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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.

Policy priorities


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.


Priority areas for intervention

The Commission considers, following engagement with stakeholders and wider consideration, that there are immediate opportunities and/or a particular pressing need to secure change in relation to:

Tackling prejudice-based bullying

See the Equality Commission's policy recommendations: Tackling bullying and challenge stereotypes in education (pdf) and Equality in Education: Addressing bullying and tackling stereotypes (summary, 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.  


Addressing inequalities in attainment and access experienced by Traveller, Roma and 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 'of benefit to all children'

We consider it important to seek to ensure progress on a number of the recommendations ‘of benefit to all children’ which we consider have the potential to deliver benefits to children and young people from across the equality categories, including those also entitled to free school meals (and specific groups therein - for example, boys, including those from Protestant backgrounds). In particular, we call for prompt action to advance childcare and early-years provision to meet the diverse needs of all children; to drive attainment via collaborative approaches involving family and the wider community; and to put in place a system for learning from successful interventions.

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. 


Also see our overarching areas for actionWhile the Commission will work to encourage prompt action to address the above, we also encourage action by stakeholders and government to advance our full range of recommendations, with a particular focus on tackling the inequalities identified in our Statement on Key Inequalities in Education which underpinned these policy priorities.

Further information - Equality Commission's education priorities and recommendations:

Additional information


Childcare and Early Learning
The Equality Commission has called for action to ensure appropriate, accessible, flexible and affordable childcare and early-years provision to meet the diverse needs of parents, carers, and children from across the range of equality categories. For more information, and to see our recommendations and supporting rationales, see

Download our full childcare policy priorities and recommendations:



COVID-19 Education Recommendations

Covid-19 and education

Covid-19 has the potential to exacerbate existing educational inequalities, both for children now and over their lifecycle. Our recommendations seek to take account of, and build upon, our existing calls for action (listed below) to Government and to the education sector more broadly, to promote equality in education.

Read our Covid-19 Education Recommendations


Contact us

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


< Education
< Addressing inequality
Case study videos - Improving attainment

Our policy recommendations call for actions to tackle prejudice based bullying and address inequalities in attainment. Our research on key inequalities in education highlight the extent of inequalities for specific groups.

Key Inequalities in Education in NI - introduction
Many children in Northern Ireland continue to experience persistent inequalities in education. The equality grounds where key inequalities were highlighted include: ethnicity, disability and gender, among others. These key inequalities are lifelong and impact upon the whole education journey.

The following examples reflect our recommendations. They show how specific targeted actions aimed at equality groups can contribute to improving their attainment.  Examples cover engagement with the wider community, parental involvement, the importance of supportive and inclusive learning environments and collaborative approaches.

Sandy Row Homework Club - Community engagement

Billy Ennis, Tutor Co-Ordinator at Sandy Row Homework Club, explains how community involvement and collaboration has improved the attainment levels of local children.

Oisín's story - Parental involvement and early intervention

Bernadette and Eugene Mee and son Oisín talk about his condition, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and his education experience. It shows the impact of early intervention and parental involvement on the education experience of a pupil with a disability.

St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook - Targeted action for boys
Daíthí Murray, Vice-principal at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook, Co Armagh, talks about the steps his school has taken to significantly boost the performance of boys at GCSE level.

Special Education Needs Advice Centre - Outstanding issues for SEN framework
Fiona O’Donnell, Support and Information Officer at the Special Educational Needs Advice Centre (SENAC), provides an advisor’s view of the SEN framework.

Malone College, Belfast - Inclusion and community outreach
Máire Thompson, Principal at Malone College, Belfast, explains the actions taken to welcome and promote the attainment levels of Newcomer students.

Patrick's story - Supportive and inclusive learning environment for Travellers
Patrick McDonagh, an Irish Traveller studying at Trinity College, Dublin,
describes his experiences of the education system and how Traveller attainment could be improved.

Belfast Boys' Model School - Collaborative approachesBelfast Boys Model School
Boys' Model School in North Belfast has achieved success by harnessing the dedication and effort of teachers and support staff, pupils and local community to ensure greater achievement by Protestant working class boys.

< Key Inequalities in Education
< Education (main landing page)

How have we advised Government on policy issues?

We regularly consider and comment on government policy and strategy where there are equality or good relations implications.

Here are our responses to consultations in the education sector:

Consultation responses

Equality Commission consultation responses to:

Disability in Education & SENDO consultation responses


< Education Policy Priorities

Podcasts on Education Inequalities


We have produced a number of podcasts on education inequalities in Northern Ireland.