Ballyclare Secondary praised by Education Inspectorate

BALLYCLARE Secondary School has received a “good” performance rating following an inspection by the Department of Education.

In the key areas of the school’s responsibilities, the members of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) found either a “good” or “very good” level of performance. Above “very good” on the inspector’s scale is only an “outstanding” grade.

The report said in the areas inspected, the quality of education provided by the school was “good”.

The inspection team focused on the provision for pastoral care and the arrangements for child protection and safeguarding as well as the provision for pupils requiring additional support with their learning and their inclusion in all aspects of school life. They also examined the provision for careers education, information, advice and guidance and the progress towards the entitlement framework.

Enrolment in the school has increased over the last three years and the school is currently oversubscribed. Sixth form enrolment has also increased.

From their observations, the members of ETI found the pupils benefited from the many opportunities that supported their learning as well as their achievements and the development of their wider skills.

Inspectors found the pupils “thoughtful, respectful and articulate” during their visit.

They said: “They are enthusiastic and responded well when the teachers’ expectations are realistically high. The pupils work well independently and work very effectively in pairs.”

Inspectors praised the relationship between teachers and pupils. They said there was a high priority given to pastoral care and the pupils benefited from the caring and supportive ethos that was evident throughout the school.

The pupils reported to the inspectors that they are well looked after and spoke positively about the school and in particular the effective work of the student forum.

Inspectors found the staff worked well with parents, the local community and external agencies which aided the pupils’ learning and development.

Across the key stage subjects, the pupils, the report said, have very good opportunities to develop their employability skills and awareness of their career options, which helped them to prepare effectively for the next stage of their education or training.

The pupils were reported to be well-informed through the effectively taught programme, with a wide range of speakers and school visits as well as the access available to them to impartial advice.

The Inspectorate found that “the teachers are highly committed and very supportive of the school’s work in developing further the provision to meet more effectively the needs of all the pupils.

“They prepare well for lessons and create a very positive learning environment,” the report said.

The report went on to say the most effective teaching was characterised by the teachers’ high expectations of what the pupils could do.

Inspectors found that learning activities engaged the pupils in high-quality thinking as well as the use of effective questioning to develop the pupils’ responses and assess their understanding.

The creative use of ICT to support learning and the opportunities for the pupils to develop their literacy skills was also highlighted.

In conclusion the report said: “The school has important strengths in most of its educational and pastoral provision.

“The main area for improvement, which the school has demonstrated the capacity to address, is the need to improve the consistency of the quality of learning and teaching in order to raise the standards the pupils attain.”

It said the ETI would continue to monitor the school in areas identified for improvement.

Ballyclare Secondary School principal Kathryn Bell was praised for her “highly effective strategic leadership”. She welcomed the findings of the report.