PROTESTANT children continue to lag behind their Catholic counterparts when it comes to academic achievement in schools right across Northern Ireland, according to new data released by the Department of Education.
In 2011/12, 59.1 per cent of Catholic school leavers achieved two or more A levels compared to 51.8 per cent of Protestant school leavers.
Equally, 63.5 per cent of Catholic school leavers left with at least five GCSEs at grades A* - C or equivalent including GCSE English and maths, and 78.8 per cent left with at least five GCSEs at grades A* - C.
The corresponding proportions for Protestant school leavers were 60.2 per cent and 73.8 per cent respectively.
And 19.7 per cent of Protestant boys entitled to free school meals achieve at least five GCSEs at grades A* - C or equivalent including GCSE English and Maths compared with 33.2 per cent of Catholic boys entitled to free school meals.
Catholic girls entitled to free school meals (43.8 per cent) outperform Protestant girls entitled to free school meals (32.4 per cent) in achieving at least five GCSEs at grades A* - C or equivalent including GCSE English and maths.
When religion of pupil is considered 39.2 per cent of Protestant school leavers enter Institutions of Higher Education compared with 45.2 per cent of Catholic school leavers.
Last October the Sentinelreported how just 25 Protestant boys in receipt of free school meals who attended non-grammar schools throughout Northern Ireland went to university in 2011.
There were even fewer (23) Protestant boys from deprived backgrounds who progressed from grammar schools to university.
In response to our report University of Ulster Professor Peter Shirlow wrote: “It is clear that social class still determines lifestyle and outcome and all the more so as we are living in a knowledge driven economy.”
The academic said particular attention was required in Londonderry and that a long term strategy was required.
“The city of Londonderry with regard to its economic future needs to produce a better educational base. Investors will not come for a low wage economy as they now seek a workforce that is highly trained and educationally capable,” said Professor Shirlow.