Education and Training has many positives, despite challenging times

Noelle Buick, Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) today launched her biennial report covering the period 2016-2018.

The report – Learning Lessons: Inspiring People: Putting Learners First – sets out the strengths identified as well as the key challenges facing education and training in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch at Riddel Hall, Noelle said: “Education and training has many positives which should be celebrated.  There are many exceptional leaders, teachers, lecturers and youth workers who are inspirational and put learners’ needs first. As inspectors we pride ourselves on being an advocate for the learner.  Given the opportunity, we are able to promote improvement to ensure children and young people not only realise but surpass their potential.”

Education and Training has many positives, despite challenging times Highlighting some of the strengths, Noelle said: “The majority of pre-school children are getting a good education. For those in primary, there are high standards in mathematics and good development of children’s thinking skills and personal capabilities. Inspectors found effective provision for learners with complex educational, social, emotional and behavioural needs and a growing recognition of the beneficial impact of high quality care, welfare and safeguarding on academic success. In further education and training most of the trainees and apprentices develop good or better professional and technical skills.”

Highlighting the challenges facing education, the Chief Inspector said: “Exam results continue to show improvement however large gaps in attainment are still not being addressed with the necessary urgency and energy.  Pupils on free school meals continue to underperform overall and there is a gap in performance between boys and girls.

“There is a direct correlation between attendance at school and good outcomes.  Too many pupils miss school as a result of unapproved absences, suspension or expulsion and the rate of absence grows as pupils move from primary to post-primary education.”

Commenting on the inspection process and the ongoing industrial action in some schools that are not co-operating with inspection, the Chief Inspector said: “Parents deserve to know if their children are getting a good education and have a right to be reassured about the quality of education in their local schools.  Inspection is vital to bringing about improvement in the interest of the learners. The work of inspectors affirms what is working well and challenges what is not good enough.

“It is unacceptable for this disruption to continue unresolved.  We are all entrusted with the care and education of our children and young people and have a responsibility to put them first above all else.”

Continuing, Noelle called for a coordinated, multi-agency healthy lifestyles programme to address both obesity and mental health issues in young people.  She said: “We need to get better at working innovatively and collaboratively if we are to address the growing health problems amongst our young people.  Being overweight is a growing problem with one-fifth of primary one children affected.  There is also a significant and growing number of learners presenting with complex and mental health needs.”

On shared education, she said: “Learners are benefitting well from their involvement in shared education partnerships which results in the development of positive, mutually respectful attitudes”.

In conclusion, Noelle commended the many dedicated professions who work in education and training.  She said: “In my last report I emphasised the importance of working together to achieve success for all.  This message is all the more important in the current climate.  We can learn lessons from the past and from each other to inspire everyone to give their best to shape an education and training system that better meets the needs of all learners.”

The Chief Inspector’s Report 16-18 can be found on ETI website here.