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Sixteen failing schools probed after inspections

By Kathryn Torney

Sixteen schools across Northern Ireland are still being monitored closely by the Department of Education following critical school inspection reports.

The department formally intervenes to ensure action is taken when school inspectors find that the quality of education in an institution is less than satisfactory.

The Telegraph revealed in May that seven of the schools forced to put action plans in place are Irish-medium schools — a third of the entire Irish-medium school sector.

The others are within the controlled, integrated and Catholic maintained sector.

Two schools have made enough improvement to be the first to be taken out of formal intervention — Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain in Belfast and Dundonald High School.

Another school — St Bronagh's Primary in Rostrevor — has been rated by inspectors as improving one performance level from “unsatisfactory” to “inadequate” but it remains in the formal intervention process.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said in May that one of the Irish-medium schools had just been re-inspected and that provision was satisfactory. However, Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain in Belfast did not formally exit formal intervention until last Friday — four days after the Belfast Telegraph submitted a query asking for an update on schools in formal intervention.

The progress made at Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain — according to the latest inspection report — includes an improvement in the standards achieved by all of the children in numeracy and the more focused use of data to set targets for improvement.

The inspectors said that quality of education provided by the school is now “satisfactory”.

Dundonald High School also exited the process on the same day last week.

An ETI report — following an inspection in June 2010 — said the percentage of pupils gaining A*-C in five or more subjects at GCSE level has “significantly increased” from 15% in 2008 to 29% in 2009.

St Bronagh's Primary was reinspected in June.

The ETI report states: “While the school has made good progress in important aspects of its work, in particular the quality of learning and teaching and in the standards the children are achieving, the follow-up inspection has identified the need for substantial improvement in the principal’s leadership of the school.”

The details were only provided earlier this year after a Freedom of Information request was lodged by the Telegraph.

However, in a policy U-turn, the department has now decided to provide a list of the schools in the formal intervention process on its website.

Schools in the formal intervention process:

Ballee Community High, Ballymena; Ballygolan PS, Belfast; Beechfield PS, Belfast; Bunscoil an Traonaigh, Lisnaskea; Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche, Castlewellan; Bushmills PS; Cliftonville Integrated PS, Belfast; Crumlin Integrated College; Gaelscoil an Lonnáin, Belfast; Gaelscoil na Daróige, Derry; Gaelscoil na gCrann, Omagh; Gaelscoil na Móna, Belfast; Knockbreda High School, Belfast; Lisneal College, Derry; St Bernard’s PS, Glengormley; St Bronagh’s PS, Rostrevor.

When the department decides to step in

The Department of Education can decide to formally intervene when an inspection finds that the quality of education in a school is less than satisfactory.

Under the formal intervention process the school has to compile an action plan. Resources and support are provided for the plan.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) will conduct monitoring visits and a follow-up inspection within 12-18 months of the original inspection.

Within a year of the first follow-up inspection, ETI will carry out a second follow-up for those schools still in the process.

It is expected that most schools will achieve the desired level of improvement within two years.

Where, after two inspections, performance is found to remain unsatisfactory or where a school has been subject to the formal process, achieved a measure of improvement, but has since regressed, further action will be needed.

This could involve closure of the school, restructuring of the governance, leadership and management, merger with another school or closing the school and re-opening after a period with a new management team.

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