Teachers' action over pay risks having detrimental impact on children, report warns

Chief inspector Noelle Buick

ACTION by teachers risks having a detrimental impact on children, the north's chief inspector has warned.

Noelle Buick today published her latest biennial report, covering July 2016 to June this year.

The report details what is going well but also highlights key challenges facing the education and training sectors.

Much of the reporting period coincided with industrial action by teachers.

All main teaching unions withdrew cooperation with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) last year as part of action short of strike over pay.

Since the action began, inspectors have begun visits and reported as usual, but hundreds of reports have gaps and contain no overall inspection grade.

The ETI was unable to report overall effectiveness conclusions in 38 per cent of all primary inspections, and four per cent of both post-primary and special school visits.

In her report, Ms Buick said it was regrettable that, where there was action short of strike, in a small number of schools involved in the follow?up inspection process, areas for improvement identified prior to had not been re?evaluated.

Governors in many primary schools scheduled for inspection chose not to provide necessary assurance of safeguarding arrangements at the time of the initial inspection, contrary to their legal responsibility, Ms Buick found.

"The risk is that, in these schools, learners may be continuing to experience a quality of education which is not good enough," she reported.

"In primary and post?primary schools this action has left the ETI unable to assure that any school improvement work is having the desired impact for 3,433 learners."

In many other school inspections, where the ETI was able to report findings, she said, principals, senior leadership teams and governors found these helpful in promoting improvement.

"However, without the evidence from observing learning and teaching, the ETI is unable to assure parents/carers, the wider school community, the Department of Education and other stakeholders of the quality of education being provided for the 15,153 learners in the primary and post-primary schools due for full inspections where we could not report either evaluative findings or overall effectiveness conclusions."

Including `sustaining improvement' and `monitoring' inspections in this total, she added, "the ETI is unable to assure the quality of education for a total of 42,702 learners".

The protracted period of action, she said, was preventing ETI from affirming all of the strengths and the improvements being made, as well as identifying where the important and urgent improvements were needed.

"A failure to implement improvement will ultimately have a detrimental impact on learners. Inspection drives positive change and, as a result, learners get a better education," Ms Buick said.

The chief inspector also noted that the last two years had seen a period of unprecedented challenge in the schools' sector where "difficult budgetary restrictions are biting hard".

While area planning to ensure sustainable schools was taking place, she noted, it needed to advance at a much quicker pace.

Her report further found that too many children "under-achieve, struggle to learn in under-performing schools".

Educational and vocational routes were being "needlessly blocked by decisions about curriculum and assessment made by schools and governors who prioritise the interests of their school or organisation over the needs of the learners".

"Schools need to provide a curriculum that is suited to the needs of their learners putting them first," Ms Buick added.

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