Northern Irish teacher goes on study tour to learn about inspiring boys in schools
Published: 21 Nov 2016
Ali McCammon is a Senior Teacher from Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. She recently returned from eight weeks travelling in Canada, the USA and Australia where she researched how schools work to engage and inspire boys in education. Ali’s travels were funded by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, in partnership with the Farmington Institute.
In Northern Ireland, and throughout the UK, working class school children, and boys in particular, are falling behind their fellow pupils in terms of academic achievement. While 62% of school children in Northern Ireland achieved the national target of five GCSEs grades A*- C in 2012, the picture was markedly different for boys entitled to free school meals, with 33% of Catholic boys and only 20% of Protestant boys achieving this target1.
During her travels, Ali (pictured, centre, at Monarch Park School, Toronto) took part in the International Boys’ Schools Coalition Conference in Vancouver, where she enjoyed taking part in many dynamic sessions led by fellow educators from around the globe, and a teacher’s conference in California, where she connected with educators from a number of different sectors. One of the highlights of her visit was a symposium in Clarkson Community College, Perth, at which guests included top academics, the shadow Attorney General, local school chaplains who run programs for boys, head psychologists and interested school leaders - all there to share their expertise and experience of working with boys.
Ali was able to observe lessons in primary, middle and secondary schools, and she experienced first-hand the variety of top down and bottom up approaches used in Canada and Australia. Many schools were providing extra support for boys; in some cases this included programmes which focused on the development of boys’ identities and moral characters. Other initiatives Ali observed in Australian schools included distinct programmes for Aboriginal boys, and fully integrated Special Needs behaviour support units.
“The Winston Churchill Fellowship for Aspiring Head teachers has been one of the most valuable times of my life. On a professional level I have been granted the opportunity to work with some of the most inspiring head teachers across two continents. I visited small rural schools as well as huge public schools in major world cities and saw first-hand the struggle to create educational pathways for working class boys. I have seen programmes, policies and amazing school buildings. Ultimately it’s about how to value and prepare our young people for the 21st Century. The Fellowship has given me space to grow, ask questions and develop my own philosophy of school governance and leadership. ” – Ali McCammon
Having returned to the UK, Ali intends to share her research and experience with political leaders and educationalists. She also aims to collaborate with colleagues from other schools and fields who share her passion for creating schools which engage boys in their own learning.
Notes to Editors
Four Fellowships are jointly funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The Farmington Trust, offering educational opportunities to aspiring head teachers to undertake research on educational values and standards, to familiarise themselves with educational developments, and to improve their leadership skills. Fellows who are awarded in this category also become Farmington Fellows and the Farmington Institute contributes to the costs of a replacement teacher, should you need to travel during term time.