Saturday, 20 April 2013


Small victory for one of CE's great survivors

Following an uncharacteristic public silence around Buddy Bear,  the ETI (Northern Ireland's Education and Training Inspectorate) has  published a 'focused report' on the Buddy Bear Trust's school in Dungannon.

The ETI's report looks like victory for Buddy Bear in the latest round of its long-running and often bitter struggle with 'the authorities' in Northern Ireland.

The published report tells of the outcome of a 'focused inspection inspection' but not of course the background story of what has been going on.


This formal report takes care to define the terms of its judgement,presented within a six-point scale of which the top three are:
  • Outstanding   Outstanding characterised by excellence
  • Very Good   Consistently good; major strengths
  • Good   Important strengths in most of the provision. Areas for improvement which organisation has the capacity to address

The report does not explain why this was a 'focused inspection'.
2.  The inspection focused on the requirement of the school to demonstrate that the curriculum is suitably relevant and balanced to meet the individual needs of the children. In addition, the school’s arrangements for pastoral care, including child protection, were evaluated.
Contention and delay
1.3   This inspection completes work that began in January 2012. The inspection was incomplete at that stage due to action being taken by the staff not to co-operate with the Education and Training Inspectorate on advice from their teaching union.
The school
1.1  The school is situated in Dungannon and provides full-time education for three children, aged 4 to 8 years, and for eleven children who attend every two weeks for a one hour session. A further five children are supported on request from their parents. The children have significant difficulties associated with cerebral palsy, severe learning difficulties and additional medical conditions.
The number of full-time pupils is up this last couple of years, from a low point of three. The report does no explain in proper English what is meant by 'five children are supported on request from their parents'.
1.4   The previous inspection in November 2004, raised concerns about the viability of the school given the small numbers of pupils enrolled. All concerned with the school remain concerned about the long term future of the provision.
The staff number three:
  • a conductor, who also serves as teacher
  • two classroom assistants
3. In the areas inspected in this school, the quality of education is good and pastoral care is outstanding...
4.1 The quality of the children’s achievements and standards is good
4.2 The quality of the provision for learning is good
4.3 The quality of leadership and management is good
Over time, each child makes very good progress from their [sic] starting points, and achievements... The curriculum planning is very child centred and thorough... The teacher and assistants work together well to create a warm and pleasant atmosphere... An excellent ethos is evident which underpins all activities and supports learning... strong focus on target setting, tracking progress and outcomes... collaborative working with parents and sharing of practical and important information about the children... collaborative working with parents and sharing of practical and important information about the children... principal’s expertise in, and understanding of, motor development which she demonstrates effectively in all activities
5.    In the areas inspected in this school, the quality of education is good and pastoral care is outstanding. The school has important strengths in most of its educational provision. The inspection has identified areas for improvement which the school has demonstrated the capacity to address. The Education and Training Inspectorate will monitor the school’s progress on the areas for improvement.

Education and Training Inspectorate (2013) Focused Inspection – Buddy Bear Trust Conductive Education Independent School, Dungannon, Bangor, Department of Education, 16 April

The conductor

The report continues a trend apparent around the world of not mentioning conductors by name. The survival of Buddy Bear since the late eighties, against unremitting official opposition, is a remarkable achievement.

It my be invidious to identify particular individuals. Forgive mention here, therefore, that Buddy Bear's conductor / principle is Ildikó Veres:

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