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More schools than ever in 'special measures' process

Close to 30 schools have been placed into formal intervention in 2015/16

Almost 30 schools have been placed into `special measures' after issues were raised by inspectors - the most in any single year.

Inspection teams were concerned about leadership, management, provision for learning, safeguarding or pupil achievement.

Schools are typically put into the formal intervention process if the quality of education is considered unsatisfactory or inadequate.

These single-word performance indicators have now been replaced with `outcomes' in reports.

There are four new indicators, the lowest of which says: "The school needs to address urgently the significant areas for improvement identified in the interest of all learners".

Four primary schools were put into intervention as the summer break began, bringing to 28 the total number involved during 2015/16 - more than any other academic year.

The figure for the previous year was 15, down from 24 in 2013/14.

Two Catholic schools in the Mournes - Holy Cross PS in Attical and St Mary's PS in Glasdrumman - are among the latest to become involved. The others are Alexander Dickson PS in Ballygowan and St Joseph's PS in Lisburn.

During formal intervention, schools must work to address the issues raised by inspectors.

In 2014 St Mary's was one of three small, rural primary schools approved for an amalgamation by then education minister John O'Dowd.

Enrolments were found to be insufficient to justify all three continuing on a stand-alone basis and the plan was to create one school for the parish of Lower Mourne.

The amalgamation still has not taken place but officials say work is underway to progress the project, linked to the development of a new building.

Inspectors said the school needed external support to address issues including safeguarding and child protection, quality of learning and teaching and governance.

At Alexander Dickson, inspectors said there was a need to "improve the quality and consistency of learning and teaching; and for leadership at all levels to implement a rigorous system of monitoring and evaluation in order to measure the impact of the school improvement work on the children's learning experiences and raising standards".

Holy Cross has been asked to "review urgently the arrangements for safeguarding children and update them in line with guidance" as well as address areas for improvement in learning and teaching.

At St Joseph's inspectors reported there was a need to "bring stability to the leadership and strengthen the management at all levels" to effect improvement.

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