Education news

`Fresh approach' needed to educational underachievement

The Prince's Trust said educational underachievement was a critical issue across Northern Ireland

YOUNG people need to learn in an environment that allows them to experience success, it has been urged.

The Prince's Trust said educational underachievement was a critical issue across Northern Ireland.

It noted that the collapse of the Executive in January led to the scrapping of an inquiry designed to tackle the issue.

The Prince's Trust, which helps those aged 13 to 30 get into jobs, education and training, brought together "some of NI's top minds in education" to look at solutions to address widespread underachievement in the education system.

The youth charity said education should prepare young people for the future they want, however, many experience challenges with attendance, attainment and motivation, putting them at risk of underachieving or exclusion.

A third of GCSE entrants in Northern Ireland do not achieve five GCSEs at grade A*- C including English and maths. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds consistently do less well than their peers .

The level of unauthorised absences from school in the north is proportionately twice as high as those in England.

In addition, the number of young people who are unemployed and long-term unemployed in Northern Ireland remains consistently higher than the UK average

The Prince's Trust said it was "clear that a fresh approach is needed".

NI director of the Prince's Trust, Mark Dougan, challenged an audience of educators, academics and private sector partners to work together to create a learning environment that allows students to experience success.

"Too many students become disengaged with education and leave school or college with few qualifications, low levels of confidence and low aspirations for the future," he said.

"No matter where they live and no matter their background, we have to ensure that the right kind of learning is available to young people to ensure they get the best chance to succeed."

Over the past decade, the Prince's Trust has supported more than 18,000 young people in schools in the north to reach their goals.

Its Achieve programme helps 11 to 19 year-olds develop the skills and confidence they need to reach their goals, through relevant, engaging and informal learning. The Achieve programme is designed to help young people re-engage with education and support them to achieve their full potential.

Derek Baker, the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education, said a new Programme for Government would bring a shift in approach.

"The focus on outcomes is a big cultural change. It is critical that we bring together partners from across the spectrum to reach the end goal of giving our young people the best start in life," he said.

"Through the Achieve programme, The Prince's Trust is already making a fantastic contribution to the education of our young people in NI. Huge numbers of young people are being supported and given hope for their futures."

Alan Logan, principal of Belfast Boys Model School, told the event that a culture of enjoyment was important for young people to engage with learning.

"We want our boys to feel that if they aren't at school they are missing out," he said.

"We need to work with them to map the best path to success for them, bite sized chunks and clear goals mean there is less danger of young people being left behind. The personalised curriculum of the Achieve programme is a great way of tackling this - their own personal development is central to the programme."

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