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Schools Chief Inspector’s Report shows hard decisions are needed

11 February, 2009

Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has said that the Chief Inspector of School's report shows the good work being done in schools, but also shows more needs to be done.

The minister said:

"I welcome this comprehensive report from the Chief Inspector and thank him and his colleagues for the important contribution they make to raising standards in our schools.

"The report has shown improvements in all areas which come under the responsibility of the Department of Education and I recognise the work that those in daily contact with our children and young people have put in to achieve these improvements.

"I am however concerned that there are major areas which require urgent attention to ensure our children and young people are given the best possible educational experiences at every level.

"The report shows that almost one fifth of pupils do not attain standards in literacy and numeracy expected for their age by the time they leave primary school. This is worrying and an obvious contributor to the fact that one thousand pupils leave school without any GCSE qualifications. The report also shows that in one quarter of primary and post-primary schools, leadership and management needs to improve. The strength of leadership has a direct impact on the level of standards in a school and we need to encourage and support teachers to develop as leaders.

"For too long the unacceptable level of underachievement in our schools has been ignored, but I am determined that changes are needed and will be implemented.

"I have a programme of progressive reforms underway, including proposals on post-primary arrangements. This report shows the need for these reforms, which will help raise standards in our schools. Every school has the potential to be a good school and our School Improvement Policy and Literacy and Numeracy Strategy will be key elements in our efforts to help children and young people raise their levels of achievement.

"In addition, the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) in January 2010 will see the wholesale reform of the administration of education. ESA will deliver genuine benefits for schools and the pupils they serve, while addressing equality issues in many areas. ESA will also be instrumental in supporting schools in their work to raise standards and will challenge schools where necessary.

"The number of children educated through the medium of Irish continues to grow and the Chief Inspector has noted the strengths and improvements in Irish-medium education, which makes a distinctive contribution to the educational landscape. The report also notes the sometimes poor accommodation due to lack of investment, which is far short of what should be expected. This is an area where support will need to be provided in the future.

"The Chief Inspector also notes that special needs schools, where invaluable services are provided for our most vulnerable children, have demonstrated their capacity and confidence in sustaining good standards.

"I will be meeting the Chief Inspector to discuss this important report and recommendations and have asked that copies are made available to all schools and those who serve on Boards of Governors. There is much to celebrate in education, but hard decisions need to be taken if improvements are to be made." ENDS

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