Northern Ireland news

Former head of NI civil service named on new education review panel

Education minister Michelle McIlveen. PIcture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

THE former head of the civil service has been named on a new panel to review Northern Ireland's fractured education system.

Sir Gerry Loughran, who is also an ex-permanent secretary, is one of five people who will carry out the long-awaited review, which was agreed as part of the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) deal.

The panel is expected to begin work immediately on the review, which will take place over the next 18 months.

The four other panel members are Dr Keir Bloomer, Marie Lindsay, Robin McLaughlin and Isabel Nisbet.

The terms of reference for the review were previously agreed by the Executive with the panel expected to "develop an agreed vision for education in Northern Ireland as well as considering issues relating to education journey and outcomes; support for schools and settings; and system level design and administration".

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen yesterday said the independent panel will "take forward this important review of our education system".

"The NI Executive is in agreement that the education system, whilst having areas of excellence, faces many significant challenges," she said.

"A non-political, non-sectoral and wholly independent review is an essential starting point for longer term reform, modernisation and transformation.

"This review is a wide-ranging and challenging assignment.

"I am confident that the panel has the breadth of expertise and experience to set out a vision for what a high quality, innovative and inclusive education system looks like in Northern Ireland in the 21st century."

The establishment of the panel has been welcomed by the Governing Bodies Association (GBA), the representative body for 50 voluntary grammar schools in the north.

Jacqueline Weir, chairperson of the GBA, said: "We very much welcome the announcement of the panel drawn from a broad education perspective locally and beyond.

"This review provides a rare opportunity to take a holistic look at the delivery of education in Northern Ireland.

"Voluntary grammar schools deliver high quality educational experiences for children with greater autonomy resting with the boards of governors

"The GBA looks forward to meeting with the committee and discussing the voluntary principle with them.

"There is no single formula for a good school, but the voluntary system in Northern Ireland has demonstrated how the devolution of power, responsibility and accountability to individual schools combined with strong community roots can bring real excellence and quality to education."

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