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Young Entrepreneurs Excel in Computing Skills

Schoolchildren in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have exceptional ICT skills, according to a new report published by the University of Ulster this week.  

Primary and secondary pupils, aged 9-11 and 14-17, from 20 schools have been working together in a virtual learning environment on joint enterprise projects as part of the ‘Dissolving Boundaries’ enterprise programme. 

The new report entitled, ‘Enterprise, ICT and Intercultural Learning’, is an interim evaluation of the Dissolving Boundaries enterprise programme, funded by the Department of Education on both sides of the border and the Joint Business Council, which represents employers’ organisations, the CBI and IBEC. 

The school teams set up mini companies and reported on marketing, sales and profits through weekly video conferencing calls to fellow team members across the border.

Two primary schools, for example, set up a company called ‘Lettuce Be Healthy’ which grew and sold fresh fruit and flowers.  Two of the secondary schools designed personalised Valentine’s Day cards and sold their products to pupils and staff. 

The projects were showcased at a two-day planning conference for 200 teachers in the City North Hotel, Londonderry, earlier this week. 

University of Ulster academic, Dr Roger Austin, Co-Director of the Dissolving Boundaries programme, said; “All the schools, both primary and secondary, have shown how ICT can be used to develop enterprise skills by running mini-companies with the help of visiting entrepreneurs.  

“Most of the teachers in the primary schools had not had much experience of working on enterprise but drew on the support of the business community, particularly through Junior Achievement and Young Enterprise. 

Jane Smyth, programme manager added, “The schools taking part  made exceptionally good use of communication tools to develop products for sale and that  process  not only greatly extended pupils’ understanding of enterprise but enabled friendships to develop through the joint team-work.’ 

The schools participating in the two-year scheme are: Northern Ireland - Aughnacloy Primary School, Lurgan College, Holy Child Primary School, Derry, Monkstown Community College, Our Lady's Grammar School, Newry, Portstewart Primary School, St Aloysius Primary School, Lisburn, St Cecilia's College, Derry, St Columb's College, Derry and St Mary's Primary School, Ballygawley. In the Republic - St Mary’s National School, Co Longford,  Colaiste Mhuire, Co Limerick, Scoil an Athair Maitiu (Cailini), Cork City, Ratoath College, Co Meath, Loreto College, Crumlin, Dublin, Scoil Ide, Limerick, St Munchin's GNS, Limerick,  Loreto Community School, Milford, Co Donegal, Malahide Community School, Co Dublin, Mother of Divine Grace, Dublin. 

A video of the work ( http://vimeo.com/14638708) will be available on the Dissolving Boundaries website, www.dissolvingboundaries.org.  

The Dissolving Boundaries initiative, run by the School of Education at the University of Ulster at the Coleraine campus and NUI Maynooth since 1999, is one of the largest programmes in the world to use ICT to link schools together across borders.