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Northern Ireland schools 'failed in overhaul survey'

Over three-quarters of Northern Ireland schools failed to take part in research linked to a major overhaul of the education system, the report's author has revealed.

Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly carried out a survey testing schools' opinions of the services provided by the five education and library boards.

The analysis of the boards' performance is to be presented to the Assembly and comes ahead of moves to replace them with one over-arching Education and Skills Authority (ESA).

But Mr Donnelly said that less than one in four schools agreed to answer the survey on the boards, while 77% failed to cooperate.

Those that did take part indicated that they were generally satisfied with the service, but highlighted important areas in need of improvement, including delays in the assessment of pupils with special educational needs.

The auditor said: "Many factors will colour schools' perceptions of their boards, the survey provides a good starting point for boards and, ultimately, ESA, to find out what lies beneath those perceptions and to improve services where necessary.

"I'm pleased with those schools who took part in the survey in 2009, however, I am disappointed that over three-quarters of schools across the education and library boards failed to take the opportunity to respond.

"We hope that ESA will adopt and adapt the survey as it sees fit and that it will encourage and press all schools to complete the online questionnaire in future years."

The research was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and Mr Donnelly said he saw it as a useful tool in highlighting the perceptions and shortcomings of the boards to help the new ESA identify where it may need to focus its resources.

The full implementation of the ESA plans have been delayed by disagreements around the Assembly Executive, on elements of the reform.


From Belfast Telegraph