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O’Dowd addresses INTO Northern Conference

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has addressed the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation’s (INTO) Northern Conference at the City Hotel in Derry.
Friday, 1 March 2013

The Minister spoke of the progress being made to improve educational outcomes and indicated that he wished to work with INTO and other unions to drive further improvement.

Mr O’Dowd said: “My focus as Education Minister continues to be on raising standards and closing the gaps in achievement between our highest and lowest performing pupils. I know that this also is a priority for you.

“I want all our young people, no matter what their background, to have every opportunity to achieve their full potential.

“It is clear from the Chief Inspector’s report and from other local and international evidence that the quality of teaching is the key factor in raising standards.

“The role teachers play is fundamental to improving the educational outcomes of our young people. Overall our teaching workforce is highly qualified, talented, motivated and committed to raising standards.

“Last December saw the publication of statistics which tell us that Year 6 pupils in our primary schools are performing well above the international average in both literacy and numeracy.

“Indeed, the striking outcome is that our primary school pupils are ranked the highest performing English speaking region in the world in both reading and numeracy. Standards are rising in our post-primary schools too at both GCSE and A-level. However, while we have seen improvements in recent years, 40% of children do not achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths. That is unacceptable.

“The recently published Audit Office report on ‘Improving Literacy and Numeracy Achievement in Schools’ highlighted that around 9,000 pupils left full-time education in 2010-11 not having achieved the required standard in literacy and numeracy. Furthermore, pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) have a substantially lower pass rate than those not entitled, and are only half as likely to achieve five GCSEs, or equivalent, at grades A*-C including English and maths as their non-FSM counterparts. This disparity in educational outcomes is a challenge to all of us.

“I am determined to take action to break the link between social disadvantage and educational underachievement.”

Mr O’Dowd spoke of the range of policies designed to improve educational outcomes and the success they were having. He also spoke of the stretching targets in the Programme for Government that would raise standards among school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds and would improve literacy and numeracy levels for all pupils.

The Minister continued: “I believe that key to this is raising parental aspirations and the value of education within our communities. That is why I launched the ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign in September 2012. Teachers do an excellent job at developing and nurturing children but they need the full support of parents and communities.

“I also believe that we need to learn from other jurisdictions and that is why for the first time we are participating in a major international review by the OECD.

“The review will examine how Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks can deliver improvements for pupils and will involve an in-depth analysis of our education system by independent experts from other OECD countries.”

In conclusion, the Minister spoke of the positive engagement with INTO and said: “Over the past several weeks in particular there has been an intensification of engagement between INTO representatives and senior officials within my Department. I am pleased to note that progress has been made on a number of fronts. I am fully committed to working closely with the INTO, and other teaching unions, in tackling the issues of mutual concern.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Department of Education has launched a new ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign. The campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. 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 website for more information.

    Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  2. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on 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.