An expert panel tasked with finding ways to help struggling students in Northern Ireland used its first meeting to promise real-life solutions.
Members of the new panel and the Education Minister Peter Weir met for the first time yesterday at Cregagh Primary School.
Panel chair Dr Noel Purdy from Stranmillis College acknowledged much of the focus on underachievement had focused on Protestant working-class boys but said many groups were affected.
This included those with special educational needs, newcomer or refugee children, Roma or Traveller children, carers, LGBT children and those at risk of exclusion.
"Drawing up a costed, outcomes-based action-plan will make it easier for our politicians to deliver real change within a realistic time frame," he said.
He said the disruption of Covid-19 had also increased the existing inequalities with pupils spending months at home.
On his own experience, he said: "I grew up in a working-class council estate in Dungannon, but thanks to aspirational parents and an excellent school I went on to study at Cambridge University."
He added that as a parent his four children were all in different education sectors; nursery, primary, post-primary and special.
"I want an education system in Northern Ireland in which all of our children have equal opportunities, not just to learn and achieve but to thrive irrespective of family background."
Panel member Kathleen O'Hare is a former principal at Hazelwood Integrated College and St Cecilia's College.
She said she had witnessed how issues like inter-generational unemployment had caused many pupils to lose hope, but said challenging a culture of failure did not need to be expensive.
Belfast Boys' Model principal Mary Montgomery said boys could often struggled with issues like boredom and feelings of irrelevance.
She said a key part of the plan should be making sure school leaders were well resourced to put the necessary measures in place.
Professor Feyisa Demie, honorary professor with Durham University, joined the meeting virtually. His previous work has focused on tackling the educational underachievement of black and Caribbean heritage children in England.
He said targeted intervention in schools was one effective way to close the gap between poverty and under-achievement.
Peter Weir said the new panel would pave the way for a properly resourced action plan allowing education to be a "life-changer" for all children.
Cregagh Primary School principal David Heggarty hosted the meeting, and called on the panel to work for a better partnership between schools, family and communities.
"It is my hope... as a primary school principal of six years and as a former pupil of this very same school, raised by single parent in a low income home and reliant on free school meals, that a very wide and very foundational view of tackling educational underachievement is needed."