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

It is important that we do not have another report that is simply left sitting on the shelf. No research goes wasted, and a number of studies have been done on educational underachievement. To be fair, previous Ministers have done a good lot of work on the matter.

One of the key advantages is that we are not starting from a blank page, not simply because of the depth of experience on the panel but because the panel, in the oral submissions and any meetings that take place, will particularly want to have a level of focus on the body of research that has been done on the subject and will want to draw from that.

The critical point in this is not simply to produce a report with nice-sounding aspirations but to produce an action plan and have practical measures. The focus will be on what needs to be done and how that can be implemented, which is why it is particularly important that, as part of that, the panel looks realistically at issues around cost. I have already indicated in my statement and have put down a marker for the future with the Executive that no change will come in a cost-free environment. While some of the changes may be things that can be done without the need for particular levels of expenditure, there will be a level of cost, so I anticipate and hope that, in line with the NDNA commitments, the Executive, once the report is produced, will give careful consideration and support to the financial support that we need to improve the situation regarding educational underachievement.