JustUs Seeding Delivery Phase Successfully Concluded
Over the past year (April 2015/16) the GMT team worked closely with a cohort of 20 teachers and youth workers, across multiple locations throughout Northern Ireland, in the piloting and seeding of this innovative approach to citizenship education.
The piloting aspect has allowed us to tweak the approach in light of teacher, youth worker and student feedback while the seeding aspect establishes the approach in the respective locations. In all cases the 20 educators involved report that JustUs engages, challenges, and creates a positive dynamic for exploring controversial and contested issues.
Below are a few representative comments from youth workers and teachers who've been using JustUs with their young people.
“Good effective and age appropriate tools have been lacking in schools and youth work provision when dealing with controversial issues. A really good tool for engaging, empowering, encouraging and enabling young people to tackle these issues in an interesting and innovative way. Ground breaking!”
Chris Nicol, Senior Youth Worker (EA Western Region)
“The pupils really engaged with the material. Some really questioned their value systems. They looked forward to class and were excited to see the material in the next film. Many questioned the issues around flags and marches. They questioned how it was an issue that had invoked a lot of violence, yet had not been resolved and made links with peace and conflict resolution. This was a thread that continued through learning and I felt that it was very insightful and warming.
The material was easily accessible and this made it a bonus within a very busy teaching timetable. The fact that issues were very current were outstandingly powerful. There was excellent communication with the JUSTUS team and lots of discussion/ideas and help offered immediately if sought.
Overall it has been an excellent experience, the pupils were fully engaged and I think the messages were really positive and thought provoking. I think the fact that it was happening within the classroom setting perhaps gave it more power.”
Marie-Therese Newton, History & Citizenship Teacher (St. Joseph’s Boys School, Derry)
“In my first year using the JustUs programme, my overall impression is very positive. I feel it ties in well with our Personal Development syllabus, and gives the Yr 10 pupils an opportunity to explore their own opinions, and their reactions to these opinions. It has enabled me to gain further insight into the pressures faced by our young people in their search for identity, and personally, I believe that the programme has instilled in them a certain comfort at the acceptance that we are all different, and that it is ok to be different. I have now delivered some of the programme to all my Yr 10 classes, (9 in total) and to varying degrees of success, due mostly to the fact that I am still experimenting with it. In all but one class, they pupils lead the discussion, and my role was reduced to ensuring anyone who wanted to contribute, had an opportunity to do so. One of the reasons, I feel this was such a success, and I explained it to my pupils, is that they are cocooned in an environment in school, where we are mostly of the same faith and background. Therefore, some of the comments they heard perhaps for the first time, and certainly not in school. I explained to them, that the purpose of the programme is to allow the pupils exposure to other ideas and opinions from pupils who are of different faith, nationality and sexual orientation. The challenge for them was to listen to the comments, and to challenge them in a way that was not judgemental or accusatory. The UNDHR provided the backdrop to all our discussions, and with a few reminders, my pupils did come to realise that they did not have superiority over another person to dictate that their own views/opinions were respected over another's. This was particularly the case in the discussions involving sexual orientation. And it was the pupils who made some very important points.
I am certainly excited by the prospect of becoming more comfortable and familiar with the JustUs programme. I would also like the programme to be rolled out across the school, to other departments."
Louise Haughian, Citizenship Teacher (Lurgan Junior High, Co. Armagh)
“I think this represents a very interesting and potentially very effective tool for developing active citizenship with young people. I particularly like the link to Human Rights that binds all the modules. Democracy is enhanced in creating a very effective method of engaging young people in debate and discussion around crucial areas and issues of our community and helps them develop their values and beliefs in relation to these. It also goes a long way to engaging young people in history and its legacy by utilising a media that will grab and focus their attentions on something that is real current, has significant impact on their lives and that of their peers rather than as something they regard as agent history and having no real bearing on them personally.
Paul Bradley, Senior Youth Worker (EA Southern Region)
“The film content shows the true voice of young people from a number of areas. They were interviewed on a number of topics and it was evident that they were speaking openly and honestly on all topics. I feel that the films also encourage young people in my groups to open up and honestly explore these issues.”
Úna McCartney, Senior Youth Worker (EA Western Region, Derry)
“The JustUs videos are a rich snap shot of opinions from young people about the issues prevalent in Northern Irish society. In a school context, it is an excellent tool for stirring discussion with pupils and covers a wide range of topics for LLW (Citizenship) i.e. racism, sectarianism, homophobia etc.”
Paddy McCourt, History & Citizenship Teacher (St. Joseph’s Boys School, Derry)
“ I think that it is a fantastic resource for Citizenship but I understand that some teachers may be uncomfortable in dealing with these sorts of issues with their students. However my personal opinion is that the students I teach should know about these topics and that they must be discussed so that they have a better understanding of many issues that will face them in the future.”
Craig Cooper, History & Citizenship Teacher (Wellington College, Belfast)