Belfast Telegraph

Protestant children ‘let down’ by system

by staff reporter

Protestant children from disadvantaged backgrounds in north Belfast are performing much less well than those from Catholic areas in the city.

In the Protestant Oldpark Crumlin area, the percentage of children attaining five GCSEs is 31.8% yet the equivalent figure for Catholic children attaining five GCSEs in the Andersonstown area sits at 64.8%.

The statistics, contained in the most recent Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure, indicate that Protestant working class areas fare worst across Northern Ireland, with eight of the 10 worst performing schools being in Protestant areas.

Last week the Assembly Education Committee met students from four schools — Ashfield Boys, Belfast Model School for Girls, St Louise’s Comprehensive and Colaiste Feirste — at the Girls’ Model School for a question and answer session to inform its report, Successful Post-Primary Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities.

Committee chairperson, Mervyn Storey MLA said the committee was delighted to hear first hand about the excellent work the schools are doing in challenging circumstances.

“We have already received some very useful information on our inquiry and to speak to pupils and teachers directly on these issues has been incredibly |valuable.”

This data is particularly significant given the Coalition Government’s plan to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance.

The shopworkers union, USDAW, condemned the Government’s decision to scrap the EMA, stating it would ‘hit the poorest young people hardest and put at risk their chance to improve their lives through education’.

Speaking after last week's debate in Parliament when a Labour motion to rethink the decision was defeated, John Hannett, of Usdaw, said: “EMA has proved vital in helping young people from low income families stay on in education and training, so scrapping a policy that not only achieves its aim but pays for itself in doing so is nothing less than an act of ideological vandalism.”

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said educational underachievement in Protestant working class areas had always been a problem but added:”There have been a number of short-term initiatives undertaken over the years to address this issue.

“These efforts need to intensify and become long-term.

“We should also recognise progress which is being made. The Girls Model and Boys Model schools now have brand new state of the art premises which are enhancing the quality of education there,” said the MP.

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