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St Cuthbert's Catholic School

St Margaret Mary Catholic Primary School

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Below are press coverage of the St Ninian Pathway and our growing relationship with St Mary's University Belfast.


Trainee and newly-qualified teachers from Northern Ireland are helping to improve education delivered by a family of Catholic primary schools in Cumbria.

The St Ninian Catholic Federation in Carlisle is taking on increasing numbers of trainee teachers from Northern Ireland who have enrolled on the Primary PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) course at the University of Cumbria.

Students from Northern Ireland who follow the St Ninian training pathway at the university’s Carlisle campus are completing classroom placements in the federation’s two Catholic primary schools and several others around the city.

Chris Wilkins, executive headteacher of the St Ninian Catholic Federation, believes the collaboration has contributed to an upturn in his schools’ most recent Key Stage 2 test results.

St Margaret Mary’s School achieved the highest results in its history last summer whilst St Cuthbert’s achieved its best results for six years, recording impressive progress scores for literacy.

Chris said: “We work closely with the university to enable catholic applicants for the PGCE course to have a bespoke training route. We are also able to support our St Ninian’s route students with interview preparation and finding suitable positions if they decide to start their career in England.

“There is an obvious benefit to the federation too. New teachers bring new ideas and enthusiasm and add to our schools. Our curricular and extra-curricular offer has benefited from their combined experiences and skills.

“I am not surprised that this close working link with the University of Cumbria has coincided with improved results in both schools.”

A number of graduates have secured posts at its schools – St Cuthbert’s Catholic Community School, Botcherby, and St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Upperby.

They include Caiomhe Shortt (pictured) who completed the one-year PGCE course via the federation’s pathway in July last year.

She started her teaching career at St Cuthbert’s School in September 2018, just a few weeks before celebrating at her graduation in November.

An NQT, Caiomhe is working at a year 5/6 teacher leading a class of 9-11 year olds.

Caoimhe, 23, from County Armagh, described the support, training and guidance she received from the university as ‘invaluable’.

She said: “Completing my course with the University of Cumbria was very enjoyable. The facilities allowed me to have an independent university life and get all the help I required.

“Lecturers and mentors were supportive and open to helping on whatever aspect I required. Seminars are inclusive and interesting with all content available online, which is extremely useful. The fantastic environment around the campus at Fusehill Street, Carlisle added to the value of my learning experience.”

Dr Eamonn Pugh, senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria’s Institute of Education, said: “All of our student teachers, including those from Northern Ireland, receive aspirational training to become inspirational teachers. The course enables them to set their sights high, moving out of their comfort zone as they plan their early career.”

“Our relationship with the St Ninian’s Federation provides an exciting and growing pathway for students seeking qualification and employment in Catholic schools.”

The University of Cumbria provides intensive support for students from Northern Ireland and has close links with the NI Education Authority.

The university is offering to cover travel costs to the next available open days. Details of the offer are on a dedicated webpage –

Teacher training link with Northern Ireland reaches 10-year milestone


AN initiative that helps train new teachers from Northern Ireland is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The University of Cumbria has been working to meet a demand from prospective students in the north for postgraduate primary teacher training.

More than 200 have studied at the University of Cumbria's Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle since 2013/14.

This year, 63 primary PGCE students at the university's Carlisle and Lancaster campuses are from Ireland.

They include Aoife Murphy (23) from Keady, Co Armagh. She is among 10 students who also have close links to the St Ninian's Federation in Carlisle, a family of Catholic primary schools.

The St Ninian's teaching pathway provides placements in Catholic primary schools across Carlisle.

Students also have the opportunity to complete two modules towards the Catholic Certificate of Religious Studies, which is needed to teach in Catholic primary schools in Northern Ireland.

"I've always wanted to be a teacher - my mum, dad and grannie were all teachers but there's huge competition for PGCE places in Northern Ireland," Ms Murphy said.

"Friends of mine had studied in Carlisle, including my best friend who did the PGCE last year and is now an NQT at St Cuthbert's School in Carlisle. Another is on a social work course. They loved it and encouraged me to go for it.

"I didn't want to go somewhere where I'd be on my own but being here I realise that everyone's in the same position as me. University staff and the people of Carlisle really care and are very helpful."

Dr Eamonn Pugh, senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria's Institute of Education, said: “Many graduates from Northern Ireland aspire to become primary teachers. However, there are very limited PGCE places offered there; getting on a postgraduate teacher education course is extremely competitive.

"Because we have partner schools across all parts of Northern Ireland, we can provide a school placement that allows students to be close to home."

Chris Wilkins, executive headteacher of the St Ninian's Federation in Carlisle, said: "We work closely with the admissions team and education facility to enable Catholic applicants for the university's PGCE course to have a bespoke training route.

"So far this has been particularly attractive to Northern Irish students because of the excellent transport links and our established links with St Mary's University College, Belfast.

"We are able to support our St Ninian's route students with interview preparation and finding suitable positions if they decide to start their career in England.

"We feel this unique course opportunity provides students with an excellent PGCE course with the University of Cumbria and the support and encouragement of the catholic teaching community."