The establishment and delivery of an Independent Review of Education is a key commitment in the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) document, agreed by the main political parties in Northern Ireland in January 2020. NDNA stated that an independent and external review would be established “with a focus on securing greater efficiency in delivery costs, raising standards, access to the curriculum for all pupils, and the prospects of moving towards a single education system.”
When the NICCY Youth Panel heard about the Independent Review of Education, they felt strongly that they would like to participate, to have their voices heard. Young people spend so much of their day, their week and their year within the school environment, it felt natural to share their thoughts, opinions and ideas with the Independent Review Panel.
Also, as NICCY is all about children rights, and the Youth panel are part of the Commissioner’s support mechanism, they have explored the issues they identified with reference to child rights and the UNCRC.
The number of different issues or areas associated with the school environment and education is enormous. In identifying the themes they wanted to examine,(the Youth Panel were aware of their limitations to the time available to explore) engage and review those issues.
The Education subgroup of the Youth Panel identified a list of themes from which they selected the 4 most popular. These were:
- Mental Health in schools
- Curriculum Content (mostly focusing on Relationships & Sex Education)
- Transfer Test
- A Single Education System
In choosing these 4 areas, the Panel acknowledge they have omitted many other really important issues such as special educational needs, school transport, bullying, school uniforms, etc. However, they are also aware the Review Panel, have been, and will be, engaging with many different stakeholders and will source much varied and valuable information on these and other issues.