Belfast grammar school remains in intervention after staff industrial action halts new inspection report
A south Belfast grammar school will remain in formal intervention because officials were unable to complete a follow-up inspection due to industrial action by teachers.
Wellington College was placed into formal intervention in 2015 after a report by the Education Training Inspectorate (ETI) found that areas required significant improvement and should be urgently addressed, including levels of attainment in public exams, teaching and assessment, and leadership.
The school has been working on the issues raised, however the ETI was unable to complete its follow-up inspection last March due to teachers taking part in industrial action and refusing to co-operate with the inspectors.
The report following that inspection states that due to the impact of the action short of strike being taken by the teachers, the ETI is "unable to assure parents/carers, the wider school community and stakeholders of the quality of education being provided for the pupils".
However, the report does note improvements, including that since the last inspection the percentage of pupils attaining seven or more GCSE examinations or equivalent at grades A* to C, including English and maths has increased and is now in line with the Northern Ireland average for similar schools.
It also notes that most of the parents they spoke to felt the school is led and managed well, and almost all were happy with their child's experiences at the school.
Across Northern Ireland a number of ETI inspections at schools have been similarly affected due to the industrial action ongoing due to a disagreement with management over pay and conditions.
The NASUWT, the teachers' union with one of the largest memberships in Northern Ireland, said the industrial action is part of a wider campaign.
Justin McCamphill from the union said: "It is important to note that our action short of strike action is not directed specifically at Wellington College but is part of a wider campaign of action in relation to pay, pensions and workload. As part of this campaign we are instructing members not to cooperate with ETI.
"Our members in Wellington College are fully committed to delivering for the young people in the school and while no lessons were observed in the recent inspection, ETI did make many positive comments on the progress which the school has made. There has been a significant increase in performance at GCSE level which was achieved by the hard work and dedication of our members who continue to deliver every day despite the relentless attacks on school budgets and on their salaries."
Wellington College principal David Castles said: "The ongoing action short of strike by teaching unions affects all schools, but means that inspections cannot grade the quality of provision by observing teaching in the classroom. This has a particular impact in cases where outcomes have improved, such as at Wellington College.
"Wellington's mission, to engage, educate and empower, has become a driver for change. We all want the best for our students, and have worked in partnership with parents to deliver improvement. We are pleased to have positive acknowledgement of the improved outcomes and approaches from both the ETI, and the Department of Education, but it is regrettable that due to the action short of strike, the college remains in formal intervention. This year our students have been national Young Enterprise Award winners, BBC School Choir of the Year finalists, successful in the Sutton Trust USA Scholarship scheme, and include the overall Northern Ireland winner of BT Young Scientist and Engineer. These successes reflect a thriving, supportive and aspirational school - it is a shame that due to action short of strike it has not been possible for this to have been sufficiently evidenced in order to be acknowledged by the ETI."
The Department of Education said it will work with the Education Authority to support Wellington College. "Wellington College has been receiving tailored support through the Formal Intervention Process (FIP) since November 2015.
"A follow-up inspection was undertaken by the Education and Training Inspectorate in October 2017. In this instance, due to the action short of strike being taken by teachers, only the senior managers in Wellington College participated, and therefore could provide ETI with only partial evidence of the improvements made by the school since its entry into FIP. The department will liaise with the Education Authority to ensure that Wellington College continues to receive the necessary support to build on the improvements made to date."
There are currently 33 schools here in formal intervention.