O'Neill Expresses Concern Over SERC Performance

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“I have recently visited the Downpatrick campus and was very impressed by the quality of the facility and the standard of work I saw there.We have the potential in Downpatrick and on the associated SERC sites to develop a marvellous educational resource. However, it must not be at the expense of placing the teachers and pupils at the bottom of a priority check list.” [caption id="attachment_21086" align="alignleft" width="280" caption="Down District Councillor Eamonn O'Neill expresses concern over SERC teachers facing pressures."][/caption] He added that he feared the concentration on financial priorities at many levels of management in SERC is having a negative and demoralising effect.  “It is pushing staff to the very limits of their professional capacity,” he explained, adding that the inspection of Further Education provision across SERC  “has to focus on listening to the concerns of staff regarding their treatment.” “Any attempt to cover up the type of flaws identified in last month’s highly critical Departmental investigation into the standards of delivery of Basic Numeracy, Literacy and Computer Skills within SERC must not be allowed. “I am certain that the management and Board of SERC will accept the need to have an accurate picture of what is really happening. This is an opportunity that must not be wasted.” Councillor O’Neill has called for a “fully independent forensic examination of everything” from actual class time contact between student and lecturer to the reasons behind the expensive financial wastage linked to student fallout numbers after just a few weeks on certain courses. He said, “Education has to be about the delivery of the tools of learning in order to equip young people to meet the challenge of the future. It can never be about a financially linked head count on seats. “The fact is that teaching staff in SERC are continually expected to carry out a massively increased administrative burden. Meanwhile what appears to have been forgotten is that the primary function of teaching professionals is to educate. “They should not be expected to be overwhelmed on a daily basis with the responsibility of everything from form filling to cross referencing attendance registers. The result is that pupils are inevitably being left short changed. Lecturers are being expected to produce results in the classroom while at the same they are being forced to work for hours on non teaching matters. “The buzz words coming from SERC management are all about achieving a status for that would elevate the organisation to one of the world’s premier educational deliverers by 2020. “That objective however cannot be allowed to be built around a climate of fear and disillusionment within the core framework of SERC’s crucial teaching staff,” Councillor  O’Neill said. However, a spokesperson for SERC responded to Councillor O’Neill’s comments saying, “SERC remains committed to the highest education standards and is focused on gaining the best outcomes for every student.  This is demonstrated by the fact that our success rates are the highest in the further education sector in Northern Ireland. “A main focus in our Culture of Excellence is on continuously improving the learning experience through improved teaching strategies such as embedding ILT, support services such SERC Extra* and incorporating employability skills in courses. “We dispute the statements which Mr O’Neill has made and are very disappointed that he did not ask the college to discuss his opinion. We will be extending an invitation to Mr O’Neill to discuss the points he has raised. *SERC Extra, the only service of its kind in Northern Ireland, is a team of professionals who help students who are at risk of dropping out of their course.  This team has helped over 700 students to stay on their course. This equated to a saving of well over £2.1 million worth of public money.”]]>

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