Retired principal of Newtownabbey school on educational underachievement panel

Former Hazelwood Integrated College principal Kathleen O’Hare has been appointed to the Expert Panel to address educational underachievement and social disadvantage in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 12:31 pm
Kathleen O'Hare, former principal at Hazelwood Integrated College, Newtownabbey.

The recently retired head teacher is among six members of the body announced yesterday (Tuesday) by Education Minister Peter Weir.

It has been established under the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement which set out the requirement for an expert group to examine and address links between persistent educational underachievement and socio-economic background, including long-standing issues facing working-class, Protestant boys.

The chair and other panel members are: Dr Noel Purdy, Stranmillis University College; Mary Montgomery, principal, Belfast Boys Model School; Joyce Logue, principal of Longtower Primary in Derry/Londonderry; Jackie Redpath, chief executive, Greater Shankill Partnership and Professor Feyisa Demie, Honorary Professor, Durham University.

Speaking in the Assembly, the minister said: “Every child in Northern Ireland, regardless of their community background, deserves a real chance in life. From birth, some children will face significantly greater obstacles which need to be overcome before they are in a position to realise their full potential. Currently some manage to overcome these barriers and others do not.

“Since taking office at the start of this year I have been committed to establishing an Expert Panel as soon as possible. I believe this issue is simply too important to ignore.”

In 2017/18, only 48.6% of Free School Meal entitled (FSME) school leavers achieved the benchmark of five or more GCSEs (A*-C), including English and Maths. While this figure has increased by over 22% in the last 12 years, the equivalent for non-FSME school leavers was 78.1% with a 19.6% increase over the same period.

The panel will engage with organisations which have experience of the issues associated with educational underachievement. This includes parents and children as well as the wider education sector, government, the voluntary and community sector, business representative organisations and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Mr Weir added: “Despite, the Covid-19 pandemic, I have remained committed to establishing this review panel and enabling them to start their work and now I have also set an ambitious timescale of nine months for the work. They will start work in September and I have tasked them to produce a final report by the end of May 2021.”

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