Another Sticking Plaster That Won’t Cure What Ails Our Education System

31 October 2016 News

Children’s Commissioner says our education system needs a root and branch reform, not a further sticking plaster.

Commenting on the Department of Education’s intention to seek a single transfer test by 2017, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“No parent wants to subject their 10 or 11 year old child to the stress of a number of academic tests, but parents have no choice within the system as it currently stands.

“While it is preferable that within a system of unregulated tests, all children take a single regulated test, it is extremely disappointing that the vision for education in Northern Ireland is firmly fixed on the perpetuation of “academic segregation”.

“We need the equivalent of Health’s Bengoa, we need to get into the crevices of our education system and agree a vision that will result in a system that delivers for each and every child – it far from achieves this at the minute.”

The Commissioner outlines the inequalities in the NI Education System where Free School Meal entitlement is used as a proxy indicator for poverty.

“The level of a child’s education outcome must not be dictated by family income, yet there is a marked variance between the experience and achievement levels of our children who are entitled to free school meals and those who are not. Just 41.3% of children who are entitled to free school meals achieve 5 GCSEs grades A* to C including English and Maths, compared to almost 74% of children who are not.

“There are three times (37%) as many young people on free school meals in post primary ‘secondary’ schools than there are in grammar (12%). Without systemic reform, this inequality looks set to continue.

“We must educate our children in ways which meet their needs and gives them the very best chance to succeed, and to access the full range of lifetime opportunities. Academic selection is denying huge numbers of our children this right.

“There is clear evidence that societies that are more equal are also more prosperous. Our children’s futures and the futures of our most disadvantaged communities are much too important to remain a hostage to a lack of consensus.”


For more information please contact Patrice Morris Communications Officer at , 028 9031 1616, mobile – 07917 544 177.

Notes to Editors

  • The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People was established in 2003 by the Assembly and Parliament to: “safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people”.