Education initiatives

Supporting Families during the Lockdown

Since schools have closed in early March, the Irish Educational System has had to deal with a new way to support our students. Covid-19 has challenged all of us to look at the alternative ways we support learning in our communities.  During these unpreceded times, Young people’s education is now dependent on the family structure, however families differ and their ability to cope also differs.

While most families will cope - our concern has focused on those students whose family isn’t in a position to support their education. All students will experience some form of trauma from this unprecedented catastrophe, but for the working class and poor, the impacts will be far greater and long-term.  Very few schools had contingency plans in place before the shutdown was announced, had schools been given some notice, then better preparations could have been made and as the lockdown continues, responses have had to be adapted as we receive further guidance.

The response has been remarkable with most community organisations finding practical answers to community issues.  Our ability to adapt varies and this has been a particular challenge for schools.  Our Leaving Certificate students find themselves in a compromising position with no certainty around when schools will reopen and the anxiety around when their exams may take place, now expected in early August has resulted in extending their revision period by an extra 2 months.  Within the Northside Partnership we have two educational programmes that support Leaving Certificate Students (The Challenger Programme & the Community Learning Hubs).

What is the action?    Who is benefitting and what is their need?

Within the Education Programmes offered by the Northside Partnership, we wanted to support our Leaving Certificate students by reducing some of the anxiety around the forthcoming exams.  The Northside Partnership offered the online national programme “Jump A grade” to students.  Jump A grade is an online service supporting students across Ireland prepare for exams.  One of the programmes that Jump A grade are currently running is the “Leaving Cert Online Exam Preparation Course - Higher & Ordinary Level”. This programme incorporates Maths, Irish & English, 12-week exam-focused online courses delivered by experienced teachers and State Examiners. The Jump A grade tutors find out what Leaving Certificate students need to know and what examiners are looking for.

What is involved?

•Online classes delivered by experienced teachers with State Exam experience

•The course is broken into 12 key exam blocks; one topic covered each week

•Separate courses run for Higher Level and Ordinary Level

•Combination of an online class, revision material, video solutions & notes weekly

•Specific focus on exam technique and understanding the marking scheme

•Opportunity to ask questions answered via chat during the live online classes

Who is involved - collaborators, partners?

The Programme is a collaboration between the Northside Partnership and Jump A grade.  With the focus being to help support Leaving Certificate students and their families through our existing Education Programmes namely the Challenger Programme and Community Learning Hubs.

What actions have you initiated to set this up

These existing programmes: Challenger and the Community Learning Hubs setting up this provision has been a seamless transition. The first step was to engage families and students to check in and ascertain their IT capability. Having IT connectivity and Integrating ICT within the curriculum has opened up all kinds of possibilities for students that didn’t exist previously (where we often worried about students spending too much time on gadgets they are proving to be a vital component in the education system).  Most families have the IT supports already in operation at home, however for other families we have identified the equipment that they need i.e. Laptops, computer or broadband support and have sourced these resources through Camara Education Ireland as well as the DCU Educational Disadvantaged Centre, who have  asked staff members to donate laptops and IT equipment to be passed onto families and students on our education programmes.

We really have to radically look at how we see learning in the future.  Negatives related to lack of access to IT equipment, lack of broadband in some areas/families, lack of investment in ICT in both primary and post-primary. Third Level on the other hand has been able to move rapidly!  The government’s recent announcement around a funding scheme for schools to purchase IT equipment will hopefully benefit a lot of families that we engage with every day.

What strengths of your LDC are you deploying e.g. people, programmes, vans premises, connections?

Covid-19 has challenged all of our standard working practices and as we adjust this will present opportunities for us to work differently.  We are all challenged to work in areas that may not be our key responsibility. Northside Partnership has embraced these new challenges by supporting families and students from a distance and our willingness to step outside normal practices to find alternative solutions. In an increasingly digital age, those who are not engaging effectively with the digital world are at risk of being left behind.

Northside Partnership as an entire company has taken stock, and while continuing to run our programmes, has offered practical support, through the Community Call and existing funding streams to provide support to families and students, through vouchers schemes, utilising our Tús van for the distribution of food packages and school work.

Participant's View

1st May 2020

Hi, my name is Craig Holmes, I am currently preparing for my Leaving certificate at Chanel College Dublin 5.  Since my primary school days, I have been part of the Challenger Program run by the Northside Partnership under Paul Hayes and Jeannette Beirnes, Northside Partnership also supported and funded grinds in subjects that I will do in my leaving cert.

In preparation for my Leaving cert, and following a meeting with the Education Coordinator, I was supported and now receive grinds through the JumpAGrade initiative.  My experience with JumpAGrade has been fantastic. The teacher’s detailed videos on the questions I don’t understand have been very beneficial to helping me understand those parts. I get weekly worksheets what I submit at the end of every week on whatever topic I need help with.

The weekly Videos classes has also been fantastic as during these difficult times has helped keep me on schedule with my studies and keep me on track. Teachers are ready via zoom to answer any questions we might have during class. They also prepare weekly notes in case we might miss out on some parts during the class we also get the class recordings after each session.

Craig Holmes.