Cookstown hosts AGM of Controlled Schools

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The Controlled Schools’ Support Council recently welcomed schools from all over Northern Ireland to its third Annual General Meeting which was held in Cookstown.

The choir from Sperrinview Special School performed a medley of Abba songs followed by a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow accompanied by Makaton signing.

Cookstown High School pupils performed a short drama on resilience and overcoming adversity.

The subject of resilience was highlighted by CSSC Chief Executive Barry Mulholland, as he paid tribute to principals and governors, and said: “The year has been marked by exceptional leadership and resilience, evident from controlled principals and governors, set against the most dreadful systemic challenges facing schools in particular and education in general.”

Speaking directly to school principals, he said: “Never doubt or underestimate the importance of your role in education. Your dedication, commitment, long hours, skills and knowledge as leaders really does make a difference. It most definitely inspires staff, ensures quality teaching and learning, instils a positive ethos and culture in controlled schools and improves the life chances of over 143,000 pupils who walk through your doors every day.”

Mr Mulholland spoke of the “unprecedented” challenges facing the education system, including lack of finance; societal perceptions of the education system; the increasing numbers of pupils presenting with special educational needs; bureaucracy; and the focus by some on unofficial ‘league tables’ which ignore the learning, growth and development of the pupil and the added value provided by great teachers in controlled schools.

Keynote speaker for the AGM was Dr Andy Brown, Principal Lecturer in Teacher Education, Academic Head of Arts and Humanities, Stranmillis University College, and Vice-chairperson of CSSC.

Dr Brown presented themes from his research on ethos and resilience within the controlled sector.

The controlled education sector is largest, most diverse education sector in Northern Ireland, comprising 557 schools (49% of all schools) across all phases.