Body for state schools providing `effective' support, review finds
THE body representing state controlled education is "very proactive" in representing schools, according to a review.
The Controlled Schools' Support Council (CSSC) was found to be providing effective assistance.
It was established in September 2016, funded by the Department of Education, after the Executive agreed that there was a "historical deficit" in state schools' representation.
There are already advocacy bodies for the Catholic, integrated and Irish-medium sectors.
There are 560 controlled schools, almost half of all providers in Northern Ireland. The sector comprises nursery, primary and post primary, special, integrated and Irish-medium.
Business Consultancy Service (BCS) has now completed the first review of the council and made some recommendations.
It sought to analyse the effectiveness of CSSC to ensure that it was delivering on the functions agreed by the Executive. It further assessed "the added value provided to the controlled schools' sector".
Surveys were issued to all controlled schools.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) indicated that CSSC had been effective or very effective in its representational and advocacy function. Only 4 per cent suggested it was ineffective.
Among those who considered CSSC's work in this area as effective, several schools stated that the sector was now represented more effectively than before.
Stakeholder consultation supported the view that the body had been effective in the initial stages of its advocacy and representational role.
"While it was acknowledged that it is difficult to judge the impact of the role at this stage, there is a sense that CSSC is particularly strong in this area, with proactive research and marketing, along with an ability to respond to consultations quickly and effectively," the report read.
Across schools and through wider stakeholder consultation, there was a strong consensus that the consideration of collective ethos for controlled schools was an area that has been neglected within the sector for, with CSSC having an integral role in addressing this gap.
BSC made several recommendations that included developing a clearly defined programme of work to develop ethos.
It also said CSSC should develop an action plan to develop its role in identifying and encouraging potential governors to apply for specific roles.
It added that CSSC, along with the department, should ensure that its raising standards work supported that of the Education Authority.
Welcoming the review, a CSSC spokeswoman said the council had a clear mandate to speak on schools' behalf.
"The controlled education sector is diverse and inclusive, comprising nursery, primary, special, non-selective and grammar schools. CSSC's functions include advocacy; ethos development; recruiting, identifying and nominating governors; raising standards; and estate management," she said.
"CSSC notes the content of the review, which highlights the positive approaches taken by CSSC since its inception. The review acknowledges that this is a snapshot in time. In this context, CSSC, as part of its developing business strategy, had already identified and addressed many of the actions that are now being presented.
"CSSC would like to thank DE for commissioning the review, the findings of which have been both affirming of CSSC's work to date and provide areas for consideration for the future. CSSC looks forward to further engagement with DE in relation to the review of CSSC's organisational structure, workload and grading of staff."
The Controlled Schools' Support Council was created in 2016 as a new advocacy body for almost half of all schools in Northern Ireland.
It was the first time, in more than 30 years, that the sector had a representative voice.
Controlled schools, while considered de-facto Protestant, are non-denominational and open to all faiths and none.
The need for CSSC was made clear in the short time it has been in existence, with 94 per cent of controlled schools opting-in to register with it.
The council works in partnership with the Education Authority, Department of Education, other sectoral bodies and schools.
The sector's schools aim to provide high quality education for children "to enable them to learn, develop and grow together, within the ethos of non-denominational Christian values and principles".
The body works on behalf of schools and the wider controlled education sector to enhance the quality of education provision.
It focuses on advocacy on behalf of individual schools and the wider controlled sector.
It also works to develop and maintain ethos within the sector and supports the Education Authority with appointment and training of governors.
It assists schools to further raise levels of achievement and also looks at development plans for changes to school provision.