St Michael’s principal hits back at inspectorate

Laura Casey receiving the St. Michael's Cup (Top Achiever at A Level) from Mr. Gerard Adams, Principal.  INLM0413-123gc
Laura Casey receiving the St. Michael's Cup (Top Achiever at A Level) from Mr. Gerard Adams, Principal. INLM0413-123gc

THE principal of St Michael’s has hit back after his school was placed into formal intervention following a damning inspection report.

The Lurgan grammar school became only the second such school in Northern Ireland to be put into formal intervention after being rated as “inadequate” by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI).

Principal Gerard Adams rejected the conclusions of the inspection which took place in March this year. He claims it is “inherently unfair and unjust” that the school did not have the opportunity to question or challenge the inspectors’ findings or present further evidence before the report was published.

The school will now be monitored closely by the department and must draw up a formal action plan to make improvements.

In January of this year, Education Minister John O’Dowd announced funding for the amalgamation of St Michael’s Grammar with the two maintained non-selective schools in Lurgan – St Mary’s and St Paul’s.

Just last week the ETI published a report which concluded the overall standards achieved by the pupils at St Michael’s are inadequate.

The percentage of Year 12 pupils obtaining Grades C or above in at least seven GCSE subjects is 83.9% while 62.3% of Year 14 were obtaining Grades C or above in at least three A-levels, both of which were below the Northern Ireland average for similar schools.

The report claimed there is a ‘lack of clarity in the strategic future of the school’.

The inspectors concluded: “In almost all the areas inspected, the quality of education provided by the school is inadequate. The areas for improvement outweigh the strengths in the provision.

“The inspection has identified significant areas for improvement in standards, learning and teaching and leadership and management, which need to be addressed urgently if the school is to meet effectively the needs of all of the pupils.

“The ETI will monitor and report on the school’s progress in addressing the areas for improvement, over a 12 to 18 month period.”

St Michael’s principal Gerard Adams contested the outcome of the inspection in an eight-page response which he posted on the school’s website.

He said: “St Michael’s is not a perfect school. It might not even be an outstanding school. It is, however, a much better school than this report suggests.”

Mr Adams continued: “The first opportunity we are allowed to comment on the findings is after publication, at which point our personal and professional reputations and the reputation of our school have already been irreparably damaged if not thoroughly destroyed. At no point is there a right to respond, a right to appeal. Such a situation can never be anything other than unjust.”

He added: “Although the inspection documentation specified that a number of different areas would be looked at, the final evaluation of our schools came down to one single factor: examination results.

“We try hard in St Michael’s not to be a results assembly line but again and again throughout this inspection, it became obvious that little else mattered.”

He said: “Although we deliver a significant number of vocational courses, and were ahead of most other grammar schools in doing so, these results are not included in our examinations data and we had to argue to have them referred to in the report.

“It is unacceptable for DE to insist that we deliver such courses and then deprive us of the credit for the positive outcomes which we achieve. This is a matter which DE needs to address.”

Mr Adams added: “While my staff and I are not at all complacent about current levels of achievement and are committed to continuing along the path of self-improvement, we cannot see how any objective assessment can come to the conclusion that our results are inadequate. Even by the assessment of ETI, the strengths of St Michael’s outweigh the weaknesses.

“The board of governors of St Michael’s will make their formal response to the final report at the appropriate time and I, as principal, will initiate, with my senior leadership team, an appropriate action plan to deal with the criticisms laid before us.

“We will do so professionally and to the best of our ability but we will also do so with an unshakeable belief that we have not been treated properly or fairly and we, I and my staff, teaching and non-teaching, totally reject the conclusions of this report.”