Belfast Telegraph

Concern as 30% leave Northern Ireland schools with low qualifications

And lack of basic employability skills, report finds

Northern Ireland is training too many teachers according to a report.
Northern Ireland is training too many teachers according to a report.

A new report has expressed concern after it was revealed 30% of students are leaving Northern Ireland schools with low qualifications.

The Northern Ireland Skills Barometer report from the Department for the Economy and Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre found that 30% of school leavers achieved less than five GCSE's from A*-C including English and Maths.

The report also found that children entitled to free school meals were more likely to leave school with lower qualifications.

Less than half (48%) of students entitled to free school meals achieved five GCSE's, compared to more than three-quarters (77%) of pupils not in receipt of free school meals.

"Addressing this challenge is particularly difficult as education performance is not just determined by factors within schools. It is influenced by multifarious economic and social factors outside the school environment," the report said.

"A recent literature review highlighted that the home learning environment is arguably a stronger influence on a child’s education performance than the school environment."

The report also found that firms were consistently reporting "a lack of basic employability skills amongst graduates" and described this as "concerning".

"Fewer students working in part-time jobs may explain part of this or a lack of work based learning within degree programmes," it said.

It predicted that a third of jobs over the next decade will require a degree as a minimum qualification.

The report said 23% of people currently employed in Northern Ireland have an undergraduate degree.

It forecasts that 85,380 jobs could be created in Northern Ireland by 2028 in a high growth scenario.

Under a baseline scenario, which is considered most likely, 39,130 extra jobs will be created.

Meanwhile, education is forecast to be the most oversupplied employment area over the next 10 years with more teachers in training than will be needed.

The report estimated Northern Ireland would train roughly 140 teachers that would struggle to find employment every year for the next decade.

Last year saw 515 newly-qualified teachers graduate in Northern Ireland.

However, the report said it was "important not to overreact to areas of over and undersupply" and that "pupils should be provided with all the available labour market information in order to make informed career choices".

In contrast, engineering and technology is set to be the most under-supplied sector by 2028.

Other subject areas set to be oversubscribed include social studies, medical related subjects, medicine and dentistry, and law.

"It is estimated the economy will require an additional 330 engineering and technology graduates and 290 additional maths and computer science graduates each year," the report said.

Areas projected to need more staff include mathematical and computer sciences, physical and environmental studies and historical and philosophical studies.  

The report found that STEM related subjects in general were under-supplied.

"This is a skills shortage identified across many developed economies and given the likelihood of continued demand for these skills and the potential in these sectors, methods to increase provision in these subject areas should be considered," the report said.

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