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Failing Ulster grammar school to appoint new principal

By Lindsay Fergus

A new principal is to be appointed at Cambridge House — the only grammar school in Northern Ireland to be put in the Department of Education’s formal intervention scheme.

The Ballymena school for pupils aged 11-18 was placed in formal intervention in June after receiving a damning inspection report.

Whoever takes up the top post will have the task of turning the school around and helping it exit formal intervention.

Inspectors who visited the school in April criticised:

  • inadequate standards achieved by pupils in sixth form
  • a fall in the number of pupils from 42% to 40% securing three A-levels at grades A*-C, which is below the Northern Ireland average for selective schools
  • poor monitoring and evaluation of sixth form provision
  • inadequate admissions criteria for Year 14
  • the majority of lessons, which were observed were either satisfactory or inadequate
  • the proportion of pupils dropping out at the end of Year 13 was “too high” and well above the Northern Ireland average
  • the overall quality of provision was “inadequate”
  • insufficient planning for teaching in sixth form.

However, the successful candidate will be well rewarded for the job with a maximum advertised salary of £72,752.

Employer, North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB), stated applicants must be qualified teachers who have taught in a post-primary for at least 10 of the past 15 years.

In addition they must “have had management responsibility as a member of a senior management team in a post-primary 11-18 school with sixth form provision or equivalent in the education sector for at least five years”.

A board spokesman confirmed that it hoped to make the new appointment before Christmas.

The current principal, Eileen Lisk, is due to step down at the end of the month.

Although the leadership was praised by inspectors in 2009 as being “very good” in the last inspection it was criticised.

Inspectors said: “The leadership of planning, learning and teaching in the sixth form in this school is not effecting the required improvement in standards identified at the time of the inspection in 2009.

“The substantial areas for improvement identified in standards, learning and teaching, and the leadership and management of aspects of the sixth form provision need to be addressed urgently if the school is to meet effectively the needs of all of the pupils.”

Story so far

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

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