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Education Minister approves £2.8million investment in disadvantaged communities

15 March, 2011 - by Caitríona Ruane

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has announced total funding of £2.8million for two programmes serving disadvantaged communities in Belfast.

The Full Service Community Network (FSCN) has been working to raise educational attainment by addressing the needs of children, their families and the local community in the areas served by the West Belfast Partnership Board and the Upper Springfield Development Trust. The Full Service Schools Programme operates in the Girls Model and Boys Model schools. Each project will receive funding of £350,000 each year for the next four years.

The Minister made the announcement at the launch of the final report of the FSCN pilot. Speaking at the event in Corpus Christi College, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to celebrate publicly the excellent work of all those involved in the Full Service Community Network programme, and the support and involvement of the local communities of the Greater Falls and Upper Springfield.

“This pilot project and the excellent work being done in the Full Service Schools Programme based in the Girls Model and Boys Model schools have shown they can make a real difference in disadvantaged communities. That is why I have decided to approve funding for both projects for a further four years amounting to £2.8million. This commitment will help to embed this work in line with our extended schools policy.

“My Department’s key priority is raising performance and, as Minister of Education, I am committed to ensuring that every child gets the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Regrettably that does not always happen as children come to school with a range of barriers to learning which can be exacerbated by things that are going on in and around their communities.

“This means supporting schools who work with the children in those areas that have seen more than their fair share of disadvantage and breaking the link between educational under achievement and social disadvantage.

“The Full Service Community Network and the Full Service Schools programme in the Boys and Girls Model Schools in North Belfast are good practice examples of how schools can work with and across relevant agencies and voluntary sector organisations to maximise the support offered to families, who may be struggling with a range of issues.

“Both pilot programmes have sought to establish and maintain strong links not only between individual schools but also between schools and the local community, and across a range of statutory agencies, the business community, the voluntary and community sector and, crucially, parents. The funding announced today will give certainty to those who use the services.

“By engaging with parents and the voluntary and community sector, schools can tap into local knowledge and contacts that will be able to complement the school’s knowledge and wrap the support services around the child and their family. My belief is that local people must lead change if it is to be meaningful and lasting.”

The FSCN is a pilot programme which has sought to demonstrate the impact that can be achieved in raising educational attainment through integrated and collaborative working across a range of statutory and voluntary agencies and community groups.

The pilot programme has focused on early intervention and its focus primarily has been on early years. However, it has also taken forward some initiatives focused on employability and facilitating local training organisations to come into schools.

The Minister added: “Through the Full Service Community Network and the Extended School clusters that operate across the Upper Springfield and Greater Falls a partnership approach to integrated working has been put in place to serve the needs of children, young people and their families in those areas.

“The work of the Extended School Cluster Coordinators and the Education and Transition workers in actively working together in addressing identified needs and supporting the most educationally marginalised through literacy, transition and counselling programmes has been key to the initial success.

“My officials will be considering all of the recommendations in the evaluation report presented to me today in more detail so that the pilots can continue to develop and improve. I am grateful for all the hard work that has gone into establishing the pilot Full Service Community Network and I want to thank all of those involved in taking the concept of the Full Service Community Network to this point. I look forward to celebrating further successes.”

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