Strong and effective leadership is essential if our young people are to reach their full potential.
That was the message from Education Minister John O’Dowd as he addressed the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference in Belfast today.
Speaking at the conference the Minister said:
“It is widely recognised that the quality of leadership in a school is second only to teaching in its impact on student outcomes.
“I recognise the importance of strong effective governance and leadership in helping to maintain and improve standards and so I welcome the theme of today’s conference – ‘Leading for School Improvement’.
“We have many excellent school leaders here and that excellence should be applauded however we cannot be complacent. School leaders need to inspire positive change in others and focus on helping everyone succeed.
“The Education and Training Inspectorate recommended that a more co-ordinated approach to the building of school leadership capacity between schools themselves and the education providers is required.
“The development of leadership skills needs to be focused more sharply on school improvement and with greater urgency and effectiveness than it has in the past.
“I recognise that school leadership has never been so demanding, and it is important that our school leaders have the right levels of support to enable them to do their job well.
“That is why leadership is one of the key themes of my ‘Strategy for Teacher Professional Learning’, which I will be publishing in the coming weeks.”
The Minister continued by asking for support to implement the strategy. He said:
“The strategy will provide a structured framework for teacher professional learning over the next decade. It will be a starting point of a carefully managed process of implementation with ongoing engagement with teachers and leaders."
The Minister then highlighted the ongoing work being done to tackle educational underachievement. He said:
“Tackling inequalities in education is something I take seriously. Whilst some progress has been made in recent years, this is a multi-faceted, societal issue and one that the education authorities and school cannot tackle alone.
“Together, we must all re-double our efforts to improve the educational outcomes for all of our children. Teachers and leaders need the support of parents and communities to do this.”
The Minister also said the practice of academic selection and rejection being used by some schools is damaging our education system. He said:
"It is unacceptable a minority of schools force thousands of young people to sit unregulated transfer tests. These tests put unnecessary pressure on primary school children. Gone are the days when a test set at 11 set the course of a child's educational pathway and indeed their career. The Entitlement Framework ensures that every child regardless of what school he or she may attend can access the same curriculum. The Equality Commission, the OECD and the PUP report Firm Foundations - Education: Getting it Right for Every Child, all concluded that selection perpetuates division in society. Crucially though, these unregulated tests are not child-centred and as such they are not necessary. It is time for the 65 schools who use academic selection to end this unnecessary use of entrance tests."
In conclusion, the Minister said:
“Despite the challenges that are presented to us we must continue to push the boundaries for our young people and ensure that they get the education they deserve.
“I realise the current financial position has presented us with significant challenges. I have taken every action possible to protect education funding. Whilst it has not been possible to protect everything within my remit I will continue to place the interests of pupils at the centre of all that I do. I will therefore continue to push for the best possible deal for education, protecting the future of our young people for years to come.”
Notes to editors:
- The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign promotes the value of education. This year’s campaign aims to ensure that parents have information on schooling and that they are aware of the steps they can take to ‘Get Involved’ and support their teenager in achieving good outcomes at school. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect - Education Works for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
- See photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
- Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715 440, and your call will be returned.