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Failures in teaching to be addressed in Northern Ireland education review

International experts are to scrutinise Northern Ireland’s education system amid concerns too many children are being failed by the current model.

Education Minister John |O’Dowd has commissioned independent assessors from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to carry out the £86,000 in-depth review.

Work will get under way this month with a report due on the minister’s desk by June.

As part of his drive to raise standards, the minister has also said there will be a clampdown on failing teachers and principals.

His plans include bringing legislation before the Assembly to strengthen the role of the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland.

If rubberstamped the enhanced powers will allow the independent body to strike off teachers who are found guilty of professional misconduct and incompetency.

Mr O’Dowd told the Assembly

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yesterday “too many children are not well served by the education system... we need to tackle these problems, not tolerate them”.

Those problems include:

l One in five pupils are not at the expected level of literacy and numeracy by the time they leave primary school.

lLeadership and management in just over 20% of primary schools needs to be improved.

lIn 41% of post-primary schools educational provision is not good enough.

lLeadership and management needs to be improved in 39% of post primary schools.

l 40% of pupils leave school without achieving a grade C in English and maths.

Mr O’Dowd said: “We do not have a world class education system... and we need it to be world class. We need to be comparing ourselves against the best in the world.”

However, DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey described the minister’s statement as an attack on the teaching profession which he said was bearing the brunt of the Department of Education’s failures.

But Mr O’Dowd explained: “It is very clear from the chief inspector’s report and from wider evidence that effective leadership and high quality teaching are central to delivering improvement.”

And he told effective leaders and high quality teachers that flexibility to teach in a way that best meets the needs of pupils should “hold no fear”, nor should “being held accountable for the outcomes their pupils achieve”.

Mr O’Dowd also wants to review principals’ and teachers’ pay and conditions whereby good principals who take over underperforming schools are rewarded.

“I would suggest that the leadership challenge in taking over an underperforming school may be far greater than that involved in leading a school with a strong track record,” he said.

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