Boards of Governors have a vital role to play in providing strong leadership in our primary schools and raising educational standards.
That was the message from Education Minister John O’Dowd as he addressed the Primary School Governors Association conference in Downshire Primary School, Hillsborough.
Addressing the delegates the Minister said:
“School Governors are vital in helping to run and manage our schools and they should take a central role in promoting the raising of educational standards. Good governance along with good teaching and learning in schools that are connected to their community is crucial to the building of a first class education system.
“The Chief Inspector’s biennial report recently published portrays an improving picture in our primary schools. It shows that the revised curriculum has bedded in well and is making a difference and that the overall quality of provision was good or better in four fifths of the schools inspected. As Governors, you and your schools deserve credit for the improvements that have been delivered. However, there is more to do to raise achievement - particularly between the most and the least disadvantaged.
“It is important that you do not underestimate the role and capability of your Board of Governors, as a body in its own right, to change the outlook of your school and its future performance. In recognition of the importance of your role, I announced last week my intention to enhance the level of support currently offered to you.
“Next year we will be participating in a major review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which will look 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 practices. I look forward to welcoming the OECD expert team in the New Year and hope that they will have an opportunity to speak to a number of school governors during the course of their review.”
The Minister went on to comment on the ongoing area planning process for the primary sector.
He said: “You will be aware that I have commissioned the Boards in conjunction with the CCMS and other sectors to take forward area planning. There has been significant coverage in the media about the viability audits that were carried out at the start of this process and suggestions that my intention was to use this information to close small schools. Let me assure that this is not the case. My intention was to put information out in the public domain that would inform a mature debate about the future of our schools.
“This, I believe has happened. There are discussions taking place now that would not have occurred a year ago. Let me outline my position on small schools. Where it can be clearly demonstrated through the area plan that a small school is needed, there will be a small school.
“However, I must also make it clear that we have too many schools that are the result of demographic decline and a lack of strategic planning. Good education cannot be advanced in an unsustainable schools estate and I have asked the Boards to review all schools with the view to putting in place a managed programme of change to reshape the current provision.
“My Department has received draft primary area plans and we are working closely with the Boards to prepare these for consultation. These will be published early in the New Year.”