CRIS is delighted to see the increase in school-based collaboration across Northern Ireland through the Department of Education, Educational Authority, by schools themselves and within area-based initiatives. Collaboration within and between schools has been a key cornerstone of CRIS practice for years, and as a result, CRIS’s model of practice GRACE (Good Relations and Collaborative Education) has a strong evidence-base to underpin and demonstrate the value & benefits of collaboration for schools.
As a result, we believe that CRIS is well positioned to support schools in exploring increased opportunities for school-based collaboration. Over the last 10 years CRIS has, from the beginning helped to nurture the early development of educational collaboration as a key stakeholder in Antrim and Randalstown’s Moving Forward Together (MFT) partnership of 20 schools. Today, CRIS continues to play a pivotal role supporting MFT’s continue investment in process-driven and relationship-focussed learning networks and charting impact made on school improvement and professional development. In Newtownabbey, CRIS has been at the helm of the development of Growing GRACE Newtownabbey (now re-named Newtownabbey Empowering Schools Together (NEST)), proving it to be effective at addressing locally identified needs with a joined-up approach. Despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this network has grown from engaging with 8 to 18 schools over the past 3 years of its establishment.
CRIS is keen to support collaboration and is eager to use its expertise, skills and experiences to support the education sector. While not exhaustive, there may be ways CRIS can support your school in collaboration. Below are some examples of how CRIS could support your school's partnership work, which could potentially be made more accessible to you through the Pathways into Partnership initiative.
Building Foundations for Effective Partnership
At early stages of collaboration, CRIS can provide support by:
Offering one-to-one listening & consultations
with Principals and school leaders to further clarify and support by:
Seeking out/scoping/researching possible new partners;
Providing an impartial and confidential sounding board prior to initial partnership development;
Discerning areas of partnership on which to focus;
Needs identification linked to school priorities.
Nurture new partnerships
at an early stage to foster trust and consideration of potential benefits of collaboration or act as sounding board if discernment is required.
Facilitate initial meetings
with potential partners after initial one-to-one consultations have been made and potential partners established and agreed.
Provide resources & information
to highlight where synergies may link with other collaborative partnerships; locality strategies; additional funding leveraged; policy alignments.
Creating a Shared Collaboration Vision
Within and between new or established schools partners, CRIS’s facilitation services can be used to:
Explore existing school cultures
and support identification for ‘whole school readiness’ through consultation and auditing.
Identify, uncover and explore shared values
to together forge underpinning partnership value commitments.
Act as an impartial; address and name potential barriers to collaboration.
Where desired, facilitate discussions to pro-actively identify and address potential difficulties as part of a constructive and tactful planning process.
Facilitate inter-school or intra-school group development
to foster cohesion through relationship driven processes either at a preparatory stage or once partnerships have been identified.
Establish common goals
across school development plans and support discernment of priorities for attention.
Collaboration Skills, Relationship Development and Maintenance
As collaboration develops, CRIS can support effective partnerships by:
Fostering trust-building in groups
through interactive dialogue, activities and workshops.
Naming and identifying helpful working expectations
to help lead conversations to support creating a robust ‘culture of learning’ and feedback mechanisms to support this.
Providing conflict awareness and resolution advice and training
for partnerships to build an understanding of different conflict styles and how conflict can be handled well or used constructively to foster healthy working relationships.
Auditing and reviewing partnerships.
Building development tools to guide self-reflection and create indicators of successful and effective collaboration and meeting of shared goals.
Establishing bespoke collaboration indicators
of effective partnership.
Facilitating the creation of partnership agreements,
either informally or more formally.
Creating new shared practices,
including rituals and routines to support collaborative cultures.