Young Protestant boys from poorer backgrounds are still stuck on the bottom rung of our education ladder, new statistics have confirmed.
The Department of Education figures boast an increase of 2% in the number of pupils achieving at least five good GCSEs – grades A*-C, including maths and English – in the last year.
But the analysis of the performance of pupils leaving post-primary schools in 2012/13 also highlights huge gaps between genders, religious backgrounds and social classes.
At the top of the class are Catholic girls who do not qualify for free school meals. More than 77% are leaving school with five GCSEs of grades A*-C – well above the Northern Ireland average of 62.2%.
And at the bottom of the pile are Protestant boys from poorer backgrounds – only a quarter got five good GCSE results.
The statistics also reveal:
- Catholic children are out-performing their Protestant counterparts at GCSE and A-Level
- Almost half of Catholic school-leavers go to university or teacher training colleges (47.5%), compared to 38.7% of Protestants
- Protestant boys are far less likely to go to university than any other group (32.8%)
- Of those receiving free school meals, 34% of Catholic boys received good GCSE results and 43% of Catholic girls, compared to just 25% of of Protestant boys and 33% of Protestant girls.
The figures confirm findings published earlier this year in the Community Relations Council's Peace Monitoring Report, which found that Protestant boys from poorer backgrounds were among the worst performers in the UK.
However, there has been an overall improvement across the board. Education Minister John O'Dowd pointed to a 2% increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least five GCSEs A*-C or equivalent – that's 78.5% of school-leavers.
"There has been a notable improvement in the performance of pupils in our non-selective schools where the proportion of pupils achieving at least five GCSEs A*-C or equivalent was up by 3.9 percentage points, from 61.3% in 2012 to 65.2% in 2013," he added.
At A-Level, girls continue to outperform boys. In 2012/13, 43.2% of girls achieved at least three A-Levels A*-C on leaving school compared with 29.1% of boys. And 63.3% of girls achieved two or more A-Levels A*-E or equivalent in 2012/13 compared with 47.3% of boys.
Some 59.1% of Catholic school-leavers achieved two or more A-Levels compared with 51.9% of Protestant school-leavers.
The proportion of school-leavers achieving at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C or equivalent has increased by 8.3% over the last five years, from 70.2% in 2008/9 to 78.5% in 2012/13.
The proportion achieving two or more A-Levels was 55.1% in 2012/13, an increase of 4.9% over the last five years from 50.2% in 2008/9.