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The Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen had her first engagement today in her new role presenting a Derrytrasna Pastoral Care Award to Ballysillan primary in Belfast.

Ballysillan primary was given funding of £3,200 from the Department, which has been used to source nurture resources for all classes from Nursery to P7, creating Nurture Nooks in each class, and providing training for all staff.

Presenting the award, Michelle McIlveen said: “I want to acknowledge the excellent work which has been undertaken in relation to the Ballysillan primary’s pastoral care and nurture arrangements.

“The school is clearly committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their children and young people. I am very impressed at the value of the wide range of nurture programmes and pastoral support which have been introduced within the school.”

Turning to her future priorities, the Minister said her immediate focus would be on recovery and the mental health and well-being of pupils.

She said: “I will set out my key priorities in the coming days. Initially I intend to build on the very good work which has been done to date in terms of recovery from the pandemic. This includes excellent programmes such as Engage, aimed at helping pupils’ catch-up with any lost learning and help build their confidence, as they continue in their education.

“Another important element will be supporting pupils’ mental health and well-being as we emerge from this pandemic. I also want to ensure that standards continue to be raised for everyone. The recent publication of ‘A Fair Start’ report and the implementation of the action plan will be central to achieving this, especially for those interventions specifically targeting Educational Underachievement.

“Finally, within the next few weeks, I hope to be in a position to make an announcement on the Independent Panel which will deliver on the NDNA commitment to take forward a review of education. This will be a wide ranging piece of work and represents the most fundamental review of the sector from early years to higher education and I am committed to making good progress on this before the end of the mandate.”