Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Schools report raises concerns over leadership

Headmasters from 44 independent schools have thrown their weight behind the Open Access scheme

One in five post-primary principals inspected in Northern Ireland is providing unsatisfactory leadership, it has been warned.

Some are not responding quickly or effectively enough to the changing needs of our education system, according to a new report.

The findings are contained in the report by the Education and Training Inspectorate which is responsible for inspecting all schools in Northern Ireland.

The biennial report covers inspections carried out in the two years up to June, raising concerns about the quality of teaching in some schools.

Key issues raised in the 133-page report include:

  • Too many young people do not fulfil their potential, with one in five children still leaving primary school without achieving the expected level in English and maths;
  • Concerns young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are not meeting key targets;
  • Claims that a cycle of underachievement has been allowed to persist in some schools;
  • And stark warnings that falling enrollments, budget deficits and curriculum changes are posing significant challenges.

Chief inspector Noelle Buick said the report was written in the context of major financial challenges facing education.

“The education and training sectors in Northern Ireland are operating within the constraints of significant financial challenges while working to deliver the best possible service to learners,” she said. “Indeed inspection found that the majority of children and young benefit from teaching that is deemed good or better.

“It is also the case, however, that inspection across the sectors has identified some areas for improvement which, if addressed, would help ensure that even more young people get the most out of their learning careers.”

Concerns are also raised about leadership at post-primaries.

The report noted in almost one in five schools inspected, the leadership of the principal was evaluated as less than satisfactory.

“A fragmented approach to leadership development, which is not responding quickly or effectively enough to the changing needs of our education system, is evident,” it adds.

The report also flags up concerns that not enough young people are reaching their potential and it warns urgent action is needed to tackle declining standards.

I've every confidence in process, says chief

A senior official from the Education and Training Inspectorate insists she has full confidence in the process — despite concerns over flawed reports.

Last month, the Belfast Telegraph outlined concerns about the cases of two head teachers, Dr Annabel Scott and Patricia McGovern, who were criticised following inspections carried out by ETI.

Dr Scott later got a death threat after concerns were raised about her running of Crumlin Integrated College in Co Antrim.

Asked yesterday about whether she had confidence in the process generally, ETI chief inspector Noelle Buick was defiant.

“I have absolute confidence in our inspection process,” she said.

Ms Buick said the Chief Inspector’s Report was testament to what the ETI was looking for within the schools system.

After our coverage on both cases, it was agreed a review of Northern Ireland’s school inspection process is to be carried out in consultation with teaching unions.

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