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Education system 'can learn from Covid crisis'

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Chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey

Chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey

Chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey

Northern Ireland's education system can learn many lessons from coping during Covid-19 - some of them surprisingly positive, the Equality Commission has said.

A new publication, Learning from the Pandemic, asked 13 educationalists, charities and community and voluntary sector organisations about how learning from the last year can help to reduce educational inequalities.

Chief Commissioner Geraldine McGahey said that improved communication all round will be key to future improvements.

"We know that a lack of family engagement is linked to poorer educational outcomes," she said.

"Recognising the importance of improved communication between schools, education bodies and families, and the technology to enable it, are things we should hold on to.

"Many parents lacked confidence, skills, space, technology, time, or faced language barriers.

"Perhaps what is most surprising is that there are real positives. It would be a pity not to build on the willingness of people to pull together and on finding new, creative ways to support children," she said.

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"But these things won't work without acknowledging their importance by resourcing them properly."

Save the Children was one of the key stakeholders to take part and said that there's now a chance for schools to build on stronger relationships of trust with families.

The charity also said that children's resilience and emotional wellbeing will be key to recovery.

Barnardo's NI said the last year highlighted pressures faced by families, not all of them new.

"Some parents lacked confidence with their own literacy and numeracy skills while others faced the added pressures of balancing home learning, their own work and stretched household finances," the charity said.

Jayne Thompson of parent support group Parentkind NI said that "communication is key at all levels".

"Parents want to engage with the policy-makers," she said.

"They want to have their say and hear directly from the decision-makers but communications about services could have been better and more direct."

Nearly all contributors cited the mental health and wellbeing of children, staff and parents as a key issue to address.

The report also found that the shortcomings of policies made at speed and a lack of consultation and information left families and schools at a disadvantage, struggling to make big changes at very short notice.


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