Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
For booking-related queries or information on speaking please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk, or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? Contact us at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Priorities for tackling educational underachievement in Northern Ireland

Morning, Monday, 11th October 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine priorities following the recent report from the Expert Panel on Educational Underachievement, A Fair Start, which outlines a new action plan with 47 areas for improvement.

Delegates will also look at the impact of COVID-19 on the attainment gap and educational underachievement, and other relevant developments, such as the Summer Scheme 2021 and the Pathway Fund 2021-2023, as well as the links between socio-economic deprivation and educational underachievement.

The agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • key findings from the Expert Panel - and priorities for addressing educational underachievement
  • the role of early learning and development in laying the groundwork for later learning - developing a play-based curriculum for the Foundation Stage, improving early language skills and preparation for primary study, and investment in the sector
  • improving the curriculum and assessment landscape - addressing inconsistency in curriculum implementation and developing a System Evaluation Framework, considering the interests of learners aged 14-19, and the role of assessments in bridging the educational achievement gap

socio-economic deprivation and educational achievement - improving co-operation between schools and communities, closing the gender-based achievement gap, and addressing the impact of mental health issues on educational attainment


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Education; and the Department for the Economy, NI. Also due to attend are representatives from the Action for Children NI; Lifestart Foundation; and National Foundation for Educational Research.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, senior officials from NI Executive Departments and regulators  involved in this area of policy, as well as from schools and colleges; local authorities; consultancies and charities; publishers, awarding bodies, Edtech providers and other suppliers; law firms; research institutes and think-tanks as well as academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Michelle McIlveen MLA

Minister of Education

Keynote Speaker

Michelle McIlveen MLA

Minister of Education


Pat Sheehan MLA

Deputy Chairperson, Committee for Education


Dr Noel Purdy

Director of Research and Scholarship, Head of Education Studies, Director of the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement, Stranmillis University College and Chair, Expert Panel on Educational Underachievement, Department of Education

Stephen Mullan

Chief Executive, Dreamscheme Northern

Barry Corr

Principal, Seaview Primary School, Glenarm

Michael Allen

Principal, Lisneal College, Derry-Londonderry

Alison McNulty

CEO, TinyLife

Dr William Kitchen

Lecturer in Education, STEM, Stranmillis University College

Dr Erin Early

Research Assistant, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, University College London

Rita Moore

Principal, St Mary’s Limavady

Professor Siobhan O’Neill

Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland