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Belfast school Methodist College 'hasn't been fully inspected for last 12 years'

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

Some schools in Northern Ireland have not been fully inspected for more than a decade, a parents' group has claimed.

ParentsOutLoud discovered from a sample survey of 23 schools in Belfast and Omagh that the most recent inspection reports for Loreto Convent and Omagh Integrated primary schools dated back 15 and 14 years respectively.

The research also revealed no full inspection report was published for Belfast school Methodist College for more than 12 years.

Now ParentsOutLoud has urged the Assembly's committee for education to tackle the disparity in gaps between full school inspections here and in England.

The group also raised concerns about a 20% cut to the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) budget and the narrowness of the scope of inspections.

Giving evidence to the education committee inquiry into the effectiveness of the ETI, the group said that while maintained schools in England can be inspected by Ofsted on average once every four years, the inspections carried out by ETI were lagging well behind.

Based on the number of published reports on the ETI website for 2013, only 8% of all primary schools and 15% of post-primary schools were fully inspected.

That gives an inspection timetable for a full inspection on average every 13 years for primary schools and every seven years for post-primary schools.

ParentsOutLoud's Liz Fawcett said that the lack of inspection reports did not necessarily mean concern over teaching standards, but more a lack of reassuring information for parents.

She added that it had ignored short and follow-up reports, or reports which focused on a specialised area of provision, as it did not "constitute an adquate substitute for a full inspection".

However, an ETI spokesman took issue with ParentsOutLoud's claims as they did not include focused investigations and its follow-up investigations, which Methodist College received in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

Omagh Integrated received three further inspections since 1999, and Loreto Convent primary school received two shorter investigations since 1998.

ETI told the Belfast Telegraph it aimed to inspect schools every seven years and more frequently where "deemed necessary".

Since September 2010, it phased in a new "proportionate and risk-based inspection strategy" designed to target resources.

A spokesman said: "By the end of the current academic year almost 90% of primary schools and 97% of post-primary schools will have been inspected within seven years."

BACKGROUND

The Northern Ireland Assembly education committee's report into the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) is due to be published by the end of this month. More than 50 written submissions have already been received by the committee, which is specifically looking at ETI effectiveness in providing schools inspections, any issues regarding gaps of the review process, and to consider suggestions for improvement. ETI provides inspection services for Government departments.

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