General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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The Teaching Profession speaks out


The Teaching Profession speaks out against narrow measurement in favour of more creative 21st Century Learning

A massive 1200+ response from virtually all schools in Northern Ireland to a GTCNI report entitled ‘Striking the Right Balance’ calls for changes to Inspection & School Improvement policies to free up teachers and pupils to be more creative, innovative and engaged in 21st Century style learning 

The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), the professional and regulatory body for teachers, will be presenting a major report today to an Assembly Inquiry into the Education and Training Inspectorate and the school improvement process. The report is endorsed by virtually all schools, teachers unions and higher education institutions in Northern Ireland. 
The report challenges the wisdom of constant narrow measurements of pupils and data-driven inspection of schools, which leads to ‘compliance without engagement’ and inhibits the development of the kind of skills and capabilities necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing world. These are the kind of skills employers are calling for, which investors want to find in Northern Ireland and which our young people and teachers need freedom and opportunity to develop.    

A GTCNI survey related to the Inquiry generated a massive 1200+ response in 72 hours in favour of a more supportive approach to inspection, school improvement and value-added. 
Dr Carmel Gallagher, Registrar of the General Teaching Council commented: “As the professional and regulatory body for teachers, GTCNI aims to provide a platform for teachers to speak with one professional voice about issues that impact on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to improve the educational experience of young people.
We launched an online survey early this week to gather teachers’ views and experience about approaches to school inspection and school improvement. The feedback has been staggering, with over 1200 responses in three days. The profession is speaking out loudly and clearly with one voice. The feedback strongly endorses the evidence presented in our submission to the Inquiry which calls for a framework of school accountability that ‘strikes the right balance’ between accountability and freedom to develop 21st Century Learning. We have conducted extensive research into models of good practice elsewhere including Scotland, Finland and New Zealand. It is apparent that the existing pressures on schools here and our narrow measurement culture runs contrary to the experience of teachers in high achieving countries’.    

Dr Gallagher went on to say: 
“Concern about the inspection process is only the tip of the iceberg. The massive response suggests that the education system is under severe strain at the moment. Schools are struggling with cutbacks and area-based rationalisation. There is widespread frustration at proposals to reallocate funding in already straightened circumstances, the impact of which, it seems, has not been fully assessed. There has been annoyance about poorly thought through assessment proposals. There has been a total ‘run down’ in the provision for school support, due to the delay in approving the Education and Skills Authority (ESA). There is an almost total absence of teacher professional development. Add to this the focus on constant monitoring, measurement and bureaucracy and this does not make for a very happy system’.
The clear message is that constant measuring, monitoring, inspecting, and reporting is inhibiting rather than enabling and motivating teachers, schools and pupils. By all means hold schools accountable but don’t let an obsession with accountability detract from learning and suppress the motivation and creativity of pupils and teachers. We have to strike the right balance if we want our education system to meet 21st Century challenges”.     
GTCNI has put forward 20 research-based recommendations to improve current approaches to inspection, school improvement, value added and overall education policy coherence. 

Dr Gallagher added: “On behalf of a dedicated and resilient teaching profession we welcome the opportunity to present our constructive proposals directly to the Education Committee. We also look forward to working collaboratively with the Department of Education and the Minister towards ‘striking the right balance’ between accountability, creativity and innovation within our education system.”    

A summary of the GTCNI response to the Inquiry into the ETI and school improvement process is available to download from the GTCNI website

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