A Mary Immaculate College (MIC) led integration project is supporting schools in recognising and celebrating the diversity of the modern classroom. EDNIP (Embracing Diversity, Nurturing Integration Project) works with five primary schools in Limerick City to deliver a strategic and systemic programme to foster inclusion and build a strong and vibrant school community.
The schools involved are Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Rosbrien; Presentation Primary, Sexton Street; Scoil Iosagáin CBS, Sexton Street; St John’s Girls’ and Infant Boys’ School, Cathedral Place; and St Michael’s Infant School, Sexton Street. Across these schools, EDNIP supports over a thousand students from 64 countries speaking 54 languages and from 16 different religious backgrounds.
According to EDNIP Project Leader, Lisa Martin: “The objective of the project is to work in strong partnership with these five schools to celebrate the diversity that they have in their school community and to support their schools by integrating the families and students into the school community. EDNIP wishes to continue to support the schools that we work with and become a model of social change. Schools in Ireland are becoming increasingly diverse and it’s important that the identity and culture of every child in the classroom is welcomed, celebrated and supported and that schools are given the tools and the resources to build a strong and dynamic school community that reflects the people who attend the school.”
EDNIP recently facilitated the participation of 355 students in this year’s Bualadh Bos Children’s Festival who attended performances throughout the event. One class also rehearsed in their classrooms for several weeks before taking part in an interactive performance of Jub’s Story. The drama activity, which is led by MIC’s Drama Artist in Residence, Liam McCarthy, and academics from the Faculty of Education, saw many of the students in a theatre and engaging with live drama for the first time.
Many of EDNIP’s activities are extracurricular and involve students’ families, such as a weekly English language parent conversation club, a weekly parent toddler group, a weekly parent peer support course, after school activities in cooperation with the CRAFT Maker Space at MIC, whole school intercultural days, in-school cultural lessons and family mid-term trips to Curragh Chase Forest Park and Fota Wildlife Park, summer outings to the coast and a summer camp with the support of Limerick Sports Partnership.
According to a Fifth-Class student who is a current participant in EDNIP activities: “I really love coming to Mary I and it really makes my week. I made new friends and it is really important to me, I learned a lot.”
EDNIP is led by Mary Immaculate College with the support of Limerick Education Centre, Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, TUSLA Education Support Service and Limerick City and County Council. It is also financially supported by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and by Rethink Ireland.
Speaking to the importance of the work being undertaken by EDNIP, Joanne Malone, Head of Education at Rethink Ireland, says: "COVID-19 was a massive disruption to Ireland’s education system. It exposed already vulnerable people to further educational disadvantage. It widened inequality and made educational opportunities even harder to reach. The Education Innovation Fund 2020-2023 was created by Rethink Ireland with the support of the Department of Rural and Community Development (via the Dormant Accounts Fund) to address these issues. The EDNIP project is one of nine Education Innovation Fund projects that are focused on improving equality of access to, and success in, education. Rethink Ireland is proud to be associated with the EDNIP project, which is promoting an inclusive model of education that is important in our increasingly diverse country.”
EDNIP is part of the work of the Transforming Education through Dialogue (TED) Project in the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) of MIC.
Dr Ruth Bourke, Coordinator of the of the Transforming Education through Dialogue (TED) Project added: “EDNIP has worked with five schools now for a number of years to support and promote inclusion and integration and we’ve learned a lot about what helps this to happen. Children, their parents and their teachers need opportunities to build relationships, to get to know each other, to understand one another and very importantly, to have fun together. EDNIP creates space and support for these vital things to happen so that every child and parent feels welcome and sense of belonging in their school and community.”