IT Sligo Custodial Care Course wins Excellence in Teaching Award

An innovative partnership between IT Sligo and the Irish Prison Board was recognised this week when 10 Institute staff were presented with a National Award for Excellence in Teaching at a special ceremony in Dublin Castle.

The IT Sligo team was honoured by the National Academy for Integration, Research and Learning (NAIRTL) for their role in designing and teaching the Higher Certificate in Custodial Care (HCCC), a programme designed for prison officers working for the Irish Prison Service.

Fifteen Higher Education staff representing six different Higher Education Institutions were recognised at the awards,   with five individual awards presented, as well one team award for IT Sligo. There were 32 nominations from 14 HE Institutions.

The IPS and IT Sligo commenced delivery of the HCCC in September 2007 and since then 740 prison staff have enrolled for the programme, which is  delivered over a two year period through  a mix of professional and vocational training. The learner-centred programme provides a mix of social science and health related subjects relevant to prison officer work, and is informed by contemporary research.

Fergus Timmons, Manager of the Programme, said it was the first time IT Sligo had received one of the NAIRTL awards and he described it as a great honour for the Institute. “It recognises and rewards our endeavours in developing and delivering what is an innovative programme, combining research with practical hands-on training in an area which was traditionally under-researched,” he said. Mr Timmons pointed out that the programme had been developed from scratch, being the first of its kind in the country, reflecting the flexible, adaptive and dynamic learning environment at IT Sligo.

“The HCCC is very much a collaboration with the IPS. It is a social science course which covers sociology, criminology, psychology, ethics, and health studies and there is a big emphasis on professional development and professional practices”, said Mr Timmons.

As well as face to face workshops,  participants  benefit from IT Sligo’s expertise in the area of online learning as part of the course is delivered though the Institute’s Moodle Virtual Learning Environment. “We are very conscious on the need to adapt to the circumstances of prison officers, who are also working in prisons around the country,” said Mr Timmons.

Dr Catherine O’Mahoney, acting Manager of NAIRTL praised the multi-disciplinary element of the IT Sligo team. “Their diversity makes them unique with staff involved in everything from conflict resolution to health and ethics,” she pointed out.

The Chair of the HCC programme is Dr Kevin Sludds,   a qualified therapist and contributor to the Government’s strategy on suicide prevention. Other members of the team include Sinead Barrins who lectures in advocacy and communications, Ethics lecturer, Finola Colgan-Carey , Dr Marcus Hopkins who runs the Humanising Conflict Group for those affected by conflict from any political or religious background and lecturer Dr Liam Leonard who is the current  President of the Sociology Association of Ireland.

Also involved are lecturer Paula Kenny, Treasurer of the Sociology Association of Ireland, Jessica Mannion a part-time Lecturer on both the Custodial Care and Social Studies courses in IT Sligo, Maresa McGee who has a  BSc in Biochemistry and an MSc in Neuropharmacology and works  as a Health Sciences lecturer in the Institute and Sinéad Meade,  a member of the Psychology Society of Ireland who  teaches communications, psychology, and professional practice and development to the prison staff

The individual award winners announced included:

  • Dr John Morrissey, Geography Department, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Professor Kevin Nolan, School of Postgraduate Studies, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • Dr Martin Fellenz, School of Business, Trinity College Dublin
  • Dr Paul van Kampen, School of Physical Sciences, Dublin City University
  • Professor Tony Ryan, Cork University Maternity Hospital, University College Cork

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