M.A.D.E – Making A Difference in Education

Home / Youth Development / M.A.D.E – Making A Difference in Education


In 2016 NDCN was asked if it would help to bring together a group of interested people to consider what might be done about the problem of educational underachievement in North Down. Because this request clearly fitted its aim and vision, NDCN agreed to facilitate this process and it has continued and developed since, resulting in the Making A Difference in Education (MADE) initiative.

So far the MADE response has included the following:

  • Holding an awareness seminar. To launch the process and to reach and inform a wider audience, the Group arranged to hold a seminar in February 2017 and May 2018. At these events, there were formal presentations from a variety of speakers followed by group discussions.
  • Forming a steering group. A small ‘steering’ group (the Group) of relevant and interested people was initially formed. Following the awareness seminar and the interest it raised, more people asked if they could join, and its numbers are still increasing.
  • Exploring the need. The Group has started to gather relevant information on the problem including information on the extent of under-achievement in North Down and on what is being done elsewhere to address such problems.
  • Exploring the nature of the problem. The Group has endeavoured to identify at least some of the issues that might underlie the problem and the sort of solutions that might be needed to address it.
  • An initial action programme. The Group has also made a start by identifying a short-list of initial actions and starting to implement them.

For more information contact Louise on 028 9146 1386 or email: manager@ndcn.co.uk

The Steering Group

The work of MADE has been directed and encouraged by a ‘steering’ group (the Group) which now consists of a relatively wide range of committed people including:

  • The heads of several local schools.
  • People from relevant statutory sectoral bodies including the Department of Education, the Education Authority, CCEA, the SE Trust, Stranmillis College and SERC.
  • People from voluntary organisations working with young people including Barnardo’s, Homestart, North Down YMCA, Bloomfield PTA rep, Kings Church, local Councillors and, of course, North Down Community Network.

The agreed purpose of the Group is, on behalf of the North Down community, to endeavour to engineer a significant long-term reduction in the level of educational under-achievement in this area (and also to spread the ideas wider if they work).

Identifying the Relevant Issues

Early attempts by the MADE Group to suggest possible areas for action, we explored statistics, best practice and a range of other relevant issues, for more details and literature please contact us.

An Initial Short-List of Actions

At the beginning of this year, from the list it had assembled of possible actions, the Group identified a short list of the following twelve suggestions which might initially be pursued because they appeared to meet the criteria of being potentially relevant and effective, being relatively easy to implement and being relatively quick-acting. They are now being actioned.

For Children/young people

  • Holiday hunger. Addressing ‘holiday hunger’ was thought to relevant and might be implemented with local sponsorship. Also, it could/should happen in school – which is a ‘neutral’ area.
  • Affordable uniforms. There is clear need for access to affordable school uniforms and other ‘uniforms’ (such as PE kit and GB uniforms). There are some existing initiatives which could be expanded/replicated.
  • Fighting words/creative writing. Models exist elsewhere which help to make writing fun. We should try a pilot.
  • Transforming Lives For Good. This is a mentoring programme for which a model exists which could be replicated. But funding will be needed.
  • Pupil to pupil mentoring. Pilot programmes for peer-to-peer mentoring exist – and often the mentor gains even more than the mentored. We should identify them and learn from them.

For Parents

  • Parent’s information pack. We might seek to bolster parents by sourcing and sharing useful information, rather than relying on ‘official’ information sources.
  • Parent’s participation. Getting a view from parent’s themselves and encouraging their participation in their children’s education as the socially acceptable thing to do.
  • Parents programmes – creating learning opportunities for parents to be able to help and understand their children’s needs. 

For Teachers / Schools

  • Networking. Sharing information and support – possibly via a newssheet. Networking not just within schools, but also among schools and between schools and other organisations.

About the Education System

  • A ‘map’ and glossary. First drafts of a map and glossary have been developed to help to inform those who are not used to the system and its vocabulary. They should be made available and feedback on their usefulness sought.

Other Actions

  • An annual event. The Feb 2017 and May 2018 events were felt to be a good model for building support and momentum – so follow-on events are planned.
  • An implementation resource. Doing and coordinating all this requires resources. Group members are volunteering for some of the doing but ideally, a dedicated resource/person will be needed for the coordination.