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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Overarching areas for action


What you need to know


Education policy priorities and recommendations

Education plays a key role in determining an individual’s life chances.  The Equality Commission recognises and reinforces the wider value of education, beyond solely the achievement of qualifications. It can provide exposure to literature, language, sport, activities, art, and music; as well as allowing individuals to develop an understanding and experience of the value and range of diverse cultures, identities and backgrounds.

The Commission is aware of the proactive steps taken by a range of bodies, including Government Departments and the education sector more broadly, to promote equality in education across the equality grounds. Whilst we recognise and support this work, it is clear however that significant challenges remain.

Overarching areas for action

In addition to our priority areas for intervention, the Commission will also encourage action by stakeholders and government to advance our full range of recommendations, with a particular focus on tackling the inequalities identified in 2017 Statement on Key Inequalities in Education.

The Commission has identified the following overarching areas where it considers that targeted action could serve to address key inequalities, and advance equality of opportunity and good relations:

Improve equality data and analysis

Establish robust, reliable education information systems to address existing equality data gaps and provide more disaggregated data.

Advance a shared society through education

Move to a system of education which routinely teaches all pupils together via a shared curriculum in shared classes, in support of better advancing a shared society.

Tackle prejudice-based bullying and challenge stereotypes

See the Equality Commission's policy recommendations: Tackling bullying and challenge stereotypes in education (pdf)

The Department of Education should undertake comprehensive research to establish, and track over time, the prevalence and nature of prejudice-based bullying, and to assess school compliance with the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act.

The Department of Education and Education Authority should ensure their guidance on complying with the requirements of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act, and on responding to and preventing incidents of bullying behaviour, is comprehensively implemented and updated as required.

The Department of Education should ensure actions to tackle unintentional acts of prejudice-based bullying, which are not covered by the statutory definition of bullying, are adequately dealt with in guidance.  

Strong and visible leadership from the school principal, senior management team and board of governors is needed to promote an anti-bullying culture within every school.   

The Department and other stakeholders should ensure that support materials and opportunities within the curriculum comprehensively address prejudice-based bullying.  


Measures to tackle bullying should include challenging gender roles to further the broader societal aim of preventing gender-based violence.   

Legislative protection from disability-based harassment should be extended to schools.  


Address inequalities in attainment and access

Recommendations of benefit to all children

Deliver a shared curriculum in shared classes to support improved attainment across equality groups. 

Provide, and monitor uptake of, appropriate, accessible and affordable childcare and early-years provision more generally to meet the diverse needs of all children.   

Promote collaborative approaches to drive attainment, involving engagement with parents / families / carers and the wider communities of key equality groups.  

The Education Authority should put in place a system for learning from successful interventions, and disseminate and share these lessons with other schools. 

The Department of Education should develop a system of post-primary transfer that enables all pupils to maximise their potential.  

Recommendations specific to Traveller/ Roma/ Newcomer children:

Budget allocations for identified groups should be monitored to assess how they improve outcomes for pupils.  

The Department of Education should put in place measures to support the education of Traveller and Roma children, particularly in relation to: data collection and analysis; admissions and registration processes; planning transitions; and examining segregated provision.  

The Intercultural Education Service (IES) should publish, and take account of, key outcomes arising from its delivery plan.

More transparent monitoring and review of the Traveller Child in Education Action Framework is needed.   

The Department of Education should assist schools in making effective use of dual language resources to help Newcomer learners access the curriculum.  

The Department of Education should identify and address the complex emotional, educational and social needs of asylum seeking and refugee children; and ensure that adequate funding is available to meet the needs of those who arrive during the year.  

Recommendations specific to children with disabilities and /or SEN:

Government should ensure the quality of educational experiences received by children with special educational needs (SEN) in Northern Ireland.  

The proposed code of practice to support the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (NI) 2016 should clarify outstanding issues – including around student involvement; staff training; review and dispute resolution.  

Relevant legislation should be amended to address deficiencies, and to improve the educational experiences of students with SEN and or disabilities.  

Recommendations specific to young carers and looked after children:

The Departments of Education and Health should provide tailored support to ensure the effective participation in education of every looked after child.  

The Departments of Health and Education should work in collaboration to identify young carers and provide services to both support them and improve their educational outcomes.  


Mainstream equality in education and in teacher development

Comprehensive action should be taken by the Department of Education, schools and other education bodies to embed equality of opportunity and good relations within the content and delivery of the curriculum.   

Equality and good relations issues should be mainstreamed into initial teacher education (ITE) and continuous professional development (CPD)  

There should be greater sharing and collaboration between teacher training colleges.  


Programme for Government: our recommendations

The Equality Commission has set out its recommendations in relation to the next Programme for Government and Budget of the NI Executive. These include actions relating to education, namely to:
  • ensure a move to a system of education which routinely teaches all pupils together via a shared curriculum in shared classes, and where sharing impacts meaningfully and substantively on every learner
  • tackle prejudice based bullying; address gender stereotyping in education; and remove the barriers facing looked after children and young carers
  • address education inequalities, including those experienced by Irish Travellers; those entitled to free school meals, particularly boys, notably Protestant boys; and children/young people with disabilities
  • mainstream equality in education, including in the curriculum, teacher training and the policies/practices of schools and wider education bodies
Further information
Commission responses to PfG proposed delivery plans:
Further information is available on the Programme for Government section of our website

Further information about the Commission’s priorities and recommendations is available in the following publications:

Additional information
Contact us

If you would like to dicuss this area of our work further, please contact us by email:

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