and the eleventh night bonfires, to create two short films. The project will adapt plays previously created in collaboration with Blue Eagle Productions into screenplays, rehearse and then shoot the scripts using a professional crew and locations in the community. The cast will be drawn from the participants from last year’s productions. Both films will be 15 minutes long and will subsequently be used as a resource within Lisneal for the purpose of Personal Social Health and Economy education (PSHE).

Up to 50 young people will be involved in the project. They will work with industry professionals who will encourage the young people to access other projects and extend their connection with drama and performing arts into GCSE and A Level.


Notes to editors:

The Creative Schools Programme was established by the Arts Council, Education Authority and Urban Villages Initiative to help students reach their potential. The approach has led to better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increased self-motivation, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

The eleven schools taking part in the programme are: 

  • Malone Integrated College
  • Mercy College
  • Lisneal College
  • St Joseph’s College (St Vincent’s Centre
  • Belfast Boys’ Model School
  • St Cecilia’s College
  • Blessed Trinity
  • St Colm’s High School
  • St Joseph’s Boys’ School
  • Ashfield Boys’ High School
  • Ashfield Girls' High School

The Creative Schools Partnership is supported through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds, the Education Authority for Northern Ireland and the Urban Villages Initiative.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead funding and development agency for the Arts providing support to arts projects throughout the region, through its Treasury and The National Lottery funds. Our funding enables artists and arts organisations to increase access to the arts across society and deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach.

Every week National Lottery players raise more than £30M for good causes.

More than £47 billion has now been raised by National Lottery players to support good causes since 1994.

More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funding, the equivalent of around 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district.

The Urban Villages Initiative is a key action within the Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community’ Strategy. The programme is designed to improve good relations outcomes and to help develop thriving places where there has previously been a history of deprivation and community tension. (Twitter - @urbanvillagesni)

The Urban Village areas include The Bogside, Fountain and Bishop Street in Derry-Londonderry, Ardoyne and greater Ballysillan (north Belfast), Colin (west Belfast), the lower part of the Newtownards Road (east Belfast) and Sandy Row, Donegall Pass and the Markets (south Belfast).

Media queries about the Creative Schools Programme should be directed to the Arts Council. Please contact: Sarah Coburn, Comunications Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, E: