CRIS is a multi-disciplinary, education charity specifically established to support and promote greater sharing, understanding and reconciliation for all. We work with all ages and backgrounds in a multitude of educational settings promoting the role of the school, and its community, as a grass roots agent of peace building and community development. As such CRIS operates a multi-faceted model of programmes and services which help to embed whole school approaches to Community Relations work. This includes:
- Ethos, values and policy development;
- Single school and inter-school community and relationship building programmes (including space for adults to engage with Community Relations and Inter Community work – in some cases for the first time)
- Personal and professional development programmes for school staff
- Whole school leadership development
- Collaborative partnership development and planning
- Curriculum development (coupled with associated training)
- Development of inter-school Buddy Systems
- Accredited training
- Family engagement programmes inclusive of personal and relationship growth and development for parents and carers, storytelling, single and inter community development and family community relations residential work
Background and History
1982 – 2010
CRIS was originally established in 1982 to support schools in providing cross-community programmes and links for children and young people (including through Education for Mutual Understanding – EMU and the Schools Community Relations Programme – SCRP). During the period 1982 – 2010, CRIS was core-funded by the Dept of Education. It delivered programmes that were often seen as ‘ahead of their time’ – supporting children and young people to explore issue based themes (including ‘identity’, ‘culture’, ‘conflict’ and ‘flags and emblems’) as well as managing contact and relationship-building in an age/ stage appropriate way. CRIS was the largest DE core-funded group by 2010, with six staff fully funded by DE. During this time, CRIS also pioneered a programme of family engagement through two schools in North Belfast – Holy Cross and Edenderry Nurseries. CRIS acted as an advisor to schools and other statutory bodies and continuously sought to explore the potential of schools as peace-building hubs within communities.
2010 – Present Day
CRIS undertook a substantial review of its operation, positioning and role within peace-building and education following the cessation of the Department of Education’s Schools Community Relations Programme Funding. The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) Community Bridges Programme funded a five year project within CRIS, called the “Whole School Community Approaches (WSCA) Project”. The WSCA Project worked across 24 schools in three distinct geographical areas and provided CRIS with the chance to develop, pilot and evaluate its approach to engaging EVERYONE involved with a school community in active peace-building work. The project was hugely successful and its learnings are encapsulated in the CRIS resource, “Whole School Community Approaches to Shared Education”, which is available from the CRIS office. The WSCA Project has shaped the whole organisation’s philosophy and practice. It has also given life to a number of subsequent projects and programmes.
CRIS is currently facilitating and managing a number of projects in nursery, primary, special and post-primary schools from the controlled, maintained and integrated sectors right across Northern Ireland. CRIS is a proactive, open and welcoming organisation that uses a flexible approach – working alongside schools and communities at the various stages they are at in their own journeys within Community Relations.