Education news

West Belfast school `positive' after follow-up inspection

St John the Baptist PS in west Belfast is working to be removed from 'special measures'. Picture by Mal McCann

Inspectors have returned to a prominent west Belfast primary school as it works to be removed from `special measures'.

It has almost been a year since St John the Baptist PS entered the formal intervention process after receiving a performance grade of "inadequate".

Staff absences had shot up to four times the Northern Ireland average.

The inspection team also flagged serious issues relating to leadership and management, accommodation and health and safety.

Both the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and INTO teachers' union said they had problems with the inspection report.

INTO said current staff were being penalised for historical matters beyond their control, adding that absence rates had improved significantly.

Almost all teaching observed was "good or better", but it was issues with leadership and management that caused it to fall into the inadequate bracket.

The co-educational school opened in 2011 following the amalgamation of the separate St John the Baptist Boys' and Girls' schools on Finaghy Road North.

Those schools had served the parish of St Michael the Archangel since 1974.

Jeannette Chapman, the merged school's first principal, was placed on precautionary suspension in the summer of 2014. The school has an acting principal in place at present.

It is understood there has been a significant reduction in teacher absences and the CCMS said it was pleased with the progress made.

Between 2013/14 and 2014/15, the cost of long-term sickness at the school dropped from £43,895 to £39,584.

A CCMS spokeswoman said the first interim visit by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) took place last week and inspectors had already reported back to the principal.

"The outcome was very positive. There was clear evidence of the outworking of the agreed action plans in that they are having a positive impact on staff motivation and the children's learning," she said.

"CCMS is very encouraged by this and acknowledges the professionalism of the senior leadership team and staff in effectively addressing the areas identified for development.

"A full follow-up inspection will take place over the coming months at a time agreed by ETI."

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