Greater co-operation between education and health chiefs is needed if Northern Ireland is to tackle poor literacy and numeracy levels, a major report has said.
Chief inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate Stanley Goudie noted improvements in the education system over the last two years in his latest biennial report.
But with one in five pupils still leaving primary school with poor literacy and numeracy skills, he said significant challenges lay ahead for schools, further education colleges and training sector.
"I think the issue of literacy and numeracy is an issue for all of the school sector, further education and training sector and indeed the youth sector, because I think all can play their part," he said.
"By way of illustration, we have about one child in five leaving primary education without the appropriate level of literacy and numeracy. That is an issue for that child because it transfers with the child into their post-primary education."
Mr Goudie said the one-in-five figure matched the finding of his last report, but he noted a "slight improvement" in numeracy and literacy levels among older primary school children, which he hoped was the beginning of an upward trend.
"I think it's important to acknowledge that whilst it isn't simply a matter for education, it would be our view that the resolution of this will come when education and health and social services combine, and there are of course issues in terms of parenting, and the wider community.
"I think the way to tackle it, is to tackle it in a multi-disciplinary way, in addition to building the capacity in our schools to deal with those young people who are presenting with a number of barriers to learning which then manifests itself in poor numeracy and literacy skills."
His report noted that an estimated 3-4% of the school population continues to have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. More also needs to be done to strengthen the ability of schools to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of children with special educational needs.
Mr Goudie said: "The last two years have seen significant change in the education system here, with a number of new policies beginning to have positive impact. Initiatives such as Every School a Good School, launched last year by the Department of Education, place a welcome and renewed emphasis on raising standards. There is now a robust framework in place to support schools when inspection shows provision to be below the required standard and already we have seen real improvements as a direct result."