Appointment of an Expert Panel to Examine Links between Persistent Educational Underachievement and Socio-economic Background

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 28th July 2020.

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Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 10:45 am, 28th July 2020

Broadly speaking, I think, terms of reference will be issued to the panel. There are no artificial boundaries. Obviously, this will feed into the wider review of education. There are certain aspects that will be more applicable to that side of it. It is a panel made up of considerable expertise, particularly of direct involvement with young people. It will be able to use those experiences. Let me put it this way: it is undoubtedly the case that there is a growing awareness of the impact of mental health issues on our young people and has been for a number of years. While at times that reveals a very difficult picture, it is an important picture to reveal. This week, for instance, I had the opportunity to meet via Zoom representatives of the Youth Forum, and it was noticeable that the issues that they raised, particularly during lockdown, while concern over how their education was impacted directly was important, were around boredom, stress, mental anxiety and the damage that was done by lockdown to social interaction with other young people. All of those issues are inextricably linked, and the panel will want to consider that seriously as it moves forward with whatever recommendations it ultimately issues.