Better grades for poor boys a top priority

The new DUP leader used her Christmas and New Year addresses to explicitly promise to tackle the problem of educational underachievement, particularly among poorer Protestant boys, but across the board.

Speaking at Christmas, Mrs Foster made a point of prioritising the issue, stating: “I am determined that no citizen of Northern Ireland starting out in life will be written off before they reach adulthood.

Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster

“The party I lead will be working hard to tackle educational underachievement, particularly amongst young boys.

“We will re-double our efforts to ensure practical and meaningful solutions are implemented to tackle this problem.”

She followed this up in her first address of 2016, by stating: “The DUP will redouble our efforts to ensure the hopes and dreams of our young people are realised and that no one is written off.

“In the coming year we will be announcing a range of policies designed to tackle educational underachievement. I will always defend our education system. It was that system which enabled me, the first ever in my family, to reach university.

“It is unimaginable that I would be where I am today without our education system. But I also want to make this a reality for the hundreds of young people whose potential is not being harnessed.”

In 2014 Dr Paul Nolan, reported how poorer Protestant boys were close to the very bottom of the combined English and Northern Irish GCSES attainment table just above groups like Irish Traveller and Roma children, who often present complex cases.

In 2011 just 25 Protestant boys in receipt of free school meals who attended non-grammar schools throughout Northern Ireland went to university.