Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Unions to get school inspections review role

A review of Northern Ireland’s school inspection process is to be carried out in consultation with teaching unions.

Noelle Buick, chief inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), has agreed to the move after meeting with the five teaching unions.

Areas to be looked at include how schools are graded, the role of inspectors and their notification period. The review comes just weeks after two of the teaching unions — the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) — called off a boycott of inspections and following a Belfast Telegraph story last month that highlighted major flaws with the process.

The Northern Ireland Teachers’ Council (NITC) — which represents teachers and principals in the five unions locally — has agreed to engage in “constructive talks” with ETI.

A spokesman said: “We hope these talks will prove to be constructive. We also hope to be involved in a workshop which will bring together teachers and principals, members of the inspectorate and representatives of the teaching unions.”

Education Minister John O’Dowd is aware of the move. Unions are concerned about the climate in schools because of the inspection process. The unions have not ruled out asking the Education Minister to intervene, or further industrial action.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed flaws in the inspection process which led to two principals being suspended from their posts. One was the head of Crumlin Integrated College, Dr Annabel Scott, and the other was Patricia McGovern, from St Bronagh’s Primary School.

Both the Information Commissioner and the Ombudsman rapped ETI for destroying inspection notes.

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