Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

MLAs demand revamp of school inspections

Politicians have called for a complete overhaul of the schools inspection process after the Belfast Telegraph revealed deep flaws in the cases of two principals who were removed from their posts.

Concerns that good teachers were “left sick with anxiety” over inspections were raised on the back of an investigation by this newspaper which found the process which led to the suspension of two headmistresses — one who is now living under a death threat — was highly questionable.

Dr Annabel Scott, principal of failing Crumlin Integrated College, received the death threat after her leadership was criticised by inspectors from the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

And, in a separate case, Patricia McGovern, head of St Bronagh’s Primary School in Rostrevor, recently won a landmark decision to have a damning inspection report, which was particularly critical of her, withdrawn from publication.

It followed a probe by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman who said the practice by ETI of destroying inspection documentation amounted to maladministration and denied Mrs McGovern the right of natural justice to question and explore the detail of the matter which gave rise to the criticism.

In a separate review of inspections carried out at Crumlin Integrated, the Information Commissioner also rapped ETI for destroying inspection notes.

Vice-chairman of Stormont’s education committee Danny Kinahan said the current inspection

system “is not fit for purpose”. He has raised his concerns personally with Noelle Buick, chief inspector of ETI, and also with the education committee.

He added: “We propose to revise the school inspection system which leaves many wonderful, creative staff sick with anxiety.

“I will be pushing for a review of the inspection system but I need to lobby the other parties, as the UUP alone is not enough.”

Sean Rodgers, a former school principal, and now SDLP education spokesman, said: “In my experience an inspection was a very traumatic time for staff.

“Speaking to principals in my current role, there is a dread out there. It would be my view that there needs to be a review.”

ETI was unavailable for comment, but it defended its handling of both cases in a statement to the Telegraph earlier this week.

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