(CNS): In the wake of the recent review and damning school inspections report, giving the local education system a failing grade, the education minister told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday that she has met with all the government schools’ principals to discuss the plan of action to address the problems. Tara Rivers said school leaders are being encouraged to identify the positive things and work towards making those consistent in all classrooms, adding that the plan was not beyond realistic expectations.
With most of the government schools described as unsatisfactory in many areas by the inspectors, the minster said the department was promoting inter-school collaboration to share the good ideas and good practices.
Outlining the plan’s details in a long speech to her parliamentary colleagues (posted below) she said a consistent theme in the inspection reports was the need for more resources and improved training and support for management of students with special educational needs and disabilities and those with behavioural problems. The plan, she said, calls for improved identification of special needs and provision of appropriate interventions.
“This school year, non-teaching Special Education Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) have been employed to provide support for all government schools,” she said. “This includes identifying students with special or additional educational needs, coordinating assessment and essential interventions and then monitoring students’ progress and achievement to ensure no child is left behind. This is the first time that all schools will have access to non-teaching SENCOs whose job it is to focus specifically on students with SEN/D.”
She also revealed that the Education ministry is spearheading a project for pre-school aged children displaying special education needs and disabilities or who may be at risk strengthening the Early Intervention Programme.
Rivers said the schools action plan was “solutions focused, seeking to address specific issues identified in the reports” with an accountability framework which identifies one lead person for each action or initiative. Schools will be reporting each term on school improvement with an analysis of data related to staff performance, student academic progress and achievement, professional development, and behaviour incidents.
“The Plan of Action is a direct response to the issues raised through the schools inspections and education system review process. As a Government, we are not shying away from the issues. As a country, we need to ensure that the education system addresses those issues and that our children have the high standard of education that they deserve,” Rivers added.
During the course of this year she said the ministry will also be considering in greater detail the recommendations to introduce some form of “enhanced education governance model” pointing to public-private partnerships.
“I want to state my unequivocal commitment to public education,” she said, but said there was scope for greater cooperation, participation and collaboration with parents, the private sector, NGOs and the community at large when it comes to public education.
She said the reviews were commissioned to understand where the country’s education system was and how to improve it.
“Although the Baseline Inspections and Education System Review reports have highlighted some difficult realities about our education system, the reviews have been completed as promised, and we have utilised this information to develop a clear pathway to improvement on all fronts,” she said, adding that there is a lot of work to be done. “This government has no intention of having these reports sit on a shelf. The results are in and the work continues. Improvements need to be made. We are shifting to a system of accountability for all. Reporting mechanisms have been built in and the education team is expected to make improvements,” she said.
Pointing out that the issues facing the education system have not emerged overnight, she said they were the result of many, many years of growing challenges and solutions could not be implemented overnight, as she warned it may be some time before the plan yielded results.