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Angry teachers hit out at 'hostile' report into Northern Ireland education standards

Published 16/11/2016

Avril Hall-Callaghan
Avril Hall-Callaghan

Teachers have hit out a report which detailed how almost 80,000 children in Northern Ireland received a sub-standard level of education.

Noelle Buick, Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), in her biennial report, found one in three post-primary school students across Northern Ireland was receiving a standard of education that is "not good enough".

And 20% of primary school children were receiving inadequate education.

The report also found an overall improvement, including an increase in the GCSE pass rate and a narrowing of the gap between grammar schools and non-grammars.

More: Almost 80,000 children get sub-standard education in Northern Ireland, says report

The Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council - which includes unions Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Irish National Teachers' Organisation and Ulster Teachers' Union - described the report as "hostile".

“The distress, anxiety and workload caused by the current inspection process is unacceptable,” said Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.

“Although the UTU ended its policy of non-co-operation with inspections as a gesture of goodwill to the previous Education Minister, the problems regarding the ETI have not gone away.

“Indeed, the inspection system plays a considerable role in the unsustainable workload issues swapping teachers.

“The present situation is grave and has been brought about by the change in culture at the ETI where the supportive role of the inspector as a nurturing force was replaced by one which appears to place schools on the defensive against an inspectorate which doesn’t appear to be on the same ‘side’ at all."

The spokeswoman continued: "Even though there have been some improvements and we welcome those, the inspection process continues to cause distress, worry and anxiety for our members. We continue to take calls about the process and the high pressure and high stakes that the inspection process has become.

“For many, many years the school inspectorate system was one which was embraced by teachers as a positive thing. It is only in recent years that the entire culture of the ETI has morphed into something which teachers believe to be hostile.

“The ETI talks of ‘sharing expertise’ among schools. This is a laudable concept but while schools are under the funding cosh dictated by pupil numbers are they really going to share expertise with a neighbouring school when that school may then end up taking pupils from its roll books and leaving its neighbour unsustainable?

“Our members are not against inspections, or accountability. We recognise the need for engaging and working together with the ETI in order to move forward together and benefit both the needs of the pupil and the needs of teachers.

"But this union wants inspectors to listen, advise and support.”

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