More needs to done to tackle the serious problem of 4,000 teenagers leaving schools in Northern Ireland each year without basic reading and maths skills, according to the Employment and Learning Minister.
Sir Reg Empey said he continued to be shocked by figures showing that one in four adults here lack basic literacy and numeracy.
“Unfortunately there are still thousands of children coming out of school each year without qualifications in English and maths,” he said. “This means we are having to re-plough land that the department of education has already done through the school system and it is always more difficult and more expensive when people are adults.
“Therefore there is a very big interest and a keen desire for this department to see the situation in schools improved.”
Sir Reg said that essential skills were at the top of his priority list. “I can think of very few things we can do that has the ability to touch people's lives more,” he said.