Education news

Teachers' action effectively shelves school support scheme

Formal intervention provides schools with support to address issues identified by inspectors

A SUPPORT scheme that helps schools urgently address problems highlighted by inspectors has been effectively shelved due to action by teachers.

It has been more than two years since a school was last placed in the Formal Intervention Process, the north's equivalent to `special measures'.

Teaching unions' refusal to cooperate with inspections, as part of action over pay, means the related improvement scheme has also taken a hit.

The Education and Training Inspectorate has been unable to complete hundreds of reports.

All main unions withdrew cooperation as part of action short of a strike, which began in January 2017.

They rejected a pay offer that would see staff receive no across-the-board rise for 2015/16, and a one per cent cost of living uplift for 2016/17. Talks are continuing.

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

In many reports they also warn parents they cannot guarantee their children are being kept safe.

Incomplete reports means that potential shortcomings that could be addressed through formal intervention are not being identified.

Schools are only put into intervention after an inspection if their quality of education is considered unsatisfactory or inadequate.

They then receive tailored support from the Education Authority (EA) or Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS). Each school will commits to working with the EA or CCMS to then deliver an agreed action plan to address the areas for improvement.

The last school to enter the programme was The Academy Nursery in Derry in April 2017. It exited in March this year after inspectors said outcomes for learners "are now outstanding".

There are 17 schools in formal intervention at present.

INTO Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy was critical of the process and praised the continuing action.

"Formal intervention is a failed concept. Schools that require additional support have in reality no where to turn," he said.

"Principals and teachers have been forced, in the face of unrelenting budgets cuts and continuing unrealistic demands from the Department of Education and employing authorities, to work ever harder to meet targets and deliver upon expectations that have been cooked up by bureaucrats unaware of the realities in our schools.

"The time has come for a root and branch re-evaluation of our education system. As things currently stand we have a system that is being maintained by a workforce that is under paid and over worked, directed by an administration that appears blind to the crisis unfolding before them."

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