Inspector full of praise for Northern Irish schools

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Northern Ireland secondary schools are providing “outstanding” education in record numbers. The North’s chief inspector says the quality of education is good or better in almost two-thirds of post-primary providers.

The North’s chief inspector says the quality of education is good or better in almost two-thirds of post-primary providers.

In her latest report, Noelle Buick says this is being achieved in an “increasingly demanding context”.

Post-primary schools are working with a greater number of pupils who experience a more complex range of social, behavioural, emotional, cognitive and linguistic barriers. At the same time, the political, economic and social expectations of what education and, in particular, schools should be able to do in this context, are growing.

Inspectors visited 57 of 210 secondary schools between July 2012 and June 2014. Ms Buick says 63 per cent of secondary schools inspected are providing good, very good or outstanding education.

This is a slight drop from the previous reporting period that covered 2010 to 2012. The proportion of schools achieving the top grade of outstanding, however, now stands at 10 per cent, up from two per cent previously.

Ms Buick’s report concludes that “much more needs to be done” in the 37 per cent of schools with satisfactory, inadequate or unsatisfactory grades.

“The majority of young people develop and achieve well through their post-primary education,” she says. “Schools are responding, with good effect, to the increasing complexity of the social and emotional needs of young people by developing their critical and reflective thinking, a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, communication and resilience; all of which prepare them well for the next stage of their learning.”

Over the reporting period, attainment at GCSE level and in post-16 exams continued to rise. The proportion of secondary schools evaluated as having outstanding achievements and standards is up from a low base of three per cent in 2010 to 2012 to 14 per cent now.

There remain problems with leadership and management, however, with 34 per cent of post-primary schools evaluated as “not good enough”. This weaker leadership is characterised by “insufficient attention to the effective use of data, poor self-evaluation processes, low expectations which are reflected in variations in the quality of learning and teaching, and unacceptably poor outcomes for pupils which reveal underachievement”.


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