Skip to main content


EACEA National Policies Platform



Last update: 27 October 2020

A level

A General Certificate of Education (GCE) A Level is a single subject Level 3 qualification typically taken at age 18 after two years of post-16 study. Students typically take A Levels in 3+ subjects.

Awarding organisation

An awarding organisation is a body recognised by the qualifications regulator for the purpose of developing and awarding qualifications recognising learner achievements. Awarding organisations providing general (academic, rather than vocational) qualifications are often known as exam boards.

Catholic maintained school

A Catholic maintained school is a type of grant-aided (publicly funded) school, owned by the Catholic Church and educating mainly Catholic children.

Controlled school

A controlled school is a type of grant-aided (publicly-funded) school. Controlled schools are managed by a board of governors and mainly educate Protestant children.

Further education college

A further education (FE) college is an institution whose governing body is legally constituted as a further education corporation in accordance with the Further Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. Its governing body is appointed by and accountable to the Minister. There are six FE colleges which operate in Northern Ireland across 40 community campuses, offering a wide range of professional and technical options for school-leavers and adults, full-time general education programmes for 16- to 18/19-year-olds as well as some higher education programmes.


A General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is a single subject qualification typically taken at age 16 after two years of study in Key Stage 4.  Higher grade GCSEs are Level 2 qualifications on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), and lower grades are Level 1. Students typically take GCSEs in 8+ subjects.

Interface areas

Interface areas are where residential areas segregated along Nationalist/Catholic and Unionist/Protestant lines meet.

Looked after child

A looked after child (LAC) is a child in the care of a  Health and Social Care Trust or who is provided with accommodation by a Trust under the terms of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995. Looked after children may be living in residential homes or schools, with foster carers, or with a family relative or friend.

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)

A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) is a work-based qualification developed using agreed sector-wide standards.

Power-sharing executive

Under the Belfast ('Good Friday') Agreement, executive power is shared on a cross-community (unionist/nationalist) basis, under a governance model for societies emerging from, or with the potential for, conflict.


There is no legal definition of sectarianism, but in the Northern Ireland context, it is generally accepted as involving discrimination or prejudice on the basis of religious or political allegiance.

Section 75

Under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, public authorities, when carrying out their functions relating to Northern Ireland, must ‘have due regard’ to the need to promote equality of opportunity between people in nine equality categories.

Special educational needs (SEN)

Special educational needs (SEN) is defined in the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 as: 'a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made'.