Just 25 poor Protestant boys go to uni
Just 25 Protestant boys in receipt of free school meals who attended non-grammar schools throughout Northern Ireland went to university in 2011, the Education Minister John O’Dowd has admitted. There were even fewer (23) Protestant boys from deprived backgrounds who progressed from grammar schools to university.
The number of poor Protestant girls attending non-grammar schools who went on to university was not much higher at 39. Again, even fewer girls from this background (33) left grammar schools and went on to university.
Overall, just 120 Protestant school leavers entitled to free school meals attending either grammar or non-grammar schools across Northern Ireland went on to university last year.
“This is something that’s been a huge concern for a number of years,” said local community worker Brian Dougherty, Director of St Columb’s Park House.
“Not only in terms of the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist community. It’s something neither unionist nor nationalist politicians have shown any great commitment towards tackling properly.
“Dawn Purvis was one of the few who did put it at the top of the agenda but she’s no longer an MLA. It is incredibly frustrating.”
Ms Purvis was head of a working group, which last year issued a report called ‘Educational disadvantage and the Protestant working Class: A Call to Action’
Today Mr Dougherty has repeated that call and asked politicians and educationalists to tackle the problems head on.
Mr O’Dowd said he aimed to tackle the effects of social disadvantage on education. As well as the 10.8 per cent of Protestants from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university, just 22 per cent of Catholic school leavers from similar backgrounds went on to university.
The Education Minister stated: “The number of Protestants from deprived backgrounds that leave school and go on to higher education is very low: in 2011 there were 25 boys and 39 girls who were entitled to free school meals and left non-grammar schools to go to university.”
“There were an additional 23 boys and 33 girls entitled to free school meals that left grammar schools to go to university. This gives a total of 120 out of the 1109 Protestant school leavers entitled to free school meals that progressed to higher education, which is 10.8 per cent.
“This compares with 544 of the 2474 Catholic school leavers entitled to free school meals that progress to higher education, which is 22 per cent. I am determined to take action to break the link between social disadvantage and educational underachievement.
“I have in place a coherent set of policies designed to improve educational outcomes for young people and to address the root causes when pupils are not achieving to their full potential.”
St Columb’s Park House commissioned the groundbreaking ‘Population Change and Social Inclusion Study’ in 2005, which outlined in sharp relief the extent Protestants felt alienated in the North West.
The study revealed that many Protestant’s were reluctant to attend third and higher level institutions in the predominantly nationalist cityside of Londonderry.
But Mr Dougherty said this was not an excuse for the startling figures newly released by the Education Minister.
“What we are facing now is low levels of achievement in schools that are in Protestant working-class areas. You can’t use the issue of safety fears as an excuse.
“Schools sometimes blame the parents. That’s complete rubbish. Primary schools like Ebrington and Drumahoe, which are in working-class areas have high levels of attainment but then there are huge disparities in attainment when pupils go on to secondary level.
“My view is that this has to be tackled by the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) and the politicians. This is the real issue in Protestant working class areas, not the issue of flags or anything else,” said Mr Dougherty.
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Weather for Londonderry
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 7 C to 13 C
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