New £20million investment programme to raise achievement to reduce educational disadvantage

Date published: 31 May 2024

Education Minister Paul Givan has today announced a major programme of investment to deliver innovative and community informed approaches to raise achievement to reduce educational disadvantage in Northern Ireland.

The programme, part of a wider funding package, represents an investment of £20million over the next two years, with potential for further funding.

Welcoming the investment, the Minister said: “I welcome this significant programme of investment which will contribute greatly in our efforts to remove the barriers that prevent many of our children and young people from engaging in learning and further our work to forge strong partnerships between schools, families and communities. 

“Schools are the bedrock of our education system and we must work in partnership with families, the local community and other influencers to ensure every child is happy, learning and succeeding.”

The investment in the RAISE initiative is part of a wider co-operation programme on addressing educational underachievement supported through the Shared Island Fund. Other strands incorporating creativity in schools and teacher exchange are still under development.

Welcoming the investment being made by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Education in the Republic of Ireland, the Minister added: “The link between socio-economic disadvantage and educational attainment is not unique to Northern Ireland. It is common across the world, including the Republic of Ireland. 

“The Shared Island Funding provides an opportunity for new approaches to be taken in Northern Ireland that may aid policy development in both countries for the benefit of all learners.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our respective countries to learn from each other’s effective practices and this new funding will be used to support many thousands of learners across Northern Ireland for a long time to come.”

The Department of Education (Northern Ireland) will have responsibility for the delivery of the funded programmes. 

Work will now commence on the design and implementation of the programme with a formal launch in the coming months. 

Notes to editors: 

1. ‘A Fair Start’ was published in 2021 by an Expert Panel examining the link between educational underachievement and socio-economic background. Its goals included drawing up an Action Plan for change to ‘ensure all children and young people, regardless of background are given the best start in life’.

2. The Panel advocated that addressing educational underachievement ‘means placing equality of opportunity at the core of everything we do.’ A key area in the Action Plan is ‘Promoting a whole community approach to education’. This has a “place-based focus that coheres the greatest concentration of effort in those localities with the greatest concentration of educational underachievement”.

3. The RAISE Programme – this is the lead policy initiative which delivers Key Area 4 Action (iii) of the report “A Fair Start” ‘involving a whole community approach to tackle disadvantage which will be strategic in scale and collaborative in nature, mandating co-design and the building of authentic partnerships between schools and communities using a place-based approach’.

4. The RAISE Programme will operate in specific localities across Northern Ireland.  These have been selected using objective criteria based on data.  These localities are within:

  • Antrim
  • Ards Peninsula
  • Ballymena
  • Belfast
  • Carrick
  • Coleraine
  • Derry / Londonderry
  • Dungannon
  • Enniskillen
  • Limavady
  • Lisburn
  • Lurgan and Craigavon
  • Newry
  • Newtownabbey
  • Portadown

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