Belfast Telegraph

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The consistency of performance can't be argued against

By Rebecca Black

Published 03/05/2016

Whether you believe the highest priority for a school should be academic excellence or not, it is impossible not to be impressed at the consistently high performances of our top Catholic schools.

In the 2013/14 academic year six out of the top 10 at A-level were Catholic schools; that increased to every one of the top 11 schools in the 2014/15 academic year.

By contrast, some of the best known non-Catholic grammars in Belfast have slipped below the Northern Ireland average.

St Dominic's High School in west Belfast has led the way for grammars at A-level for the third year in a row, and the other schools in the top 11 include Rathmore Grammar; St Louis in Ballymena; Our Lady's in Newry; St Mary's in Magherafelt, and Lumen Christi and Thornhill College in Londonderry.

If someone could bottle the ethos of success in these schools, they could run the world.

Sean Rafferty, principal of St Louis Grammar, makes a very salient point in today's Belfast Telegraph in calling for the Department of Education to examine what makes the top Catholic schools so successful, to learn the lessons and sprinkle that magic across the school estate.

Our annual league tables have come with the usual warning from the department that the data provided does not provide a valid basis for comparing schools.

There is no doubt that league tables are an extremely blunt tool, however these exam results, along with GCSEs, remain the only means which exist to compare schools, and five good GCSEs continue to be used as a basic standard qualification by employers.

Unfortunately, there is no way to easily measure what some educationalists term "value added learning", where a pupil outperforms their potential, often assisted by teachers so dedicated that their job and their young charges are their vocation.

There is a demand among parents to be able to compare the post-primary schools they are considering sending their children to, and as the newspaper of record in Northern Ireland, we feel it a duty to produce them each year.

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