Erasmus+ funding awarded to Northern Ireland’s educational, training and youth work organisations has reached almost €28m since 2014, according to new figures released by the British Council and Ecorys UK, the National Agency delivering the European Union scheme in the UK.
The funds have been granted to 215 projects led by organisations in the higher and adult education, schools, youth, and vocational education and training sectors in Northern Ireland. Funds are awarded as follows between 2014 and 2017 to date:
- €9.2m goes to universities
- €9.6m goes to organisations working in vocational education and training
- €3.8m goes to schools
- €3.2m goes to youth work organisations
- €1.8m goes to organisations working in adult education
From funding received over 2014 to 2016, 7,837 people were estimated to have taken part from Northern Ireland, with most of them being students and young people.
Numbers of school staff approved to teach, train or job shadow nearly doubled from 22 to 49 in that period, and from 2018, more schools can benefit from an increase in funding to support school exchanges of pupils and staff.
One school to benefit from funding was Belfast Boys’ Model School in West Belfast. The school, in one of Belfast’s most deprived areas, partnered with Germany, Italy and Norway, and aimed through their project - Labour Integration in Europe - to build more qualified and confident future job-seekers, by improving the pupils’ employability and career perspectives.
The project began in 2016 and since then pupils from the school have travelled to the co-ordinating school in Germany, where they visited engineering sites, the Mercedes Factory and an electronic company. They also welcomed their fellow pupils to Belfast, where they visited companies including Coca Cola.
Ian Patterson, Head of Learning Technology at Belfast Boys’ Model School said: “This project has opened our pupils’ eyes to what’s possible. Before many of them had never travelled outside the UK, let alone considered working in another country. From them staying with an exchange family to just eating different food, the project has provided them with experiences that they will never forget and encouraged them to challenge themselves and do better.
“These pupils are from the Shankill and Sandy Row and have always been very inward looking, but now they can see what’s possible. For many, it has given them a totally different perspective on where to study – before, it would have just been Queen’s or Ulster University, but now they’re thinking further afield and this can only be a good thing.”
Before the project finishes in Belfast in Spring 2019, further trips to Germany and Norway are planned, and the schools continue to collaborate online via eTwinning.
Jane Racz, Erasmus+ UK National Agency Director said: “Many organisations in Northern Ireland have been successful in bidding for Erasmus+ funding for a range of worthwhile projects, to improve the education and training landscape and the prospects of thousands of young people. The funding available to the UK in 2018 is at its highest to date, at around €170m, and there are a few changes to the programme which should make it easier for organisations to apply. We are particularly keen for schools in Northern Ireland to apply for funding for the new school exchanges, to benefit from links with schools across Europe.”
The number of Northern Ireland’s vocational education and training staff and students successfully applying to train in Europe through Erasmus+ more than doubled in a year, from 368 in 2015, to 915 in 2016, with institutions including Southern Regional College and Northern Regional College benefiting from funding.
Deputy Director of the British Council in Northern Ireland, Jonathan Stewart, said: “Our international partnerships are at the heart of everything we do and initiatives such as Erasmus+ enable students to understand issues of worldwide importance, gain a sense of social responsibility and develop the skills they need to succeed in a global workplace.”
Funding deadlines for Erasmus+ 2018 have been announced and organisations can apply through www.erasmusplus.org.uk.