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School in pension row stand-off fails to make the grade

By Lindsay Fergus

A school that refused to co-operate with inspectors in a row over pensions has an “inadequate” exams record at GCSE, it has emerged.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) on Monday published a partial inspection report on its findings at Banbridge High School.

It is just one of dozens of schools blanking inspectors because of ongoing industrial action.

Inspectors said: “Over the past three years, the pupils attained inadequate GCSE outcomes, well below the Northern Ireland average for similar non-selective schools at grades A*-C, both for pupils taking GCSE and equivalent examinations in at least five subjects and for pupils taking at least five GCSE subjects including English and mathematics.”

The report also revealed that Banbridge High “has an increasing and substantial projected budget deficit over the next three years which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency”.

Inspectors explained: “Owing to the non co-operation of three-fifths of the teachers, the inspectors were not able to assess fully the quality of learning for the pupils to identify areas where provision is strong or where improvements are needed.”

Industrial action short of striking was started by two teaching unions, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Ulster Teachers’ Union, in January. Earlier this month INTO escalated its action.

Banbridge High School is one of six schools where inspections in February and March could only be partially completed. The other schools are St Patrick’s Primary School, Donaghmore; St Joseph’s Convent Primary School, Newry; St Colman’s Primary School and All Saints Nursery Unit, Annaclone; Regent House Prep, Newtownards, and St Peter’s Primary School, Dungannon.

The chief inspector of ETI has expressed concerns that parents can’t access full inspection reports because of the stand-off.

Noelle Buick said: “Not being able to carry out all the planned inspections is preventing us from ensuring all pupils are receiving a high-quality education.

“A partial inspection may raise concerns about a school’s performance in delivering a quality education to pupils. But in most instances a full inspection is required for me to be able to confirm or dismiss those concerns.”

INTO, which represents 7,000 teachers, has defended its escalation of the action.

Story so far

INTO and UTU are engaged in industrial action in a row over increased pension contributions. Teachers’ pension contributions increased in April so they will have to work longer but get a smaller pension when they retire. Action includes refusing to hand over pupil assessment data to the authorities and refusing to co-operate with school inspectors.

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