Nearly 80,000 children in primary and secondary schools across Northern Ireland are not getting a good enough education, according to the Chief Inspector’s latest report.
The report looking at the last two years highlighted challenges facing schools across the region.
“Too many pupils still receive an education that is not good enough,” Noelle Buick, Chief Inspector of the Education and Training Inspectorate, said.
“While more pupils are achieving overall, the gap between those entitled to free school meals and those not, remains an issue.
“It is unacceptable that boys continue to under-perform in exams compared to girls, with this trend most marked in non-grammar schools.
“There is also a need to improve the achievements and standards for Looked After Children.”
The report did find the quality of teaching to be good or improving, and good capacity to bring about overall improvement.
However, the Chief Inspector added: “Where improvements are needed, in many cases there needs to be more rapid and effective action for the benefit of the learners.”
Ms Buick said: "Tackling the issues will require much more joint working across government departments, and the outcomes focused approach is a key pinnacle of the new Programme for Government 2016-21."
Education Minister Peter Weir said that, despite financial challenges ahead, he was committed to tackling educational underachievement.
“It is clear from this report that there remain gaps in educational attainment for children from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Mr Weir said.
“While there are some improvements more needs to be done by all of us to tackle this problem.”
He added: “I appreciate that asking schools to deliver the same standards for less money is a challenge but, for my part, I will do whatever I can to help.
“That is why I have written to schools seeking their views on autonomy and increased financial delegation.
“The recent publication of the Education Authority’s area planning consultation also provides an opportunity for us to change the shape of education for the better.”