Some pupils struggling with reading and writing problems from a young age believe their needs are coming second to those of schools in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
The gap between the amount of funding allocated for children attending primaries and secondaries is unhealthy and needs to be addressed, a senior civil servant said at Stormont.
An independent review has called for greater emphasis on early years intervention in an effort to boost numeracy and literacy levels, which see more than one in six students at the end of primary school missing minimum standards.
Senior civil servant Paul Sweeney said education minister John O`Dowd was considering his next move.
"It is unhealthy for pupils who feel the needs of institutions are sometimes put before the needs of pupils," he told MLAs.
Mr Sweeney added there was a gap of £1,000 in funding per child between primaries and post-primaries and said a recent report by Professor Sir Robert Salisbury called for greater emphasis on early years intervention.
"There are quite fundamental issues here that the minister will wish to take forward and consult widely on before looking at options for reconfiguring the formula," the education department permanent secretary said.
He pointed out that some schools enjoying similar circumstances had widely varying pupil outcomes and said good teaching was critically important.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is investigating after an Audit Office report this year said two out of every five teenagers in Northern Ireland left school without basic reading and writing skills. The spending watchdog said unacceptably large numbers of pupils were not making the grade.
Kieran Donnelly, Comptroller and Auditor General, said more must be done to tackle the growing problem of educational underachievement.