Tackling Educational Disadvantage

The Tackling Educational Disadvantage Team within the Department of Education has been examining the issues associated with educational underachievement and socio-economic disadvantage since its inception in May 2017. The issues are wide ranging and the solutions complex and multi-faceted. Northern Ireland is not on its own in facing these challenges.

The Department has a wide and varied range of policies and programmes in place designed to support children from deprived backgrounds reach their full potential.

Those falling under the responsibility of the TED team include:

Others across the Department include (but are not limited to) the Children and Young People’s Strategy and Delivery Plan; the policy for school improvement Every school and Good School; literacy and numeracy strategy Count Read Succeed; the SEN and Inclusion Framework; the Pre-school Education Programme; Sure Start Programme; Getting Ready to Learn Programme; Pathway Fund; Toybox Project; Extended Services; Bright Start Grant Scheme; Shared Education; the Promotion of Integrated and Irish Medium Education; Free School Meals; School Uniform Grants and Education Maintenance Allowance. 

TED also makes an important contribution to inter-departmental programmes such as:


Expert Panel Persistent Educational Underachievement  

On 28 July 2020, Education Minister, Peter Weir, MLA, announced the appointment of an Expert Panel, chaired by Dr Noel Purdy, to examine the links between educational underachievement and social disadvantage. The panel has been established under the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement which set out the requirement for an expert group to examine and address links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background, including the long-standing issues facing working-class, Protestant boys. 

The Terms of Reference for the review can be viewed here:


A Fair Start – Final Report & Action Plan

The Expert Panel on educational underachievement submitted its Final Report and Action Plan - “A Fair Start” – to the Minister in May 2021. This was endorsed by the Executive on 27 May 2021.

As set-out in New Decade, New Approach and the subsequent Terms of Reference, this was an independent panel, tasked with bringing forward recommendations and a costed Action plan.

The Action plan contains 47 actions spanning a number of departments including Education, Health, the Executive Office, Department for the Economy and numerous Arms Length Bodies involving collaboration across the public sector and beyond.

The Expert Panel’s report is about investing in our children’s future and providing them with the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to progress in life. Alongside these important attributes are “aspiration” and “opportunity”.

Full details of the Fair Start Report and action plan along with project delivery updates can be viewed here:

Tackling Educational Disadvantage - 10 Features of Effective Schools “Star” Case Studies Paper

The Department of Education has published (January 2020) the following: “Tackling Educational Disadvantage - 10 Features of Effective Schools “Star” Case Studies Paper”.

This highlights 10 key features of local post-primary schools that have been successfully tackling educational disadvantage. 

The paper arose out of a series of visits to post-primary schools.  The visits were to enable DE to identify and better understand how educational disadvantage can be addressed within schools.  The schools selected were chosen because they were producing good or improving results whilst operating in challenging circumstances.  The objective of the school visits was to identify and better understand the features that contribute to those schools’ successes.

Each of the schools contributed input to the paper in case study format providing individual examples of initiatives that their schools had employed.  We hope that the document will prove useful to other post-primary schools in helping to address educational underachievement linked to socio-economic disadvantage.





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