Key Inequalities in Northern Ireland Education Identified

Draft statement on Key Inequalities in Education, a new assessment of the experiences of people in education across all the equality grounds in NI.

“Education determines the extent to which our children can realise their full potential in all aspects of life, and inequalities in education are a key component of inequality in our society,” Dr. Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission said. “We’ve known for a long time that while the education system in Northern Ireland works well for many of our young people: for too long, significant numbers of pupils have struggled to fulfill their potential as a result of that same system.”

Dr. Wardlow’s comments draw on a draft statement on ‘Key Inequalities in Education’ (pdf, 972kb), a new assessment of the experiences of people in education across all the equality grounds in Northern Ireland published by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

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The impact of the research findings and statement will be discussed with experts from the education sector and people involved in and affected by it at a meeting in Malone College Belfast on 6 October 2015. The Commission will use the feedback from this event to assist in the finalization of its statement on ‘Key Inequalities in Education’ which we hope will help shape future initiatives on these issues.

“This research and statement highlights areas where there are educational challenges and how these impact on vulnerable children. It highlights the painful truth that not much has changed in this area since 2007 when the Commission issued its first statement on Key Inequalities in Education.”

Amongst other things, the statement highlights that many children in Northern Ireland continue to experience persistent inequalities because of barriers which are linked to disability, gender, religion and other equality grounds. These inequalities are magnified for children coming from social and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Identifying and highlighting these inequalities is only the first step. These educational fault-lines must be followed by action,” Dr. Wardlow said. “There is a responsibility on those who shape and manage our education systems – those in Government Departments and the Assembly; on Education and School Boards; on the Churches; political leaders and those across the community – to focus on and overcome these enduring barriers which continue to disadvantage the most vulnerable sections of our community. The Equality Commission is eager to work with these groups to help ensure that our education system, which serves all our people, is robust and built on a stable and secure base,” concluded Dr. Wardlow.

The research and statement on Key Inequalities in Education is part of a series of statements which will examine key issues across various areas where people in Northern Ireland face inequality. It will update the Commission’s work on key inequalities carried out in 2007.

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