(L-R) L Dietrich – CRIS, N Gallagher – Holy Cross NS, The CRIS Team
J Irwin – CRC, N Richardson – Stran College, N Magrath – Edenderry NS
CRIS’ flagship inter-school buddy system resource ‘Buddy Up!’ was launched on Thursday 4th June 2015 in the Long Gallery at Stormont Parliament Buildings. To mark the launch, CRIS has chosen to share its learning and practice by sending a free copy of the flagship resource, ‘Buddy Up!’ to every nursery, primary and special school in Northern Ireland. This current release has been funded by the Community Relations Council (CRC) through their Community Relations Cultural Diversity Grant Scheme.
About ‘Buddy Up!’
This resource outlines the work that has been taking place between two pioneering North Belfast schools – Holy Cross Nursery School (HCNS) and Edenderry Nursery School (ENS), in partnership with CRIS for more than a decade. Through a process of ‘plan, do, review’ the three organisations have designed ‘Buddy Up!’ – the cornerstone of their Community Relations programme.
HCNS, ENS and CRIS have developed a system which actively engages children, school staff, parents and carers from two proximate school communities in meaningful cross-community Community Relations work. ‘Buddy Up!’ builds the confidence of the individuals involved; encourages creative working; strengthens inter-personal skills; extends the school curriculum; humanises ‘the other’; and actively promotes peace-building by reducing fear and mistrust. It is also relatively inexpensive and straightforward to run but most importantly of all, it is life-giving, fosters hope and is fun for everyone involved!
The ‘Buddy Up!’ methodology (which has been leveraged to create an accessible school resource) has been rolled out across a number of school partnerships in Northern Ireland and is currently cited as good practice with in the Government Strategy “Together: Building a United Community” (T:BUC 2013). The resource has a number of key components which pay particular attention to the “A, B, C’s” of Buddy Systems and which guide the user through a Whole School Community Approach to “buddying” and demonstrate how staff and the wider community can and should be engaged.
The resource is a simple yet powerful tool for any school that is seeking to deepen relationships within their own community and with their partner school.
About the Launch of ‘Buddy Up!’:
‘Buddy Up!’ was officially launched on Thursday 4th June, 2015, at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. The event was sponsored by Chris Lyttle, MLA, of the Alliance Party and coincided with the naming of CRIS as a “Strategic Partner” of the Irish Government’s Reconciliation Fund. Frank Feighan, TD, – Chair of the Good Friday Agreement Committee, was there in person to make the announcement and to speak of his own support for CRIS and ‘Buddy Up!’ .
Representatives from the Government, Statutory, Academic, Funding, Education, Community and Reconciliation sectors joined with CRIS staff and parent participants to mark the release of the resource and to celebrate its achievements to date. It was a particularly sunny day on “The Hill” and along with the spectacular views, attendee’s were also treated to a number of inputs from sector leaders on the relevance of ‘Buddy Up!’ and its place within education, reconciliation and community development.
- Chris Lyttle, MLA, Alliance Party
- Frank Feighan, TD, Chair of Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
- Jacqueline Irwin, CEO, Community Relations Council
- Dr Norman Richardson, Community Relations Education Expert
- Lisa Dietrich, Director, CRIS
- A panel of Educationalists, Community Relations Consultants and parents
Chris Lyttle, MLA, who opened proceedings, spoke of the challenges faced by wider society when striving towards a united community:
“I believe the single biggest challenge we face to achieve our potential in education, economic growth and societal well-being is to tackle division and build a united community. ‘Buddy Up!’ is a creative, simple way for schools, children, families and groups to meet across the traditional divides, as they learn, play and share stories with each other. The scheme was originally run by Community Relations In School (CRIS) with Holy Cross Nursery School and Edenderry Nursery School in Belfast, and is now being rolled out in schools across Northern Ireland.”
Speaking at Stromont about his own experiences of the work of CRIS, Deputy Frank Feighan, TD, payed tribute to the organisation, the partner schools and the school staff and parents:
“Reflecting on the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, our Committee has focused its work on exploring a range of practical paths towards reconciliation. And there are few more worthy projects we have encountered than Community Relations In Schools and the Buddy Up Resource. I know this good work was recently recognised by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan’s announcement that CRIS will be one of the first four Strategic Partners of his Department’s Reconciliation Fund.
“It is noteworthy that CRIS work alongside school staff and boards engaging in mentoring and training to prepare them for this meaningful partnership work. And of course, key to this work is the extension of the programme to include parents, grandparents, guardians and carers in the journey of buddying up. This brings the programme beyond the schoolyard, and into the homes of these children. The model recognises that families – parents and guardians specifically – are a critical part of the jigsaw in tackling division in Northern Ireland.
The work of CRIS stems from the belief in the concept that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’. The communities of Ardoyne and Shankill are working together to create a shared investment in each other’s lives and future – ultimately one that is based on respect for identity and recognition of the importance of depending on each other. On behalf of the Joint Committee, I am honoured to have been invited here today to make an address at such a timely and important launch.”
Speaking at the launch event, CRIS Director – Lisa Dietrich, spoke of the real, shared experiences of schools and their communities which helped to formulate the ‘Buddy Up!’ Resource:
“We believe in ‘Buddy Up!’. We know that it works. We know that it makes a difference to the lives of children, parents and staff. We know that it impacts on the ethos and values of schools where it is implemented. We know that it has relevance for every school community in Northern Ireland. We know that it enhances educational attainment and is a powerful tool for reconciliation.”
If you would like further information about this unique practice and resource then please get in contact with the CRIS office.