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 11:30 am on 28th July 2020.

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Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP 11:30 am, 28th July 2020

I thank the Member for his comments and the remarks that he made. I cannot pre-judge the panel's recommendations. There has to be a cognisance that this has to be looked at in a wider spectrum than simply the statistics of academic achievement.

The Member makes a good point on the opportunities that are there, both in and outside universities. That is why it is critical — I think that I referred to it in an earlier point — that, as we see a recovery of the economy, there is a level of focus on the practical support being given to young people, particularly, for example, around issues around apprenticeships. There has got to be an investment in our young people. If we are being slightly cynical with regard to what I mentioned around career pathways, often the best and most lucrative career pathways do not have a university or academic-based view. To some extent, there has got to be a level of cultural shift with regard to that.

With regard to trying to scope things, because it probably crosses the two Departments' positions, I will be very keen and will work with my colleague at Economy. That is particularly as we focus on 14 to 19 and as we focus in on issues such as digital skills and how we can ensure that young people, with regard to the careers advice they receive and their readiness for work, are taken into account, particularly in the preparation that they do through their schooling.