Written answers

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Department of An Taoiseach

Cross-Border Co-operation

Photo of Patrick CostelloPatrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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138. To ask the Taoiseach if he has read the recent report on the education systems North and South by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will detail the target funding from the Shared Island fund which is being used in this field, particularly to target the high prevalence of early school-leavers in Northern Ireland. [28634/22]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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On 28 April, I launched and participated in a webinar conference on the Shared Island report referred to, by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), on ‘A North – South comparison of Education and training systems: lessons for policy’.

This report was commissioned as part of the joint research programme between the ESRI and my Department’s Shared Island unit.

This is the first study to systematically examine education systems and outcomes in the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland, from primary through to third-level. The research explores a range of issues including educational attainment, educational inequalities in society, skills development and related labour market outcomes, North and South.

This research adds significantly to the evidence and understanding we have on how our education systems serve students, families and communities on this island, North and South; and how we could cooperate on an all-island basis on education delivery and reform to enhance educational experience and outcomes.

The ESRI study sets out clearly that, unfortunately, overall education achievement and school completion rates in Northern Ireland lag behind both the rest of the UK and Ireland. This is also the case for the impact of education sector initiatives in recent years to support levels of education completion and attainment in disadvantaged communities.

The Northern Ireland Executive has rightly put a focus on addressing this position - last year agreeing to take forward the recommendations of the ‘Fair Start’ report of the Expert Panel on Educational Underachievement.

I have long made the case for both the Irish and British Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, to do more to support the Executive in this area. The unique community context and legacy in Northern Ireland, means that education reform and meeting the needs of marginalised communities is more complex.

Tackling educational underachievement is one of the agreed work programme areas as part of Education Sector co-operation through the North South Ministerial Council.

The Government will seek to work with a new Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government to enhance our cooperation and support on educational attainment issues in Northern Ireland in the time ahead.

This is an important part of how we can work together for a more inclusive, prosperous and shared future on this island for all communities.

The Shared Island unit in my Department, in partnership with the the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (SCoTENS), has also commissioned two research projects on educational underachievement, which are underway and final reports will be published in October 2022. This work will also contribute to enhanced understanding and professional and policy development on educational attainment, on a shared island basis.

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