The Department of Education has published an independent ‘Landscape Review’ of the Education Authority (EA).
The Review was undertaken on behalf of the Department by the consultancy firm Baker Tilly Mooney Moore. Its purpose was to consider the overall operation and governance of the EA, and the extent to which it is effectively able to deliver against stated Executive and Departmental priorities.
The Report makes thirteen recommendations, which are focused on the themes of:
- the future form, function and financing of the EA
- improvements required to support organisational effectiveness
- governance, accountability and relationships which will support future EA effectiveness.
Key issues highlighted in the report include the need for EA to improve communications and responsiveness; to better meet the expectations of the EA’s many stakeholders; and the importance of making education services more child-centric.
The Report highlights progress made within the EA in recent years, including enhancements to governance; an improved approach to strategic planning and performance; strong alignment with the draft Programme for Government and the Department’s priorities. It also notes examples of good practice and emerging innovation.
Publishing the report, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “In commissioning this review, my Department’s priority was to ensure the delivery of the best possible services for our children and young people throughout the education system. While the Report identifies that some progress has been made within the EA, it is clear that more needs to be done.
“My Department is fully committed to working with the EA to progress the issues identified in the report, and to shape the continuing improvement of the organisation. Officials in the Department and the EA are already developing implementation plans, informed by the report’s recommendations, to respond to the issues raised.”
The Education Authority said it welcomes the Landscape Review.
Chief Executive of the Education Authority Sara Long said:
“We welcome the Review and will now take some time in collaboration with our Board, the Department of Education (DE) and wider partners to consider it in full and to respond positively and constructively to the recommendations.
“This is the first full external Review of the Education Authority (EA) since its formation in 2015 and it provides a comprehensive overview of the known challenges and opportunities, as well as setting out a clear roadmap for moving forward.
“The Review highlights the context and challenges faced from the merging of five Boards into a new Education Authority in 2015; recognises the improvement journey the EA has been on since then; and identifies a number of areas where further progress can be made.
“The Review also fully recognises the operating context of the EA, including our relatively recent existence; the significant period under interim arrangements; the scale and complexities of what EA delivers as Northern Ireland’s largest employing Authority with over 44,000 staff; the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented; as well as the increasing and diverse needs of children and young people.
“We acknowledge that there are numerous opportunities for improvement that this Report will help to inform. There is a need to improve communications and responsiveness; to better meet the expectations of EA’s many stakeholders; and to continue to make our services more child-centred.
“Seven years on from the formation of the EA, it is the right time to reflect on where we have come from, the challenges faced, the progress made, as well as ensuring we continue to move forward in the next chapter of EA as a confident, child centred, future focussed organisation that supports schools and delivers the best possible outcomes for all of our children and young people.
“The Landscape Review gives us a good opportunity to build on the improvements and best practice identified, as well as taking a step back, recalibrating and, in partnership with DE, our staff, sectoral partners, schools, parents and children and young people, moving forward together.
“As we start to consider the recommendations and respond to the issues raised in the Report, we will continue to evolve, enhance and strengthen what we do and how we do it in the future.”
A copy of the report is available at: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/landscape-review-education-authority-ea