Teachers' anger at 'hostile' school inspectors after damning report
Teachers have taken part in a public protest opposing the body that inspects schools.
The Education and Training Inspectorate published its chief inspector's biennial report yesterday, which found that almost 80,000 children across Northern Ireland were receiving a standard of education that was "not good enough".
Members of three teachers' unions - UTU, INTO and ATL - claimed the school inspection system was "hostile".
They protested outside Riddell Hall in Belfast yesterday morning during the launch of Noelle Buick's report.
UTU general secretary Avril Hall-Callaghan claimed the inspection system played a "considerable role in the unsustainable workload issues swamping 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," she said.
"Even though there have been some improvements, and we welcome those, the inspection process continues to cause distress, worry and anxiety for our members.
"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."
The ETI's report arises from inspections of 659 schools over the past two years.
Among its findings were that boys were still under-performing, averaging 10% below girls in terms of the GCSE pass rate percentage; that Protestant boys were continuing to fall behind their Catholic counterparts at GCSE stage; and a postcode lottery existed in which the lowest GCSE pass rates were found in the Belfast and Causeway Coast and Glens areas, while the highest were in Lisburn and Castlereagh.
Ulster Unionist education spokeswoman Sandra Overend said: "What is most concerning to me as an elected representative are the inequalities that still exist in our school system.
"A child's gender, postcode or socio-economic background should not have an impact on their chances for a good start in life."