Education Minister, John O’Dowd, today welcomed a report by the Equality Commission on the key inequalities in education.
Minister O’Dowd said:
“Tackling inequalities in education is an issue which I take very seriously. It cannot be solved quickly and while we have made some progress in recent years, this is a multi-faceted, societal issue and one the education authorities and schools cannot tackle on their own.
Our primary school pupils perform exceptionally well compared with their peers around the world and at post-primary an increasing number of pupils are leaving school with at least five GCSEs A*-C or equivalent including English and maths, including those pupils who are entitled to free school meals. This is a positive picture but we need to ensure that the focus remains on improvement and equity because unfortunately gaps remain.
It is not good enough that last year 909 Catholic boys and 457 Protestant boys who were entitled to free school meals left school without achieving 5+GCSEs including English and maths.
While the performance of girls is better there is still no room for complacency with 644 Catholic girls from lower income families and 370 Protestant girls from lower income families not achieving the desired level of attainment.
When I came into post in 2011, I said the correct policies such as ‘Every School a Good School’ and the ‘Literacy and Numeracy Strategy’ were in place but they needed to be implemented with renewed vigour and that’s exactly what is happening. Two years ago, in the face of considerable opposition, I ensured significant additional resources were provided to schools serving those most at risk of underachieving, through the weighting of school funding, and through targeted programmes such as Extended Schools, and Nurture Units.”
Concluding the Minister highlighted the importance of co-operation and collaboration in tackling the issue. He said:
“This is a long-term issue. And everyone has a role to play. Families in particular play a key role, and that is the message behind my ‘Education Works’ campaign.
I am encouraged when I see communities where formal education has not traditionally been prized now recognising that education is the path to success in the future. Together, we all need to re-double our efforts to improve the educational outcomes for all our children. In order to fully tackle inequalities in our schools we also need to tackle inequalities in society.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign promotes the value of education. This year’s campaign aims to ensure that parents have information on schooling and that they are aware of the steps they can take to ‘Get Involved’ and support their teenager in achieving good outcomes at school. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel
2. See photos from the Department of Education in our flickr collection.
3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715 440, and your call will be returned.