Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: No need for school standards cover-up

The number of schools in Northern Ireland failing to provide a satisfactory education for their pupils is small.

The 18 schools involved are only a tiny fraction of the whole education sector. That is the good news. But the message is not so encouraging when looking at those schools which teach through the medium of Irish. Seven of them - out of a total of 23 right across the province - are among those judged by inspectors to need urgent remedial action.

What is not clear is why such a high percentage of Irish medium schools should find themselves judged unsatisfactory. Is it because they have relatively small pupil intakes; is the curriculum in these schools not up to scratch; are there problems with recruiting appropriate staff? Or do they simply share the failings of the other schools in the list? Is it simply a matter of resources or are their inherent structural failings common to all the schools?

The public has no way of knowing the answers to any of these questions. Indeed it took a Freedom of Information request from this newspaper to enable us to find out the number of schools requiring intervention to bring them up to acceptable standards and what sectors they are in. That information is notionally in the public domain, but so well hidden that it is almost impossible to find.

There is no question of a witch-hunt against any of the schools requiring intervention. It is encouraging that their failings were picked up by inspectors and remedial action begun.

Presumably the education authorities know what the failings in the schools were, but surely that is something which should be shared with parents of existing pupils and those liable to send their children to those schools.

However, that is unlikely to happen given the Department of Education's reticence on the issue until its hand was forced by our Freedom of Information request.

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