General, Funding, Partnerships

Students invited to Stormont Castle to discuss value of Creative Learning

7th March, 2024

Students from Mercy College, Blessed Trinity College and Belfast Boys Model travelled to Stormont Castle to meet the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady to talk about their involvement in a pioneering project which places art at the heart of learning.

A group of students and adults are pictured outside Stormont Castle.
Pictured is Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Jayne Brady, with representatives from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Education Authority, Urban Villages Initiative and students from Mercy College, Blessed Trinity College and Belfast Boys Model.

The schools are all taking part in The Creative Schools Partnership. Funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, The Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative and delivered by the Education Authority, the unique 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.

Launched in 2017, there are currently eleven schools in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry engaged in the programme. While each school has been given the opportunity to create their own bespoke project, they are all designed to improve community connections and see students working with professional artists in the classroom to learn new skills, such as script writing, musical composition, film making, theatre production and journalism.

At the meeting, the student delegation presented a short film about the programme, before being given the opportunity to talk in detail about the workshops and projects at their school. Journalist Mark Devenport, a mentor for the Creative Schools Partnership at Boys Model, led the discussions.

Reflecting on the meeting, Jayne Brady, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, commented: “I was delighted to meet with students and representatives of The Creative Schools Partnership to hear firsthand about the positive impact that the Programme is having on their life and learning. Opportunities in the Arts play a huge role in developing creative and innovative thinking, nurturing confidence, and building social cohesion. I have every confidence that the investment that Creative Schools is making in our young people will set them up for a lifetime of success.”

Joan O’Hara, TEO Director for the Urban Villages Initiative, said: “I was really pleased that Creative Schools provided this opportunity for the students to meet the Head of the Civil Service and explain how Creative Schools had helped support their development and career choices. The meeting demonstrated how government working together can have the greatest impact. The students are great ambassadors for the programme.”

Patricia Lavery, Head of Participatory Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “We are hugely proud of The Creative Schools Partnership and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to bring the students to Stormont Castle to explain, in their own words, the value of the arts to their own personal learning and development.

“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 taking part. 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.”

Marie O’Donoghue, Manager of the Creative Schools Progamme at the Education Authority, commented:This programme is based on collaboration, creativity, and community. The young people have really enjoyed talking with Jayne Brady about the projects they have worked on. This initiative is unlike anything else we currently have in our schools. Young people have the chance to step outside their normal classroom routines to engage with creative professionals, to learn new skills and be open them to new ideas which broaden their learning opportunities, raise aspirations and make connections to practical career pathways.”


For more information on the Creative Schools Partnership visit: Creative Schools Partnership | Arts Council NI (