'Warts and all' audit for Northern Ireland's school system

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Northern Ireland's schools system is to be put through a "warts and all" audit. Education minister John O'Dowd is calling in independent, international experts saying he does not agree with claims that the North has a world class system.

Education minister John O’Dowd is calling in independent, international experts saying he does not agree with claims that the North has a world class system.

Mr O’Dowd says he is concerned that four out of every 10 secondary schools are still “not good enough”.

Too many children, he says, are not well served, adding “we need to tackle these problems, not tolerate them”.

Post-primary schools, he adds, face even more complex challenges than the primary sector.

Unless government tackles structural deficiencies in post-primary provision, the minister says progress will not be made.

To help tackle problems, and as part of Mr O’Dowd’s work to “learn from the best”, the North will be participating in a major review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This will look at how assessment and evaluation systems deliver improvements for pupils.

“Our involvement will help others learn from our experience. Importantly it will help us learn from others too,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“It will involve an in-depth country-wide review of our education system carried out by independent experts from other OECD countries.”

The minister adds that the audit will be an exciting development that will provide valuable information to help improve further the education system.

The OECD expert team is expected to arrive early next year and will talk to teachers, pupils, principals and governors as well as some politicians and policy advisors.

“It seems right, after all, that if we expect schools to be inspected and evaluated and to respond with action to build on strengths and address areas for improvement, we should expect to subject our system as a whole to similar scrutiny – with the same objective: that of learning and improving,” Mr O’Dowd added.


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