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Poorer pupils do less well at GCSEs

Northern Ireland pupils who are entitled to free school meals are half as likely to do well in their GCSEs than those who do not.

Statistics released by the Department of Education revealed just over a third (33.9%) of Year 12 pupils receiving free school meals achieved A*-C in five or more GCSEs, including English and maths, in 2012-13. That jumped to 66.7% among pupils not entitled to free school meals.

Of the 22,580 pupils in Year 12, 3,983 were on free school meals.

It is the first time the department has included a breakdown of how pupils on free school meals did in their GCSEs and A-Levels.

It comes amid controversy over the Education Minister's plans to change how schools are funded. 'Poorer' pupils would receive more funding than their more affluent counterparts under his reforms.

But the gap in achievement has come as no surprise to educationalists, who describe it as historic.

Professor Tony Gallagher, pro-vice chancellor at Queen's University, said the statistics reveal that policies, and additional funding, directed at narrowing the gap between pupils from different socio-economic backgrounds are not working. "We need to re-address the issue of low attainment and what policies we use to narrow that gap," he said.

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Overall, 60.9% of year 12 pupils achieved at least five GCSE grades A*-C, including English and maths, in 2012-13 – a slight rise on last year.

Girls also did better than boys.


* At A-Level, 98.1% achieved two or more at grades A*-E; 95.4% on free school meals.

* 65.2% of Year 14s got three or more A-Levels at A*-C; 50.9% on free school meals.

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