School inspectors have reported remarkable progress at Lisneal over the past five years following a fresh inspection in December.
The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) review was the third at the city’s sole Controlled non-selective post-primary following a highly critical report’s conclusion in 2010 that in the majority of areas inspected, the quality of education provided by Lisneal College was inadequate.
That’s changed. The latest inspection found the overall quality of education was good.
It’s another boon to the school following the boost of leaving formal intervention last year.
According to the new ETI report the percentage of pupils attaining five or more GCSEs at A* to C rocketed from 36 per cent in 2009 to 68 per cent in 2013: it’s now ten percentage points above the Northern Ireland average for similar non-selective schools.
Meanwhile, the proportion of pupils attaining three or more A Levels at A* to C also increased significantly from 26 per cent in 2009 to 44 per cent in 2013.
The school also managed an improvement in the number of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at A* to C - including English and Mathematics - between 2009 and 2013.
Attainment on this trickier indicator increased from 21 per cent to 25 per cent of pupils and although this was six per cent below the Northern Ireland average for similar schools, this was not unusual in Londonderry, as was pointed out in this paper earlier this year.
Less than half of the GCSE pupils at all but two of Londonderry’s non-grammar secondary schools achieved five or more A to C grades, including English and Maths last year.
Remarkably, the inspectors reported that all of the positive change occurred whilst a major overhaul was underway at Lisneal.
The ETI inspectors reported that there have been six staff changes at senior level including the appointment of a new vice-principal and three posts at middle management level.
Seven other middle manager, form tutor and year head posts were renegotiated. And incredibly, the overall teaching staff at the school was reduced by seventeen teachers.
The inspectors reported: “As a result of the development of the highly effective use of the school’s own internal data, and thorough tracking of pupils’ progress both individually and collectively, the school is now able to demonstrate that a majority of the pupils make expected or better progress across key stage (KS) 3 and KS4.
“For example, there has been an increase in the percentage of pupils reaching the expected level at GCSE by 20 percentage points when compared with those attaining at the expected level on entry to the school (from 48 per cent to 68 per cent).”
Pupils at the school were also said to have demonstrated more interest in their learning as well as greater maturity. And a greater sense of order was reported in classes and in other areas of the school.
“In the areas inspected in the original inspection, considerable progress has been made and the overall quality of education is now good. The follow-up inspection had identified the need to continue to raise the standards in English as an area of improvement.
“The school is demonstrating the capacity to effect improvement by building on the success and achievements in other core subject areas, for example, Mathematics and Science, through an action plan to support the newly-appointed head of English, focused on raising standards at GCSE.”