Schools from North and South join unique cross-border planning initiative with universities and local authorities

Dr Marie Mahon, University of Galway, and Brendan Dunne, Galway County Council examine options for Mountbellew with Holy Rosary College students Rachel Donohue and Fionn Flattery Credit – Aengus McMahon.
Mar 07 2023 Posted: 10:52 GMT

University of Galway and Queen’s University Belfast have joined forces on a new cross-border initiative in education and spatial planning with post-primary school students and local authorities. 

The project was held in collaboration with Geography staff and students at Presentation College, Athenry and Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew in Co Galway, and New-Bridge Integrated College, Banbridge, Co Down and The Royal School, Armagh, and was supported by the Planning departments of Galway County Council and Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. 

It involved all students and staff carrying out a number of spatial planning and surveying exercises in the four locations across Galway and Northern Ireland, with guidance from planning staff.  

The aim of this joint project was to link spatial planning as a statutory exercise conducted by local authorities to second and third level teaching in order to enhance the teaching and learning experience for teachers and students. The main vehicle for contributing to spatial planning is through local authority plan-making, county plans, and local area plans. 

While statutory planning is predominantly about land use planning, it also encompasses economic, environmental, and social dimensions of sustainability - all topics of interest to secondary school Geography, as well as to third level programmes on Geography and on planning.

Dr Therese Conway, Director of the MA Rural Futures Planning and Innovation, Discipline of Geography, University of Galway, said: “This exchange is an invaluable learning experience for both staff and students. For university and school teaching staff it allows for an exchange on teaching methods and for the school students it allows that to get a taster for what geography and spatial planning are like as subjects at university, what options there are for careers in this area and how geography and planning matter in real world contexts.”

Dr Marie Mahon, Director of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Irish Studies, University of Galway, said: “This project provided an invaluable opportunity for us to collaborate with our colleagues in Queen’s University, and also to promote a new collaboration between Geography teachers north and south. It has given us new ways to think about how Geography can be taught using the medium of spatial planning, by examining the spatial development of the places in which we live. The fact that planners from both Galway County Council and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have taken part in the project highlights the importance they also attach to public participation in the planning process, and the contribution that geography students and teachers alike can make to it.”

Brian Corcoran, Executive Planner, Galway County Council, said: “This project has been a worthwhile cause in empowering young, second level students to think about the places we live while developing their interest and understanding of town and country planning.”

Brendan Dunne, Senior Executive Planner, Galway County Council, said: “The cross-border collaboration between the local authorities and educational institutions from Galway and in Northern Ireland was a great success. The inter-relationship between planning and place-making is a common theme North and South and the involvement of second level students contributed to the success of this project.”

Dr Neil Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We are delighted to participate in this SCOTENS-funded study as it offers a great opportunity for our future planners to develop their facilitation skills whilst working with an under-represented section of our society: teenagers.”

The project was funded by SCoTENS- the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South, under its Seed Funding Scheme, which provides funding to support a number of collaborative research projects and professional activities in teacher education in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


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