The Magherafelt Learning Partnership (MLP) is a learning community of 6 schools; Kilronan Special School, Magherafelt High School, Rainey Endowed School, Sperrin Integrated College, St Mary’s Grammar School and St Pius X College. The MLP is one of 29 Learning Communities in Northern Ireland. The purpose of the MLP is to help the mainstream schools meet the Entitlement Framework by 2012/13.
The Entitlement Framework (EF) is a Department of Education initiative which requires all secondary schools to meet the 24/27 curriculum target by 2012/13. Schools must be offering a minimum of 24 subjects to Year 11 pupils and a minimum of 27 subjects to Year 13 pupils. In addition, at least 1/3 of the subjects on offer to a year group must be General and at least 1/3 must be Applied.
A General subject is defined as one in which knowledge; understanding and skills are developed in a subject-specific context. A General subject should be further defined as one which requires the demonstration of knowledge and understanding mainly through the application of cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. General subjects are normally assessed through written and/or oral examinations, although some may require an element of practical demonstration.
An Applied subject is one in which subject knowledge; understanding and skills are developed in relation to a work context. An Applied subject should be further defined as one which requires the demonstration of knowledge, understanding and skills which are relevant to a particular occupation or general area of employment. Applied courses are normally assessed through the demonstration of appropriate (practical) skills which may be supported by written and/or oral presentation.
Very few schools can deliver at least 24/27 subjects with at least 1/3 General and 1/3 Applied subjects by themselves hence the need for Learning Communities. The curriculum of Grammar schools tends to be very heavily weighted in favour of General subjects whereas the curriculum of non-Grammar schools is less so – more Applied subjects on offer.
Each of the 5 mainstream schools in the MLP offers a ‘collaborative’ block of subjects to pupils in the remaining schools. These ‘collaborative’ blocks (one from each school) are written in agreed time slots, currently periods 3 & 4 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Pupils are transported from one school to another during break and lunch times by taxi. Pupils can choose a maximum of one subject from the ‘collaborative’ block of another school. Currently 5 Year 13 pupils from other schools are studying with Rainey’s own pupils; two pupils from St Pius X College and one from Sperrin Integrated College in Chemistry, one pupil from St Mary’s Grammar School in Spanish and another from St Mary’s Grammar School in Further Mathematics. Rainey has one pupil who travels to St Pius X College to study Health & Social Care which the Rainey doesn’t offer in its curriculum.
All schools benefit from this ‘collaborative’ arrangement. In the current academic year of 2009/10, Year 13 Rainey pupils had access to 5 new subjects; ‘Construction’ and ‘Health & Social Care’ (both offered by St Pius X College), ‘National Award in Engineering’ and ‘Accounts’ (both offered by the Northern Regional College), ‘Government and Politics’ offered by Magherafelt High School. The consequence of this is that Rainey can now meet the 27 subject criterion and also 1/3 of the subjects are Applied. The other schools in the partnership benefit in like manner.
Considerable organisation is required. The Principals Steering Group, chaired by Mr David Lambon, St Mary’s Grammar School, has overall responsibility for coordination and decision making. The Principals Steering Group is supported by 7 other subgroups: Coordinators, Careers, Pastoral, Timetablers, ICT, Examination Officers and SENCOs. The MLP appointed Mr Jackson Frew this year to attend all meetings and coordinate the work of the subgroups. In addition, Mr Nils Sanderson was appointed as the partnership’s ICT Development Officer.