Schools' Views of their Education and Library Board 2009

Schools in Northern Ireland are generally satisfied with the support and services provided by their education and library board.  The most positively rated areas covered:

  • training, advice, support and guidance provided on child protection;
  • coordination of the admissions process;
  • financial information received by schools; and
  • the strategic leadership provided by the boards, particularly their local knowledge and advice on pastoral issues

However, schools perceived the boards needed to improve their performance in providing:

  • more support for gifted and talented children;
  • more appropriate family learning opportunities;
  • more activities to deflect children and young people from anti-social behaviour; and
  • improved access to the Education Psychology service and less delay in the assessment process for children with special educational needs   

That is the verdict of the 288 schools in the five education and library boards that participated in a Schools Survey in 2009, conducted by the Audit Commission on behalf of the Northern Ireland Audit Office.  The survey captures schools’ views and perceptions of their board’s services by asking them to respond to statements on a four point scale:

  • 1 = Poor
  • 2 = Adequate
  • 3 =Good
  • 4 = Excellent

Unfortunately, the survey was not as strongly supported by schools as had been hoped, and, despite issuing numerous reminders, it attracted only a modest response rate of 23 per cent.       

Schools rated 57 of the 60 survey items as “adequate or better” but less than one per cent of these were rated by schools as “good or excellent”.  In addition, many of the least positively rated items relate to the support given to schools to help children make a positive contribution in their communities.   

The overall results mask variations between the views of schools maintained by different education and library boards.  Schools in the North Eastern Board were markedly more satisfied with Board services compared with their counterparts in the Belfast and South Eastern Boards.    Furthermore, primary schools were generally more positive in their responses than post-primary schools.

This is the first time such a survey has been carried out and, given moves to establish a new Education and Skills Authority (ESA) to replace the five boards, the Comptroller and Auditor General sees it as a useful tool in highlighting perceptions and shortcomings to help identify where the new Authority may need to focus its resources.

Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, comments:

“Many factors will colour schools’ perceptions of their boards; the survey provides a good starting point for boards and, ultimately, ESA, to find out what lies beneath those perceptions and to improve services where necessary.  I’m pleased with those schools who took part in the survey in 2009, however, I am disappointed that over three quarters of schools across the education and library boards failed to take the opportunity to respond.  We hope that ESA will adopt and adapt the survey as it sees fit and that it will encourage and press all schools to complete the on-line questionnaire in future years.”