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Tough action for 'shocking' exam grades


25/11/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Education minister Caitriona Ruane has said there must be a zero-tolerance approach to the "shocking level of underachievement" among some schoolchildren.

Answering questions at the assembly, she was asked by Sinn Fein party colleague John O'Dowd how the replacement of the five education boards and other bodies by a single Educational Skills Authority (ESA) will improve outcomes for learners, particularly for young Protestant boys.

Ms Ruane said that while many pupils achieve great things there are still too many who do not receive the help and support they need to reach their full potential.

She said of children leaving primary school last year that one in every five moved into post primary education without having achieved expected levels in literacy and numeracy.

The minister also said at GCSE level last year almost half of young people did not achieve at least a grade C pass in English and maths - 12,000 pupils.

"This level of underachievement presents real challenges to boys," she said.

"In 2006-2007 some 44 per cent of Protestant boys left school with less than five GCSEs, grades A* to C. The figure for Catholic boys was 41 per cent.

"Under the ESA there will be a significantly increased focus on the professional development of teachers and the enhancement of leadership skills among principals and boards of governors.''

The minister also referred to other key policies on transfer, literacy and numeracy, special education needs and teacher education.

"We have to have a zero-tolerance approach to underachievement and we need to have measures in place that enable underachievement to be tackled,'' she said.

"One of the reasons that we are bringing about the establishment of ESA is to streamline administration, to make sure that we get money into the front line," she said.

"I have got £50 million on an invest-to-save basis.''



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