Link between Protestant boys' low grades and deprivation 'shameful'
The continued correlation between a parent's social background and their child's academic performance is shameful, Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan said.
His remarks came yesterday after a new Community Relations Council report found that Protestant boys from poorer incomes are more likely to be left behind in our schools.
Stormont Education Committee chairman Mervyn Storey said more measures are urgently needed to tackle the problem – including a body similar to the CCMS to support state schools.
"This latest report reinforces the conclusions of earlier work by the Education Committee, the Audit Office, Department of Education, Dawn Purvis and others," he said. "There is additional structural and financial support within the Catholic sector as a result of CCMS which has helped improve some schools.
"That is why the DUP has been calling for a similar body to support the controlled sector.
"We need more measures across the Executive to target the issue in a holistic fashion if we are to successfully tackle the problem such as programmes to target literacy and numeracy as well as nurture units in primary schools, recently introduced by the Executive."
Mr Kinahan said it is deplorable the perceived wealth, or lack of, of parents is the single biggest determining factor in educational attainment across pupils' lifetime.
"The correlation between social class and educational attainment has been known for many years and yet it is hugely frustrating that very little, if anything, has been done to tackle it.
"The current Education Minister, as well as his two Sinn Fein predecessors, have obsessed about pursuing their own crude ideological crusade against selection and therefore have neglected the real challenges facing our young people," he said.
Mr Kinahan said tackling this "abhorrent inequality" should be a priority for all political parties.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said that the research makes for troubling reading.
"The situation is most acute for Protestant males receiving free school meals, members of the Travelling community and members of the Roma community," he said.
"Less than 20% of these young people are achieving five good grades. That state of affairs reflects shamefully on our society.
"It is imperative that the Education Minister and the wider Executive pulls together to deal with educational disadvantage.
"Recognition is an important first step but we now need action to tackle the problem. We cannot afford, both morally and economically, to continue to let the issue drift under the radar," he said.
Northern Ireland Conservatives' spokesman Mark Brotherston said there is "a lack of political leadership when it comes to tackling areas of underachievement in Northern Ireland".