Introduction to the GRACE model

Introduction to the GRACE model


‘A Summary of the Five Stages of GRACE’’

When using a whole-school approach it is important to secure commitment from senior leadership teams, both teaching and non-teaching staff, Boards of Governors and parents. Often this begins by exploring school values, and investigating how a school ethos and its policies may be enhanced to lay a foundation for sharing. The STAGE 1 case-study features the internal preparation undertaken by Cookstown Primary School to secure and embed their commitment to good relations amongst within the single school community.

At Stage 2, in order to develop strong working relationships between two or three school communities it is important to take time to invest in robust communication and relationship building as this creates a durable foundation for future collaboration. The modelling of interdependent staff relationships leads to shared professional advancement and can enhance both pupil and parental support for joint school collaboration. The STAGE 2 case-study features the intentional relationship building and staff development undertaken by Ligoneil and St. Vincent de Paul Primary Schools in North Belfast.

At Stage 3 collaborative partnerships are increasingly inter-dependent, self-sustaining and able to transcend cycles of project funding. Integral to this sustainability is the support provided by school staff and importantly, by parents/carers and the wider communities. It is this collective support that creates a virtuous circle of deepening collaboration. The STAGE 3 case-study features the long-standing partnership of Edenderry and Holy Cross Nursery Schools and the Buddy Up! Programme which matches children from the Shankill and Ardoyne communities- two areas situated along the peace wall interface area of the Crumlin Road in North Belfast for regular shared education playdates.

Stage 4 will focus primarily on the development of relationships at institutional, departmental, and individual levels within the same geographic locality. A key component of this stage is to adopt an invitational approach which honours each individual school context and builds commitment toward a shared sense of trust and ownership. The STAGE 4 case-study will feature the members of Antrim and Randalstown school communities speaking about developing a geographically based partnership among 19 local schools.

Stage 5 involves the intentional development and maintenance of inter-school relationships partnerships which are formed within a geographical cluster. In order to create a sense of shared purpose and investment, it is important that time be taken to formulate and establish policies, practices and activities that meet a shared need and promote enhanced educational outcomes for all pupils, staff and families. While important at every stage, including the Department of Education, the Education Authority, Local Borough Councils and key community and voluntary services within a locality, such investment at this stage can significantly enhance scaling and replication as formalised partnerships may stimulate system change within educational provision. The Stage 5 case-study features the formalised multi-sector collaborative education project Moving Forward Together (MFT) which is a partnership of 19 schools in the Antrim and Randalstown local area

The mission of CRIS is to be a leading agent of change in shaping an inclusive, peaceful and safe society where everyone has hope and the opportunity to learn and grow. This media resource draws together the learning and experience gained by CRIS over decades from its practice in promoting inclusive school communities as part of building a shared society. The culmination of which has led to the consolidation of its model of practice in Good Relations and Collaborative Education (GRACE). Throughout the next decade, CRIS will leverage and share its practice, wisdom and expertise regarding Good Relations and Collaborative Education (GRACE) as it works towards a more vibrant society built on compassion, mutual understanding and hope.

This newly developed digital media resource is accompanied by a practice guide document. Each will serve as guidance to the five stages of the GRACE model and profile its implementation through five case study demonstrations. Each case-study features a different stage of collaboration which can be accessed directly. Case-studies will take a step-by-step overview of five stages of collaboration and outline key insights gained through practice at each point.

The final video link offers a commentary on the GRACE model from Jaqueline Irwin the CEO of one of CRIS’s core funders the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, and Professor John Brewer of the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University, Belfast.

The GRACE model also links with government and education strategies and programmes including, for example:

  • The Northern Ireland Executive Office’s Together: Building A United Community (T:BUC) Strategy.
  • The Department of Education’s Every School a Good School (ESAGS) Strategy.
  • The Educational Authority’s Network for Shared School Improvement (NSSI) Strategy.
  • The Department of Education: Learning Leaders: A Strategy for Teacher Professional Learning.
  • Department of Education’s Sharing Works: A Policy for Shared Education.
  • Educational Authority’s Shared Education Signature Project (SESP).
  • Department of Education, The Community Relations, Equality and Diversity (CRED) Policy.