Community Relations in Schools (CRIS) has been a member of NIABF since 2013. CRIS is also a member of the NIABF Sectarian Bullying Task Group.
CRIS is a multi-disciplinary charity that was specifically established to support and promote greater sharing, understanding and reconciliation within and between school communities in Northern Ireland. It works towards achieving its vision which is “to be a leading agent for change in shaping an inclusive, vibrant and safe society where everyone has the opportunity to learn and grow”.
CRIS works with every age and stage in a range of educational settings to promote the role of the school and its community, as a grass roots agent of peace building and community development. CRIS uses a ‘whole school approach’ to Community/ Good Relations and currently offers a range of different programmes as well as managing several longer term projects. These are designed to affect positive social change at:
– an individual level
– a family level
– the school community level
– Incrementally and ultimately at an intra and inter community level
CRIS understand the term ‘Community/ Good Relations’ in the broadest sense, offering workshops and programmes that celebrate and explore wide areas of diversity. Work is undertaken with children/ young people, school staff, parents/ carers and stakeholders within the wider community. In addition, CRIS supports schools to explore and develop their values, ethos, policies and curriculum materials. CRIS provides expert facilitation on a range of Community/ Good Relations themes including, ‘group work’, ‘individual/ community identity’, ‘conflict’, ‘flags, symbols and emblems’, ‘history and commemoration’ and ‘hope and activism’. CRIS is an approved centre with the Open College Network meaning that many of its programmes are accredited.
Theorists such as John Paul Lederach and Maire Dugan have identified that those working at what they call ‘the subsystem’ such as schools, are strategically important as they are able to support change at both micro and macro levels (in this case, changing attitudes, providing support on common issues, and building community relationships) all at the same time and that these changes are likely to be more sustainable as they are embedded together.
CRIS’s core values, experience and areas of work matche closely with the values and mission of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum. An active member since 2013, CRIS is passionate about supporting schools to become places where diversity is valued, people feel welcome and bias, harassment and bullying are actively challenged. This will only be achieved through a consistent, joined-up approach where everyone’s voice is heard. CRIS has worked with schools to embed and develop restorative approaches to preventing or reducing bullying and bias. In particular, CRIS advocates for the implementation of ‘Buddy Up!’ which is a cost-effective, flexible programme that boosts confidence and positively introduces diversity.
A copy of the resource, “Buddy Up! A Whole School Community Approach to Sharing In Education at Nursery and Primary Levels” is available from the CRIS office on request. CRIS provides consultancy and advice on addressing specific incidences of sectarian/ racist/ homophobic and other types of hate-speak, bullying and harassment. This includes its flagship Unity Project (offered at post-primary level).
The Unity Project is a proven, highly effective programme that supports young people to explore and achieve their potential as ‘upstanders’ and to influence positive shifts in culture through the safe challenging of degrading and derogatory language and behaviour. It addresses the difference between the intention behind and impact of the routine use of ‘hate speak’. It supports peer leaders to investigate their own roles in challenging bullying language and behaviour with a focus on homophobia, sectarianism, racism, body image and disability. Using ‘real language’, this hard-hitting programme is ideally suited to young people aged 14+ and closely supports the objectives of the Northern Ireland curriculum (through Learning for Life and Work – Local and Global Citizenship).
If you would like to learn more about the work of Community Relations In Schools, please click here.
This article was written by Catherine Creed, NIABF Member representing Community Relations In Schools (CRIS).