Northern Ireland Independent Review of Education: Online Policy Forum

An online Policy Forum took place on 22 March to examine the next steps and priorities for the education system in United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and its Independent Review of Education.

The Review was announced in 2020 and began in 2021. It examines Northern Ireland’s education system in depth, focusing on quality, equity and sustainability. It explores all levels of education, from the design and delivery of the whole education system to support for schools and outcomes for learners.

To start the forum, Dr Keir Bloomer, Chair of the Review Panel, gave an overview of the Review’s findings so far and its vision for the future of education in Northern Ireland. Representatives from schools and youth organisations discussed education following the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on vulnerable learners.

Michele Corkey, Director of Education of the Education Authority, examined the inequalities in the Northern Ireland education system and explored the priorities for the future. School and university representatives took this a stage further, discussing the options for and challenges of a single education system for Northern Ireland.

The Agency’s Assistant Director, Amanda Watkins, presented the principles and elements from the Agency’s Key Principles work and some emerging findings from Country Policy Review and Analysis work with Northern Ireland. She suggested that these main messages could provide possible learning points for consideration during the Independent Review.

In the final panel, school leaders and union representatives discussed the next steps for schools and staff, including funding, governance and training issues. The Chief Inspector of the Education Training Inspectorate, Faustina Graham, outlined the areas for improvement in Northern Ireland’s education and school standards, before Michele Corkey and Sian Linnane, a Researcher at the Policy Forum for Northern Ireland, closed the forum.

Many speakers in the forum echoed the important fact that inclusive education must be about all learners, not just a few distinct groups. They recommended that Northern Ireland use its Independent Review to reconsider the various layers and types of segregation in its education system, such as streaming by ability in schools, religious schools and a large special school system.

More information on the Forum is available on the Policy Forum for Northern Ireland website. The Independent Review Panel is expected to publish an interim report in October 2022 and the final report by April 2023.

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