Parents to get assessments on schools' performance


SECOND-LEVEL schools are set to give parents an annual report based on the school’s own assessment of teaching and learning in the school.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the new school self-evaluations would place the school principal “at the centre of developing a culture of quality, improvement and accountability in their schools”.

Addressing the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) in Galway, Mr Quinn explained how the new system would complement the work of Department of Education inspectors in school evaluations.

The new school self-evaluations would, he said, “give schools and school leaders more autonomy in setting the agenda for school improvement. Providing a clear framework in which school leaders and their staffs can focus on ‘making learning better’ is the key objective of school self-evaluation . . .

“You are being empowered, as school leaders, to manage the teaching and learning in your schools and to focus, with your teachers, on educational improvement in your schools.”

Mr Quinn also announced that new rules for school admission, designed to ensure greater transparency in the allocation of places, will be introduced next year. He said legislation allowing for a new regulatory framework for enrolments would be published in 2013.

This should improve openness, consistency and equity in enrolment processes.

The new rules are likely to be controversial. They could, for example, force schools to abandon admissions policies that favour the siblings of current or past pupils.

In 2006, a Department of Education audit found some schools were using restrictive admissions policies to exclude certain categories of students, including Travellers, those with special needs, children of immigrants and low academic achievers.

Mr Quinn told the conference there would be a rise of more than 20,000 pupils in the post-primary sector over the next five years.

The Minister also announced the establishment of a new group in his department that will oversee changes in the transition by students from Leaving Cert to higher education.

The new transitions reform steering group – chaired by secretary general of the Department of Education Seán Ó Foghlú – also includes representatives from the third-level colleges.

On the new Junior Cert, he said he was heartened by the support of the NAPD and many other organisations for the proposed changes.

The new exam, he said, offered exciting new possibilities to schools to plan learning programmes that were varied and interesting for students and met their learning needs.

It would give students more opportunities to engage actively in their learning and to use their creative energies, the Minister told the conference.