Written by Lucy Gollogly
An innovative project that will involve school children in Newtownabbey teaching ICT skills to their parents, grandparents and the wider community is sharing in a major grants windfall from the Big Lottery Fund.
Awards for All offers community, voluntary and statutory groups the chance to apply for small grants of between £500 and £10,000 that will have a big impact on local communities and the lives of people most in need.
The small grants programme has awarded £9,758 to St Mary’s on the Hill PTA in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim. The grant will be used to run ‘An App a Day, IT’s the IT Way’. This is part of a grants roll-out of £293,538 to 34 groups across Northern Ireland.
The grant to St Mary’s on the Hill PTA will be used to buy 22 iPads, which school staff and all pupils from Primary One to Primary Seven will be taught how to use. Primary Six and Seven children with a particular aptitude for the technology will then take the lead in teaching groups of adults in a series of evening classes in the new year. The project will also include internet safety training.
Danielle McAllister, an ICT and Primary One teacher at St Mary’s on the Hill Primary School, said: “It just comes so naturally to the children. They are the perfect teachers. We’ve had internet safety meetings and the parents are saying that the children are teaching them how to block things and heighten security. The children are the ones that are going to be the driving force behind this. It is getting to the stage where they’re better on the iPads than me.”
Mrs McAllister that iPads were the perfect learning tool for children of all ages. “It just makes learning so much more fun, rather than saying, here is a text book. They are doing everything for themselves so they are taking ownership of their learning.”
Emer Lyttle, from the school’s PTA, said that the experience of being mentors would increase the pupils’ confidence and skills. “It’s a chance for them to be young leaders within their community,” she added.
She said it was vital to target the ICT training at grandparents in particular as they often cared for their grandchildren while the parents were at work.
The classes are expected to run from February to May and will involve St Mary’s on the Hill’s partner school Ashgrove Primary School in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, as well as community groups including a boxing club and a GAA club.
Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “The Big Lottery Fund’s NI Awards for All programme funds health, education, environment and community projects that help people bring about positive change in their lives, improve health and well-being, develop skills and create safer communities.
“The application process is simple and accessible and shall remain so, making it easy for applicants to successfully apply for small pots of funding that can have such a big impact on local communities and lives.”