Low attainment of Protestant boys troubling

Poorer Protestant boys are 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.

The shocking levels of underachievement amongst Protestant working class boys has been repeatedly highlighted by the Sentinel. In 2012 the Sentinel reported 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 Protestant boys from deprived backgrounds who progressed from grammar schools to university. Just 23.

Writing in the Sentinel Professor Peter Shirlow, of the Queen’s University suggested controlled sector schools needed their own representational body to match those of the Grammars, special needs schools and Catholic schools.

Now Dr Paul Nolan, in his third annual stock-taking of the ‘peace’ has once again thrown into sharp relief how Protestant working class boys are being failed by the system.

In a Chapter on ‘Equality’ Dr Nolan srites: “Using the measure of five good GCSEs including English and maths the gap between non-Free School Meals Entitlement (FSME) Catholic girls (76.7 per cent) and Protestant FSME boys (19.7 per cent) is 57 percentage points.

“Even allowing for some variability in the data collection, the picture is a clear one. Catholic girls not on FSME are close to the very top of the attainment ladder, and on these estimates are vying with the most successful social group, the Chinese, while Protestant FSME boys are close to the very bottom, just above Irish Travellers and Roma children.”

Dr Nolan sees this inequality in attainment as problematic, writing: “The educational under-achievement of a section of socially disadvantaged Protestant males is a seedbed for trouble.”

He adds: “Young Protestant males were much in evidence in the hyper-masculine confrontations with the police during the year, and in the subsequent court cases.”