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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I will bring further information once we have scoped out all of the details, for instance, on the principal engagement, which is the Engage programme. The Engage programme is likely to cover all ages throughout schools and have some role in all schools, whether primary, post-primary or whatever. Without prejudging any views that emerge on interventions, it is probably the case that the best interventions are done at an early stage in education and, indeed, potentially before the child even goes through the front door of a school.

On the measurements that I used, there is obviously very robust data on GCSE, and that has tended to be used as a benchmark, particularly that of five or more GCSEs at A* to C, including English and mathematics. To that extent, I suppose, it is a shorthand to have in a concrete way a measurement of the overall and overarching academic achievement that has been made. Also, that can be directly differentiated into free school meals and non-free school meals that can then be used as a marker, if you like, for what impact on those who have come from more socially deprived backgrounds can be put in place. The fact that, in one sense, it is the most usable statistic should not blind us to the fact there is a need for interventions across the full spectrum. That was to illustrate that, despite a lot of the good work that has gone on for many years, there is still considerable work to be done.