Over half of the primary schools set in most deprived communities deemed ‘not good’ by ETI in past 3 years

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51.4% of Primary schools set in our most deprived communities inspected during the three year period of 2011-2013 received overall ETI assessments below good, with all found to be either ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Inadequate.’

In contrast, just 1 out of 10 schools with Free School Meal % (FSM%) of less than 20% were deemed to be below good.

Similarly, whilst 7 in 10 schools with less than 10% FSM pupils were found to be either ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Good’ (the highest two of the six grades used by the ETI), just over a quarter (27.2%) of schools with more than 50% FSM pupils received the same grade.

The figures come from a report which I have produced (ETI Primary Inspection Report) after analysing the ETI findings as contained in primary school-based inspections over a 3-year period (from January 2011 to December 2013.)

The percentage of pupils entitled to Free School Meals exists as the only credible means of assessing the differing socio-economic profile of the pupil intake of a school, and is used by the Department of Education to benchmark performance for primary schools at end of Key Stage level (P4 & P7.)

In total, during the 3 year period, just over 340 primary schools were inspected (excluding Follow-Up inspections), with less than 10% of schools receiving the highest grade of ‘Outstanding’ (32 schools.)

The grade received by the highest number of schools was ‘Very Good,’ the second highest grade (151, or 44%.)

No school was deemed ‘Unsatisfactory’ (the lowest, or sixth grade), but almost 20% of schools were found to be below the grade 3 level of ‘Good’, with 56 being deemed ‘Satisfactory’ (16%) and 11 ‘Inadequate’ (3%).

Whilst a number of controlled sector schools in north and west Belfast received the ‘Inadequate’ grade, Lowwood PS with more than 50% FSM pupils received a Grade 1 (Outstanding), and Currie PS a Grade 2 (Very Good), both also set in north Belfast. Dunmurry PS, a controlled school in south Belfast, also received a Grade 1, illustrating how performance levels varied across and within education sectors. A disproportionately high number of Catholic maintained schools received the ‘Outstanding’ grade with only one maintained school being deemed ‘Inadequate.’

The ETI findings are important because, in stark contrast to the exams-oriented league table format often used to compare the quality of education in the post-primary sector, the use of inspections to contextualize and compare school performance in the primary sector should allow for the ETI to assess value-added, taking into consideration the differing socio-economic backgrounds of the pupils in a school community amongst other factors.

I’ve no reason to doubt this is indeed the case, which leads to the unavoidable conclusion that, even when value added and context is factored in, the judgement of the ETI inspectors remains that the quality of education, and of leadership and management, in the schools serving the most deprived sections of our community is below standard in a disproportionately high number of schools.

The trend of ETI assessments would suggest that it is progressively more difficult for school leaders to secure the better ETI grades as the number and percentage of FSM pupils increases in a school. The reverse is also true: it is significantly easier for school leaders in affluent school settings to avoid the lower ETI grades for their schools than is the case for those in schools with high FSM numbers.

There are two logical explanations for this: Either the quality of school leader deteriorates as the percentage of FSM pupils increases in a school, or there are other significant contributing factors which influence the quality of education and ability of school leaders to shape the ethos and culture of a school.

Let’s imagine that there are two mythical principals, with identical talents, skills and experience, both performing at a level that could be characterized as ‘good.’  Principal A is in a school with 12% FSM pupils, whilst Principal B is leading a school with 59% FSM pupils (both of those figures have been plucked from the sky and bear no relation to schools which may, by coincidence, be similarly profiled.)

The limited ability of the ‘good’ Principal B to impact upon the culture of his/her school will have more significant repercussions that are tangibly visible than is the case for the ‘good’ Principal A quite simply because setting and maintaining the appropriate standards across the key themes of achievement, provision and leadership will require a higher caliber of leader in schools set in more challenging environments.

Yet it is equally clear, from the ETI judgements of a number of primary schools serving our most deprived communities, that this can be achieved with the right leadership, and this is also borne out in post-primary through the vastly contrasting ETI grades  and exam performance of pupils in schools of similar demographic profiles.

A robust inspection process is essential to maintain and raise standards across schools, but the extent to which this can be achieved remains a doubt. The Department of Education’s ‘Every School A Good School’ (ESAGS) policy and the school formal intervention processes have sharpened the ETI’s approach, but a renewed and innovative approach to improving the quality of leadership and management and incentivizing the best and brightest of school leaders to work in the areas most in need should be considered. Whilst increasing the funding pot for schools tasked with doing the heaviest of lifting in our education system (ie those serving the most deprived communities) is essential- as recommended by Sir Robert Salisbury in his review of the Common Funding Scheme- what recent history also illustrates is that money alone will not raise standards. Indeed, it is notable that many of the Belfast schools given poor inspection grades were in receipt of additional funding and extra support initiatives dating back many years, including Renewing Communities and Achieving Belfast, as well as the DSC Signature Project initiative.

The poor standard of leadership in some schools has long been identified by the ETI as a central cause contributing to poor performance of schools, and in this sense it is worrying that the ETI’s own research (‘Preparing School Principals to be Effective Leaders’- March 2013) into the efficacy of the school leadership programmes concluded that, from 2009-12, the quality of leadership in primary schools was only Satisfactory or worse in 23% of schools inspected. Other findings included that there was no apparent value-added demonstrated in the effectiveness of school leaders who had graduated from the RTU’s school leadership programme, the Professional Qualification for Headship, or ‘PQH’ (this followed on from an analysis of the 699 schools inspected from September 2006 to June 2012, comparing performance of schools in which principals were or were not PQH graduates.)

N.B.

In past years, primary school inspections existed in different formats as ‘Short’ and ‘Focused’ inspections. Since the beginning of September 2013, these have been replaced by a single inspection format called ‘Primary’ inspections. For schools receiving inspection grades less than ‘good’, the ETI will often conduct a ‘Follow Up’ inspection after a period of time has passed in order to examine whether or not the areas of concern contributing to the decision to grade the school as below ‘good’ have been adequately dealt with by the school.

All of the new ETI inspection reports provide in a clear, table format the grades in each of the four key criteria: Overall, Achievement and Standards, Provision and Leadership and Management.

ETI inspections culminate with an ‘Overall’ grade assessment being given regarding the standard of education being provided by the school. Whilst there are six grades, in reality the ‘Unsatisfactory’ (or 6th) Grade is very rarely given to a school, meaning that schools will usually be given a grade ranging from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate.’ Although the ETI strictly avoid the practice, it is common for those involved in education to translate these terms into number form in the following way, which also proved useful when collating results from the 343 reports conducted over the 3-year period:

1: Outstanding

2: Very Good

3: Good

4: Satisfactory

5: Inadequate

6: Unsatisfactory

 

 

 

  • cynic2

    Has the Minister resigned? He and his predecessor have presided over this for years

    When will SF voters in North and West Belfast realize its all blow and no go with SInn Fein

  • GEF

    I wonder what the education minister has to say about this incident happening in a state school in the ROI?

    “Protestant boy punished for not attending Catholic First Communion”

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/republic-of-ireland/protestant-boy-punished-for-not-attending-catholic-first-communion-30020048.html

  • Anton

    Very interesting analysis, however social class and parential influence in more affluent areas will outweigh qualities of leadership as more outspoken parents tend to come fom these areas and influence the selection of principals. Itis rare for a successful lradet to move from the leafy suburbs to the inner city

  • aquifer

    Depressingly toddlers arrive at these schools already behind. The Americans were getting good results with home visitors supporting vulnerable parents pre-school.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Education has been mostly the responsibility of the shinners from 1999 when Martin McGuinness took the office.

    When the executive was suspended direct rule ministers covered the years from 2002-2007.

    From 2007 we have had unbroken shinner ministers overseeing what can only be described as a poor to average education system.

    When is the shinner minister O’Dowd going to resign, as a “must do better” report is not good enough for this department.

  • Rapunsell

    Ardoyne unionist and cynic 2

    When are

    1. Protestant and unionist communities and others with poor performance going to realise that its not enough to only have good schools but to develop and maintain a culture and attitudes in family and community that believes in and nurtures learning?

    2. Boards of governors take their responsibility seriously and deal within their powers with leaders andother staff not capable of leading transformation?

  • Mick Fealty

    Anton, levelling up is huge demand. But there has to be some form of qualitative intervention available that can move outcomes. Valuing leadership might be one way forward.

    To some extent, it’s a matter of paying attention to the detail, and more importantly looking for them, surely?

  • Charles_Gould

    Rapunsell

    “develop and maintain a culture and attitudes in family and community that believes in and nurtures learning”

    Doh. How stupid of them not to do that. How would you suggest it be done?

  • Neil

    AU, Cynic,

    GCSE grades have improved every year since 2005, from about 60% of students with 5 A – C grade GCSEs to around 80% now. That’s a 20% improvement (just to spell it out for you, since you seem to have totally misapprehended the article above).

    http://www.deni.gov.uk/year_12_and_year_14__examination_performance_at_post-primary_schools_in_northern_ireland_2012-13.pdf

  • Barnshee

    “That’s a 20% improvement (just to spell it out for you, since you seem to have totally misapprehended the article above).”

    “Standards” (associated with a shift in examination structure)have been falling in eg mathematics for 40 years or more -give any of the modern lot a 50s “”o” level paper and see how they get on.
    Pupil ability varies-sorry its a fact of life There are very good cohorts, not so good cohorts and some bad years–Genetics associated with hard work will out

    http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/02/18/china-39-s-poorest-children-outperform-uk-39-s-wealthiest-in-international-maths-tests.aspx
    .

    ” Protestant and unionist communities and others with poor performance going to realise that its not enough to only have good schools but to develop and maintain a culture and attitudes in family and community that believes in and nurtures learning?”

    Ah –I see the mad scramble to get into a grammar school any almost any cost and avoid the tribulations of the “secondary” system has no connection with

    “a culture and attitudes in family and community that believes in and nurtures learning?”

    You might also consider that the old adage of making a silk purse out of a pigs ear might apply. Schools have fair access to teachers and other resources –where there is “failure” I suggest that some individuals might consider– hey it might not be society`s fault –it might be my fault.

    I am baffled by the idea that because a child gets a free school dinner this somehow impairs his intellectual ability and its development. Parental wealth and parental academic achievement will clearly influence child performance – How much?well –to repeat silk purses and pigs ears spring to mind. Again genetics will out.

    There has been free primary and secondary education since -what 1948 -university level education for those meeting relatively modest entry standards (depending on the university/faculty) since 1966?
    “Failure” hey it might not be society`s fault –it might be my fault

  • Chris Donnelly

    School leadership is but one factor, but the contrasting fortunes in terms of exam results and ETI judgements of schools with similar demographic profiles illustrates that it is an important one.

    Anton is right, to a point. It certainly would be true that many teachers and school leaders balk at the prospect of gaining employment in certain working class-based schools. This is not a new thing, nor is it unique to our part of the world.

    The DSC Signature Project Initiative is interesting, and as one tasked with directing it within my own school, I can certainly attest to the advantages of having a teacher tasked with the singular objective of targeting a certain level of underachiever.

    But even that project is revealing. Schools are instructed to focus exclusively on pupils they believe capable of securing a Level 4 in Maths and English by the end of P7.

    It’s a pragmatic approach, but it also illustrates how multi-layered underachievement and low attainment are when you realise that there is a sizeable cohort of pupils below this level.

    Neil is also correct. Results are improving, and this is related to ESAGS and the more pronounced culture of accountability within education here, which Sinn Fein could also claim credit for.

    But I’m personally not interested in this being a party political matter.

    I’d like to see a number of developments which to my mind could improve the quality of the educational experience for all of our children.

    Firstly, I think CASS and ETI should function as one body to more effectively deal with the process of remedying the problems identified through inspection.

    I’d also like to see an innovative approach to addressing underachievement in working-class based schools.

    The Common Funding Formula proposal by Salisbury represented a step forward, but I’d go further and push for education zones encompassing schools in specified working-class districts, with a history of low educational achievement, in which the incentive of additional renumeration for school leaders is checked with a significantly enhanced level of accountability and expectation within fixed term contracts.

  • caseydog

    This is an (almost) excellent piece by Chris, although many of the subsequent comments are trivial and point scoring. Successive reports by the Chief Inspector have pointed up the difficulty in leading a non-selective school in a deprived area. In the post-primary sector the easiest school to manage is a girls grammar school whilst the most difficult is boys non-selective school in a deprived area. As Chris points out, even the additional money which is currently allocated to a deprived school does not level the playing field.

    The reason why I describe the piece as almost excellent excellent is because Chris doesn’t pose a possible solution : why can’t we do away with girls grammar schools and boys non-selective schools, and put all children in the same building?

  • Barnshee

    ” In the post-primary sector the easiest school to manage is a girls grammar school whilst the most difficult is boys non-selective school in a deprived area”

    Shakes head

    ASKS WHY
    “In the post-primary sector the easiest school to manage is a girls grammar school whilst the most difficult is boys non-selective school in a deprived are”

    Simple

    Girls grammar— + cognitive ability+ female attributes of better personal organisation etc = easy to motivate and manage pupils

    “why can’t we do away with girls grammar schools and boys non-selective schools, and put all children in the same building?”

    Over the parents dead bodies— allow their children to be exposed to the presence and the behaviour of the typical “secondary school ” cohort ? Over their dead bodies

    AGAIN– who is responsible for the difficulty in managing in deprived areas The teachers? hardly who is responsible for poor pupil behaviour?

  • caseydog

    Banshee – you don’t make it clear whether you agree with those parents who do not want their children educated alongside the ‘typical secondary school’ cohort. Could this be because you are uncomfortable with their views? Because, lets be honest, what you are defending is their preference for educational aparteid.

    Actually I think many people, not just you, are uncomfortable with the outworkings academic selection/rejection. They want the best education for their children, which is usually provided in a grammar school. But they have a sense of social justice because in many families some child has failed the test and been rejected.

    And many children, particularly outside Belfast are educated very successfully in all-ability schools. For example catholic post primary education is about to go all ability from next September. There are no dead bodies, to use your phrase, on the streets of Armagh. No outcry. Not a whimper.

    Belfast is the more difficult nut to crack. But there are a diminishing number of non-selective controlled schools. A larger proportion of Protestant children now gain entry to grammar schools. The system is less and less selective. The increase in grammar enrolment has been welcomed. On the catholic side the Bishops have given up, probably because most of their parishioners are middle class.

    But the issue will not go away! Injustice will not be covered up.

  • Barnshee

    “Banshee – you don’t make it clear whether you agree with those parents who do not want their children educated alongside the ‘typical secondary school’ cohort”

    The shortest experiences of
    1 Teaching girls in a grammar school
    and
    2 Teaching boys in a “secondary school” will highlight the horrors that would arise should the two be combined.

    “In the post-primary sector the easiest school to manage is a girls grammar school whilst the most difficult is boys non-selective school in a deprived are”

    Why ? well In my experience of both the answer lies in pupil behaviour-
    The Girls attend class promptly, sit largely quietly, listen/take part in the subject in hand,complete case work/projects/ homework on time. Are keen to succeed

    Boys– er none of the above

    (And don`t start me about “new broom” headteachers who are allowed to take decisions the previous office holder was prevented from implementing by the board of Governors)