Belfast Telegraph

Dispute must not detract from great work being done


By David Castles

These are difficult times for education in Northern Ireland with public sector budgets stretched to breaking point and the absence of a Stormont Assembly to make important decisions - which affect children in all schools.

We are fortunate to have the best qualified teaching workforce in the UK, and the best exam results at GCSE and A-Level.

However, teaching unions are engaged in action primarily focused on a pay dispute with the Department of Education, one aspect of which is a refusal to cooperate with the Education Training Inspectorate.

This 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.

Having joined Wellington following a previous ETI visit, it has been great to lead a team of staff who are committed to improvement, and who put teaching and learning at the centre of our work.

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.

It is great 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.

The views of students have the most impact, and as a leader it is wonderful to know that children in your school can speak with confidence, show pride and loyalty in their school, and are keen to learn - all the more so when you hear it from an ETI inspector.

Said WB Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." And at Wellington College we have made it our mission as staff to do all we can to "make the flame burn brighter".

We are a grammar school open to able young people of all backgrounds, with staff who go the extra mile.

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 to provide sufficient evidence in order for this to be acknowledged by the ETI.

Nonetheless we continue, aware that as school leaders and teachers we do a vital job, and are hopeful for a brighter, and better funded future!

Belfast Telegraph

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