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Beliefs and Values Short Course transforms learners' confidence


Mercy College is a Catholic maintained girls’ secondary school in North Belfast which caters for pupils of all abilities aged 11 to 18. Eadaoin McIlmurray, Religious Education Teacher at the school, reports on the transformative effect ASDAN’s courses have had on learners at risk of disengaging from education.

Some of our less academically able Year 11 and 12 GCSE students were struggling with Religious Education (RE) and we were looking for an alternative that was more practical and modular based. If the Year 11s had continued with their RE GCSE most of them would have had limited success because of the academic challenges presented with having an exam at the end. As a result, we wanted a course based on formative assessment in order to provide manageable and incremental challenges that would facilitate our students in learning and achievement.

ASDAN’s Beliefs and Values Short Course is an ideal, flexible, accessible alternative to an RE GCSE. The students’ Beliefs and Values work is timetabled the same way as RE. We offer the Short Course to Year 11s and when they reach Year 12 six of the credits they achieve through the Short Course are used to complete the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (CoPE) Level 2 qualification.

In Year 11, we have 30 pupils doing Beliefs and Values, while in Year 12 we have 26 pupils doing CoPE. The learners are split into two classes in both year groups.

The Short Course has had a transformative effect on the learners. In particular, I have noticed big improvements in their ability to work independently. Because they are achieving the goals they set themselves, their confidence and self-esteem have grown significantly. The students with special educational needs can access this course easily and have demonstrated their ability to achieve well because of the multi-level nature of the programme.

The learners like the variety of the modules and challenges in Beliefs and Values. As part of the Inspiration module, we created a new challenge where the learners visited a local homelessness shelter called Rosemount House. They interviewed volunteers, gathered information and then returned to the school to give a presentation on their findings at a whole-school assembly.

The students discovered at Rosemount House that three young homeless people had died on the streets of Belfast the previous Christmas. Visiting the shelter brought the issue of homelessness to life for these learners and they were motivated to do their bit to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness and the great work being done at Rosemount House. Some of the learners were very nervous before the whole-school assembly presentation but they gave excellent talks on a subject they had become passionate about. The whole experience was a great confidence boost for them and they were ecstatic about how well the presentation had gone.

As a result of the Short Course and CoPE, the behaviour of the learners has improved across all their lessons. The learners are very motivated about their ASDAN courses to the extent that they don’t want to miss classes. I am so proud of these students and my colleagues at the schools have been taken aback by their achievements.

Caption: pupils at Mercy College on a fact-finding mission to Belfast homelessness shelter Rosemount House

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