Northern Ireland

NI schools inspector Noelle Buick calls for urgent action

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Media captionNoelle Buick said there were unacceptable variations in education standards in Northern Ireland that must be addressed as a matter of urgency

Northern Ireland's chief inspector of schools has called for urgent action to deal with persistent shortcomings in the education system.

Noelle Buick said that while more children are achieving five good GCSE results, more needed to be done.

In a new report, she said there were unacceptable variations in education standards throughout Northern Ireland.

She said some pupils were served better than others, but added that a good education should not be left to chance.

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) observed more than 11,000 lessons and training sessions in Northern Ireland over the past two years.

While it found the quality of teaching was mainly good or better, Ms Buick said the system needed to have higher aspirations.

Image copyright Office for National Statistics
Image caption Northern Ireland fares badly regarding qualifications, according to the Office for National Statistics figures for 2013

Children receiving free school meals are still more likely to have poorer qualifications and the inspector said this could not be allowed to continue.

The inspectorate found that the number of young people not in education, employment or training remained too high.

The Ulster Teachers' Union said it was disappointed by the tone of the report, "given the excellent job teachers were doing with limited and shrinking resources".

"There are many positive elements within the ETI report and we welcome those, but in responding to the more negative elements we would again raise concerns about the level of mistrust which exists between the inspectorate and teachers," the union said.

"Schools felt, at times, they were fighting for their very survival as a result of these inspections, yet they felt the inspection system was unreasonable and bearing little resemblance (to) inspection systems in other jurisdictions."

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