Policy Forum for Northern Ireland

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Priorities and next steps for the education system in Northern Ireland - Independent Review findings | SEN services | Early years | Standards and outcomes | Scrutiny and inspection | Resources and workforce development

February 2024

Price: £150 PLUS VAT

This conference was focused on next steps for the education system in Northern Ireland.

It was an opportunity for key stakeholders and policymakers to examine the way forward for the sector following the published final report of the wide-ranging Independent Review of Education in Northern Ireland (IRENI).

It was also a key opportunity to discuss immediate and longer-term priorities for an incoming Executive, following the announcement of a deal between the DUP and UK Government to re-enter power sharing, and resumption of a Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, due to be announced shortly.

We are pleased to have been able to include a keynote session with the Chair of the Independent Review, Dr Keir Bloomer.

Delegates discussed next steps for the sector following the report, looking at key issues for addressing inefficiencies and budgetary pressures alongside priorities for raising standards, as well as the prospects for a single education system.

Delegates also discussed priorities for child development and early years provision, highlighted as a key issue in the IRENI.

Areas for discussion included proposals for developing high quality services and expanding universal provision, and moving towards an integrated service which promotes physical, intellectual and personal development from birth to the start of school.

Further sessions discussed key priorities for SEN provision following the DoE-commissioned Independent Review of SEN Services and Processes undertaken by Ipsos, as well as the Department’s end-to-end review of SEN and its place in the wider reform agenda.

We are also pleased to have been able to include further keynote sessions with: Dr Mark Browne, Permanent Secretary, Department of Education; Pauline Walmsley, Chief Executive Officer, Early Years; and Faustina Graham, Chief Inspector, Education and Training Inspectorate.

Overall, areas for discussion included:

  • IRENI: assessing key findings and priorities for the system in light of the Review’s final report - implications for policy and system change
  • the vision for education in NI: addressing education inequalities and underachievement - a joined up approach to education reform - assessing the case for an integrated education system
  • priorities for the school system: addressing funding challenges - adopting innovations and improving infrastructure - key challenges for the workforce - facilitating access to CPD
  • raising school standards: next steps for the curriculum and assessment - improving outcomes for school leavers - assisting in the progression to FE and employment
  • SEN provision: examining findings from the Review of SEN services - assessing challenges such as value for money
  • early years provision: improving access to high-quality services - balancing physical, intellectual and personal development - early-detection of emerging developmental challenges
  • scrutiny and inspection: ensuring fair and proportionate inspection - understanding how inspection and scrutiny can contribute to raised standards and educational attainment in Northern Ireland

The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from DAERA; Department for the Economy; Department of Education; Department of Finance; Department of Health; Executive Office; NIAO; and the Welsh Government.

This on-demand pack includes

  • A full video recording of the conference as it took place, with all presentations, Q&A sessions, and remarks from chairs
  • An automated transcript of the conference
  • Copies of the slides used to accompany speaker presentations (subject to permission
  • Access to on-the-day materials, including speaker biographies, attendee lists and the agenda