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O'Dowd addresses Head Teachers Conference

Strong leadership in schools has a vital role to play in raising educational standards and tackling inequality.
Thursday, 2 May 2013

That was the message from Education Minister, John O’Dowd, as he addressed the National Association of Head Teachers Conference in Newcastle. The theme of the conference was “Leadership: Making a Difference – The power of inspiration”.

Addressing the delegates the Minister said: “As Education Minister my main focus remains on raising standards and closing the gaps in achievement between our highest and lowest performing pupils.

“I know that the key driver in achieving these twin aims is the quality of teaching and leadership in our schools, in partnership with parents, guardians and the wider community. That is why the theme of today’s conference is of particular relevance.

“I believe effective teachers flourish when they are supported in schools by great leaders. That is why I want to take a fresh look at how we develop and support our school leaders – our principals and vice principals and others in leadership positions in schools.

“I believe that we need to view leadership as behaviour and an attitude, not simply as a post or a promotion.

“By working with school leaders to achieve this we can ensure that all our young people have every opportunity to achieve their full potential and we can break the link between disadvantage and educational underachievement.”

The Minister continued: “I know that principals have a difficult and hugely significant job and I therefore want to be sure that our current and aspiring leaders receive the best possible support.

“I want to ensure that all of our teachers, including school leaders are provided with a coherent, modern, fit-for-purpose approach to development that reflects the challenges of education in the 21st century. That is why, with the establishment of the Education and Skills Authority, I will be introducing a new regional professional support service for schools.

“I believe school leadership development must focus on preparing high-performing leaders who are able to lead schools which serve the most disadvantaged communities and who can turn around academic underachievement.

“I also want to do more to support governors, who provide valuable leadership to our schools on a voluntary basis. The establishment of ESA will also see the introduction of a new regional governor support service for schools.

“This service will not only provide training, advice and support but will develop greater opportunities for governors to network, share experiences and become a stronger, collective voice in our education system.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “I remain committed to working in partnership with unions to ensure that any changes are properly planned and managed and that the available resources are used to best effect.

“If we keep the interests of children and young people to the fore I believe, working together, we can improve the education outcomes for all our young people.”

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 or 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 07699715440 and your call will be returned.