Weir commends the publication of ‘A Fair Start’ report and action plan

Date published: 31 May 2021

A report examining the links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background has been published today.

Their report has identified eight key areas within which it has identified 47 actions for change including:

  •          Redirecting the focus to Early Years.
  •          Championing Emotional Health and Wellbeing.
  •          Ensuring the relevance and appropriateness of Curriculum and Assessment.
  •          Promoting a whole community approach to education.
  •          Maximising boys’ potential.
  •          Driving forward Teachers' Professional Learning.
  •          Supporting the professional learning and wellbeing of school leadership.
  •          Ensuring Interdepartmental collaboration and delivery.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Education Minister, Peter Weir said: “This is one of the most important reports I have overseen during my time as Education Minister, it not only delivers on a ‘New Decade New Approach’ commitment but is also something that I am very proud to endorse.  For a number of years, the issue of educational underachievement has been an area that I have been personally committed to addressing so this is a very significant day for me.

"I concur with the panel that the actions set out in the Action Plan are capable of making a real and significant impact on children’s learning. If, as a society, we are serious about wanting to see fundamental change for the benefit of our most disadvantaged, everyone in Northern Ireland must prioritise education and learning as a route out of poverty. We need to give our young people confidence, instill within them self-belief that they can succeed and provide the support they need to thrive in school. The crucial work of the panel provides a road map for how we can achieve all these things.

“I would like to formally thank the panel chair and members: Noel Purdy (Chair), Joyce Logue, Mary Montgomery, Kathleen O’Hare and Jackie Redpath) for their hard work and perseverance in producing this significant and very detailed report.”

The Expert Panel launched the report this morning in Dundonald High School.

Chair of the Expert Panel, Noel Purdy said: “We believe the actions set out in this Action Plan are capable of making a significant, long-lasting impact on children’s learning now and for the foreseeable future however, this can only be achieved if we invest appropriately and significantly in education for the long term.

“In commending this Action Plan to the Northern Ireland Executive, we fully recognise the magnitude of the challenge in addressing the underlying causes of social disadvantage, the intractability of many of the issues facing families living in disadvantaged circumstances and the need for systemic change in education to be considered by the forthcoming Independent Review of Education.

“But we are also convinced that the impact of the actions proposed in this Action Plan will be significant, promoting equity, fostering greater collaboration between schools, families and communities, closing the achievement gap, and giving all of our children and young people ‘A Fair Start’.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Expert Panel’s report and action plan is available here: 'A Fair Start' report
  2. The report entitled “A Fair Start” has identified eight key areas within which it has identified 47 actions for change.
  3. The Expert Panel on educational underachievement conducted its work from September 2020 to May 2021 and during that time, heard from a wide range of stakeholders including educationalists, parents and families, children and young people, policy makers, political and business representatives and the voluntary and community sector
  4. The Action Plan proposes a range of actions to support children from birth and throughout their Early Years up to and including the time they start school.
  5. The Education Minister Peter Weir also made a statement to the NI Assembly today.  A copy of his statement is avaiable here: Minister's statement to the NI Assembly.
  6. Follow us on Twitter @Education_ni(external link opens in a new window / tab)
  7. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office at
  8. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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