CSSC calls for holistic education to be valued

Raising standards for pupils in controlled schools is a key pillar of the Controlled Schools’ Support Council’s (CSSC’s) programme of work.

CSSC’s baseline assessment of the controlled education sector, published on Monday 18 September, highlights the links between the proportion of pupils receiving free school meals, school attendance and GCSE attainment. 

Free school meals (FSM) are commonly used as an indicator to describe social deprivation in Northern Ireland and, again, mask underlying factors which contribute to pupil attainment. 

Commenting on the analysis, Chief Executive Barry Mulholland said, 

The analysis has affirmed the many challenges facing the education sector. 

Within the controlled education sector, 31% of pupils are entitled to free school meals (FSM).  We have to acknowledge that schools with high numbers of FSM entitled pupils have generally lower rates of attainment in comparison to schools where FSM entitlement is low,

says Barry Mulholland. 

The blunt measurement of GCSE and A-level attainment does not reflect the complexity of the school environment and the value added contribution that teachers make to pupil learning.

If we are to truly understand the achievements of pupils then we need to look at what has been termed the ‘contextual value added’ (CVA), which demonstrates the improvement gain by individual pupils in terms of their progression from the point at which they enter the education system.  This would give a true picture of how controlled schools enrich the lives of children and young people. 

Controlled schools provide a wide range of educational pathways and opportunities for over 140,000 pupils to ensure they have the skills they will need for the future.  The diverse curriculum which is offered alongside non-academic programmes ensures that young people are well prepared for the next stage in their lives. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the education system in Northern Ireland is not sufficiently funded.  We are beginning to see schools forced to make cuts to valuable programmes such as sports, music and educational visits.  All of these activities contribute to the holistic education of our children and young people and should be valued.