Wednesday 21 March 2018

The Irish school with 440 suspensions in one year ... and only 353 pupils

Movilla High School is improving, say inspectors
Movilla High School is improving, say inspectors

Rebecca Black

There were 440 suspensions at a Northern Ireland school in a single year, it can be revealed.

The shocking figure emerged in a follow-up inspection at Movilla High in Newtownards by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

This figure was even higher than the number of pupils at the school - 353 - in the 2014/15 academic year.

The ETI stood over the figure, explaining an individual pupil can be involved in more than one suspension incident, and that some were involved in many.

Under existing legislation, a pupil can only be suspended for a maximum of five days at a time, and a maximum of 45 school days in a school year.

According to Department of Education figures for 2014/15, there were 1,262 suspensions incidents across all controlled secondary schools in Northern Ireland.

Some of the reasons given for suspending a pupil include physical attacks on either other pupils or staff; verbal abuse; disruptive behaviour in class; bullying; substance abuse; stealing; alcohol abuse and persistent infringement of rules

Movilla High was placed into formal intervention in February 2014 after the ETI evaluated the quality of education as "inadequate". A further ETI report published this week after a follow-up inspection was carried out in November found that enrolment had dropped from 353 pupils to just 215.

It also found that the percentage of pupils attaining five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and maths, had fallen from 15.2% to 13.2%, and pupil attendance had remained below the NI average for a number of years.

The report noted that the school was adversely affected by a lack of strategic leadership, strained relationships at various levels and several long-term deficiencies in key curriculum areas.

It referred to a "deteriorating system for the pastoral care and behaviour management of the pupils, as evidenced by the 440 recorded suspension incidents during 2014-15".

Last July Movilla's principal Caroline Karayiannis had left her post. She had been the head for five years.

Vice-principal Ian Bell has been standing in as interim principal since then.

The ETI report said that relationships between staff at the school have improved and that the staff had worked to improve the school.

"Over the first three months of this academic year, the senior leadership team and the staff have worked collegially to put in place measures to promote positive behaviour by the pupils," the report added.

"The monitoring data indicates that the measures put in place, underpinned by a more consistent approach by staff, have been more effective."

The report concluded by warning "further action will be considered by the Department of Education".

Mr Bell gave a short statement on behalf of the school.

He said: "The board of governors and management of Movilla High School acknowledge the findings of the ETI follow-up report, and are encouraged by their endorsement of the positive changes made in the school from September 2015."

Belfast Telegraph

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