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Teachers' question inspectors' `must do better' call

Avril Hall Callaghan, UTU general secretary

TEACHERS are questioning inspectors' demand that children must do better when the north has some of the highest-achieving pupils in Europe.

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) said a discrepancy between the views of the Education and Training Inspectorate and international exam results had created a "conundrum".

Data from the recently-published Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) revealed that only five of 50 countries taking part in mathematics assessments outperformed Northern Ireland.

TIMSS assesses the knowledge and skills of pupils aged 9-10 and 13-14 and gathers extensive background information about pupils' home and learning environments and the quantity, quality and content of teaching.

This information can then be used to provide education policymakers, school leaders, teachers and researchers with insights into how well the education system is working, and how to improve teaching and learning in maths and science.

The results reflected the latest chief inspector's report, which found that in 89 per cent of primary schools inspected, achievements and standards in mathematics and numeracy were good or better.

The same report said while there was improvement across the system, some pupils still struggled to attain, however.

"Too many pupils still receive an education that is not good enough, particularly those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds," the report read.

"While more pupils are achieving well, the attainment gap between those entitled to free school meals and those not, remains a challenge."

UTU general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said she was concerned.

"We want to know how ETI can state that too many children are failing to get a good enough education here when our primary school pupils are the highest-achieving in Europe," she said.

"They are only behind primary pupils in the East Asian countries Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, yet ETI in its latest recent report claimed a fifth of lessons here were below standard.

"The TIMMS report is testimony to the hard work of our children, the parental support behind every successful child and the exemplary work of our teachers in the face of a system top heavy with bureaucracy, box ticking and number crunching."

Ms Hall Callaghan added that the Executive needed to look again at its cancelled `signature project', which helped improve children's reading and maths.

"It helped almost 19,000 pupils, provided jobs for 310 new teachers and gave extra staff to hundreds of schools," she said.

"If proof were needed that the expertise of teachers is irrefutably linked to their pupils' success then this TIMMS study is it."

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