General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Putting Pupils First: Improving outcomes; creating opportunity



Putting Pupils First: Improving outcomes; creating opportunity

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has outlined the next steps in the drive to raise educational standards.

Addressing the Assembly, Mr O’Dowd provided an update on the actions he has taken since his September 2011 statement ‘Putting Pupils First: Shaping our Future’ and signalled a further programme of work aimed at raising educational outcomes for all our young people. Central to this will be a focus on teaching and leadership in schools.

The Minister also announced that the north would take part in a major Review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) providing us with an in-depth country review of our education system carried out by independent experts.

Mr O’Dowd said: “In ‘Shaping the Future’ I set out the challenges associated with a schools’ estate that was not well planned in the past and that needed realignment with the educational needs of local communities. Since then viability audits have been carried out, the area planning exercise is underway and major capital investment has been planned and announced.

“Importantly there is an increasingly mature and healthy debate happening in communities about the future planning of our schools’ estate.”

The Minister turned to the recently published report of the Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate on the state of the education system. He said: “The Chief Inspector tells us that inspections and follow-up inspections of 62 post-primary schools resulted in overall effectiveness being evaluated as good or better in 59%. It is right that we pay tribute to the staff and governors in those schools. But the other side of that statistic gives me real cause for concern because it tells us that, in 41% of the post-primary schools inspected, provision was not good enough.

“It is very clear from the Chief Inspector’s Report and from wider local and international evidence that effective school leadership and high quality teaching are central to delivering improvement.

“For that reason I propose to bring legislation to strengthen the role of the General Teaching Council as the professional body in supporting teachers and in upholding the highest professional standards.

“We will support the continuing professional development of teachers through a new strategy for teacher education that will focus on attracting the right people into teaching and then on how to support them as they prepare to become teachers and as they go through their career.

“I also intend that ESA will have a professional support service of the highest quality – responsive to the needs of teachers. In the interim I have tasked my officials to take action to ensure that the current structures deliver effectively for teachers.

“We know that great teachers can only flourish when they are supported in schools by great school leaders. We need therefore to take a new look at how we grow and support our school leaders – our principals, vice principals, Boards of Governors and others in leadership positions in schools.

“I will ensure the development and delivery of modern leadership programmes that reflect the challenges of the 21st century. I want those programmes to focus on developing leaders who lead effectively not only within their schools but beyond the school gates to meet the education needs of all young people in an area.

“I am also convinced that we need to reinvigorate the negotiation machinery that deals with principals’ and teachers’ pay and conditions of service. Should we not have the flexibility to reward principals based not on the number of pupils in their school but on the size of the challenges they face and on their success in overcoming those challenges? I would suggest that the leadership challenge in taking over an under-performing school with low aspirations and falling numbers may be far greater than that involved in leading a school with stable enrolment and a strong track record of delivering education.

“I also want to see more mobility in the profession. We have teachers and principals who have not experienced teaching outside their own school. I believe we need to do more to make sure that the recruitment process for principals values a breadth of experience, including employment outside the school.”

The Minister also announced that next year the north will be participating in a major OECD Review looking at how assessment and evaluation systems deliver improvements for pupils. This will help us learn from the experience of others as well as sharing our best practice. It will involve an in-depth country review of our education system carried out by independent experts from other OECD countries.

Mr O’Dowd said: “This is an exciting development that will provide valuable information to help us improve further our education system. It seems right that if we expect schools to be inspected and evaluated we should expect to subject our system as a whole to similar scrutiny – with the same objective, that of learning and improving.”

The Minister went on to highlight his intention to do more to support school governors. He announced the creation of a dedicated governor support service not only to provide training, advice and support; but also to develop greater opportunities for governors to share experience and to become a stronger, collective voice.

In conclusion, the Minister spoke of the importance of those the education system is here to serve and said: “I want to focus on the people who should be at the very heart of our education system – our young people and their parents. I want to make clear to the people we serve my commitment to raising standards – and to closing the achievement gap.

“The Programme for Government rightly sets ambitious targets for us. I want to work with everyone who has an interest in education to see those targets achieved.”


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