Belfast Telegraph

Lack of post-primary schools affecting east Belfast's youth: report

By Rebecca Black

A new report suggests a lack of post-primary schools in east Belfast is contributing to underachievement among young Protestants living in deprived areas.

The ILiAD report also criticises academic selection, finding that it favours parents who can pay for private tuition, and leads to grammar schools creaming off high-achieving pupils from non-selective schools.

The three-year study by 10 experts - Belfast academics at Queen's University, Belfast, and Stranmillis University College - indicates that the number of schools in west Belfast has had a positive impact on young people, while the fact that east Belfast has just one non-selective post-primary has had a negative impact.

The ILiAD report found that despite Whiterock in west Belfast being the most deprived ward in Northern Ireland, there was a higher percentage of young people who gained five good GCSEs (58%) than in other less deprived areas. The report authors put this down to high-performing schools in the ward, more than half of young people having access to a school less than a mile away from their home, and social mixing.

However, in the Tullycarnet area of east Belfast the report found only one post-primary school within two miles of the estate, and almost half of the 109 post-primary pupils attend a high school which is 4.3 miles away.

The report finds that these distances "serve to reinforce the idea that, for local young people, education is not a priority and make it difficult for young people to feel 'their school' is in any way part of 'their community'."

Former DUP education minister Peter Weir said: "The report highlights the many issues that we need to continue to address if we are to make a real difference in tackling educational underachievement, such as raising aspirations, embedding a culture of education, community involvement and choice within the curriculum."

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