Belfast Telegraph

Bad report for schools inspectorate

The schools inspectorate in Northern Ireland should do much more to help struggling schools improve, an influential committee of MLAs said.

District inspectors should play a greater role in mentoring and auditing evaluations by schools, the education committee said.

The oversight body could be renamed the Northern Ireland Education Improvement Service (NIEIS) and made independent from the Stormont administration, according to a radical new report.

Chairman Mervyn Storey said it was important to give a greater role to parents.

He added: "One of our key recommendations is for much more support to help struggling schools improve.

"We are also calling for greater and more effective cooperation and communication between the inspectors, the schools they inspect and most importantly of all, parents."

The committee expressed concern that the current format of inspection reports did not provide a full picture of the school's overall performance.

MLAs said it was crucial to recognise areas where schools are performing well.

Mr Storey added: "In order to reboot key relationships and draw a line under the past, we are also proposing that the Education and Training Inspectorate be renamed the NIEIS and that this organisation be heavily focused on improvement through inspection.

"Most members also feel that the reformed NIEIS should be made statutorily independent of the Department for Education."

He said there should be a new role for parents.

"Parental engagement strengthens the effectiveness of education generally and is essential for the school improvement process."

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said it was delighted to see the committee call for additional resourcing to support school improvement.

Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary, said: " The committee has clearly recognised the widespread dissatisfaction of teachers with the inadequacy of the existing ETI complaints procedure. Teachers have long held that inspectors investigating themselves does not inspire confidence or contribute to a professional relationship."

The INTO agreed the inspectorate should be rebranded.

Mr Murphy added: "I t will signal clearly, as it has in other parts of the public service, that a new dawn is approaching, a new dawn, leading to a school improvement service in which we can all have confidence."

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