Nine years into a devolved Education ministry educational inequality persists…

Aha, that pesky Equality Commission is planning to dish out some more inconvenient truths about the shortcomings of Northern Ireland’s educational system. Stop me if you’ve read this before (because after seven years the news hasn’t significantly changed).

From the welter of information of provided, here’s the topline findings:

  • Males have persistently lower levels of attainment than females throughout primary and post-primary education;
  • Protestants have persistently lower levels of attainment than Catholics at GCSE and A-Level, and that gap has widened in recent years;
  • There are fewer male school leavers entering higher education than females and this has an impact on the make-up of the graduate workforce;
  • Minority ethnic school leavers are more than twice as likely to enter unemployment as their white peers;
  • Many schools are not effectively tackling racist bullying.

Just to emphasise, that’s boys are continuing to fail (a broader problem across the west), and Protestants are falling behind Catholics (which isn’t). Here’s what the current SF minister had to say:

“Over the last 10 years, there have been policies introduced which are beginning to show change, but there’s a long tale of underachievement here for many reasons which we need to tackle. We need the community to involve themselves, and we need community activists and politicians to stand up and admit there’s something wrong.” [Emphasis added]

A politician like say the guy who has been in a position first to help generate and latterly to oversee the implementation of Northern Ireland’s education policy for much of the last seven plus years John? Or is it just that when the news is good, it’s our doing? When it isn’t, well it’s not.

Then there’s this odd little sidebar in the BBC report:

Researchers interviewed one unionist and one republican student group. The republican group claimed they would not consider studying at Stranmillis University College and said they did not think Protestants would study at St Mary’s University College. However, the report admits there is no data to back up that claim. [Emphasis added]

Eh? Let’s see if I’ve got this right. This ‘republican’ group appears to be saying “We won’t go there because ‘themums’ wouldn’t come here?”

Perhaps if there was a modicum of focus on policy and outcomes there’d be more of a sense of common purpose and progress: never mind a greater sense of what a civic republicanism would look like. Whatever else this is, it most certainly isn’t that.

 

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  • willieric

    The seeds of failure and inequality are sewn before the pupils reach secondary school age. Age 11 plus is too late. The home/child/ parent /teacher/ school liaison work should be in full flow at age 5 years.
    Parents should be encouraged and welcomed into primary school classrooms to sit with and encourage their children and their children’s friends to read and write and draw and play together.
    Yet, what happens? Traditional methods, health and safety, child safety rules, and fears of litigation strangle such initiatives at birth. I believe Dawn Purvis produced some valuable research results in this area, when she was an MLA.
    But not in Dublin!!!!!!!!!!! For years past the Dublin education people have organised early year intervention involving intense parental assistance, a lot of which takes place after school with volunteer teachers.
    On another odd aspect of educational practice……… Every year in Northern Ireland scores of teachers retire and are made redundant with handsome pay-offs and pensions. These experts are highly educated, generous with their skills and time, and generally speaking well disposed towards young people less fortunate than themselves. Many homes throughout Northern Ireland have them.
    Perhaps some would respond positively if invited to help?

  • Cosmo

    Can I ask a question – has anyone else been able to work out, in simple numbers (not percentages), how many children each year, in absolute terms – catholic girls/boys, and protestant girls/boys in the FSME category, are leaving school with less than the 5 GCSe’s A to c level.
    (And therefore I assume, probably facing unemployment?).

  • Redstar

    Firstly IF its true that there is very serious underachievement in particular for Protestant boys that is simply unacceptable .

    However I would like to know the reason why this is so. Both sides have equal access to education so why is there this appalling situation?

  • 23×7

    Pretty obvious really, Parents.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Stop me if you’ve read this before (because after seven years the news hasn’t significantly changed)” What a very depressing statement to read regarding our Education System failing our most vulnerable in society. It is very difficult to sympathise with an Education Minister who talks about Policy and closes his eyes and shuts his ears to reports and figures which clearly indicate that his Policy is failing drastically. Community Activists are sick and tired standing up and shouting that there is something wrong and for Government to do something about this inequality ! A good start would be to re-introduce extra educational schemes that teachers and people was saying was having a positive effect !

  • Barneyt

    Imagine though, parents in class with a teacher? It would be hard for the teachers to function, as many parents seem to regard themselves as being capable in the noble profession. I’ve seen it too many times. I personally think its a minefield.

    Some would suggest that there are insufficient traditional methods in use, but on other points I do agree with you.

    There is no need to force a pen into the hand of a 4 or 5 year old. I would like to see alternative teaching methods used, more in line with Scandinavian methods and teaching through play and gaining an understanding of your environment. This will give more scope for parental involvement I think

  • Barneyt

    Is it not historical and seeded in the different opportunities that existed in N. Ireland? I have spoken to folks in England about the correlation between low academic achievement and towns that were traditionally steeped in industry. Take Derby as an example. Many left school at 14 and 16 to walk into Qualcast, Rolls-Royce, the Railways and other industries. This continued into the 80’s and perhaps later. This sort of environment does not foster a need for advanced secondary and tertiary education. The purpose of education is to find work, and if work is on your doorstep, your education is complete. That’s natural I suppose.

    Could Belfast have offered industrial opportunities to Belfast Protestants more than it did Catholics. It is not uncommon for families in the Catholic tradition to display 3 or perhaps 4 generations of graduates on their parlour walls. If I look at my experiences in Derby, I encountered so many cases where families where producing their first graduates in the 1990s.

    I’ve read that education in the nationalist community offered a way out to a better life, so this path was exercised more and has established a tradition and an education ethos that has been handed down from generation to generation. There are other factors pushing for education in this community, such as achieving more quality.

    Of course, this does not apply universally.

    Could the presence of heavy industry and access to work be a factor in setting a pattern here?

  • Ulick

    “Stop me if you’ve read this before (because after seven years the news hasn’t significantly changed).”

    Mick, I’ll stop you if you don’t mind. If you read the report you’ll see it’s based on an analysis of DE data between 2007 and 2011. That’s four year old data. Other studies used such as Osborne are even older (2006) and another by Dawn Purvis is hopelessly biased.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Right, this isn’t a magic wand, but:

    1/ Merge St Mary’s and Stranmillis, that blows that footnote out of the water straight away and saves a fair whack of money which could be put to the Magee campus expansion (something the Education minister’s party were very vocal about http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-28705121 ), so, two birds, one stone.

    2/ IF possible (as in same locality etc), merge some of the under performing Protestant schools with high flying Catholic schools.
    Use the freed up money (and money from surplus asset sales) to shore-up whatever measures may be required in the remaining schools of concern.

    It’s not a magic cure but it couldn’t hurt for starters.

  • willieric

    I remember my first day at primary school, very well. Working class area. As I had a June birthday I was pathetically immature and very upset. So upset that the schoolteacher in charge permitted my mother to remain seated alongside me on the school bench for the duration of the full morning lessons. These were the days of chalk on slates, and tiny milk bottles warmed alongside the coal fires in winter. The days of humane common sense. Pre health and safety.
    Days when the comfort and well-being of the child were paramount. I cannot believe that a regular teacher would take offence at the presence of a parent in the classroom. Would you?

  • Granni Trixie

    In times of scarce resources it is key not only to identify and cut out waste but to prioritise wha to support. As others have pointed out segrated system wastes money. Also class size impacts on outcomes so with redundant school estate and teachers I would spend more on bringing down class size. I speak as one who has taught a class of over 40 first years! Whilst the usual numbers are around 32 in the school in which I taught a decision was made to divide classes where there were particular learning ‘challenges’ between two teachers,15 in each class or sometimes 10/20. An example of use of resources at micro level which could be replicated.

    Most oF alI I would like to see the selection procedure done away with. It is a scourge. It can take years to build up children’s self belief after “failing” the 11plus.

    Its easy to pick at research methodology. Better to accept the case that educational interventions are required and demand politicians get their act together to provide it.

  • willieric

    1962 saw St Joseph’s TC Befast renovated, so 16 St Jo’s PE 4th Yr students joined 15 Stranmillis PE students at Stranmillis College for a year. The names Dunne, McAfee, Fisher, Rainey, Wells, Wilson, White, Nash, come to mind.
    Total and I mean mean total harmony and good humour ensued with friendships forged that survived 40 years of unrest.
    Send all the student teachers into the Stranmillis facilities, which has plenty of room.
    But then what would the RC church have to say about that?

  • Redstar

    In what way? Why would Protestant parents be any less enthusiastic about their kids educational future than Catholic parents?

  • Cosmo

    Good points made, in that maybe working traditions in families have had a time-lag.
    But, honestly, it’s worth knowing the actual NUMBERs’ of ‘unqualified’ boys (in particular) emerging from both communities. It has something to tell us about how the education system is skewed towards serving the grammar school priorities.

  • Cahir O’Doherty


    “The republican group claimed they would not consider studying at Stranmillis University College and said they did not think Protestants would study at St Mary’s University College…”
    Eh? Let’s see if I’ve got this right. This ‘republican’ group appears to be saying “We won’t go there because ‘themums’ wouldn’t come here?”

    I’m afraid you haven’t got that one right Mick because you’re reading a causal relationship between two statements that isn’t there. The key thing is that there’s an ‘and’ separating the two clauses rather than a ‘because’ that you’ve put in.

    The only thing you could really read into that quote is that those ‘Republicans’ wouldn’t study at Stranmillis (I assume for various reasons) and that those same ‘Republican’ students don’t think that Protestants would study at St Marys.

  • Cosmo

    My dad told me he was beaten, so he wouldn’t use his left hand to write. Not so good old days. Became an effective ambidextrous sportsman, though.

  • Cosmo
  • chrisjones2

    As we have too many teachers anyway why do we need to subsidise their sectarianism?

  • Nevin

    Here’s the section from the report rather than the BBC snippet:

    3. Perceptions of ‘cold houses’” [pdf file – pp152-153]

    Student representatives from across the political spectrum felt that several campuses of higher education were unwelcoming to them because of their political beliefs. A nationalist student group said that they would not apply to Stranmillis College for teacher training (which traditionally trains teachers to work in state controlled or integrated schools and has a mainly Protestant intake). However, they also thought that Protestants wouldn’t feel comfortable applying to St Mary’s Teacher Training College (which trains teachers to work in Catholic maintained schools as well as other schools and has a mainly Catholic intake).

    One student from a nationalist background said there would be a perceived historical barriers to entry in certain campuses, but again, that the location where a student has grown up would have an impact on perceptions: “The historical perception would be that Queen’s’ is a cold house for nationalism, but especially in Coleraine – I know a lot of nationalists who feel uncomfortable in that environment. It’s because of the physical location – it’s out of fear of where you have to travel for it. But others who come from more religiously mixed areas felt OK about the possibility of going there.”

    Unionist students reported that they felt both Northern Irish universities were ‘cold houses’ for unionists, but that they would feel more comfortable at Queen’s University than the University of Ulster – there was the impression that UU is ‘segregated’ – for example, they reported seeing large groups of students standing together in GAA tops and find it intimidating. They believed that if there was more openness about political differences when students start, then there wouldn’t be the same issues with ‘voluntary segregation’. They believed that the Magee campus has the lowest proportion of Protestants attending in comparison to other UU campuses, while Coleraine was viewed as the ‘most Protestant’ – yet because of the prevalence of Irish language signs on campus, it gave the impression to unionists that English is the second language there, and the presence of the signs was seen by them as a political move – that Irish has been politicised by nationalists and republicans who attend there. The unionist student group reported feeling as if they are almost being forced to go to Great Britain for university and that they shouldn’t come back. Furthermore, they felt that as a political society in a university setting, blocks have been put in front of them that aren’t in place for other societies e.g. their fundraising efforts were stopped in previous years – and that these barriers are dependent on who is elected to the students union.

    Other stakeholders recommended that more research is conducted on the perceptions of cold houses versus the reality of people’s experiences: “If both unionists and nationalists perceive Queen’s to be a cold house, who is it warm for?”

  • 23×7

    Do I really have to go through the history of this state in order to answer that?

  • 23×7

    Yes that is one reason. Discrimination and the Catholic school system are others. All of these historical reasons have led to todays imbalance in parental aspiration between unionists and nationalists.

  • chrisjones2

    So that would be the old racist answer then

  • Granni Trixie

    Isn’t the insularity this points to the saddest thing? Especially as relates to students who are training to be TEACHERS? If teachers have fears about crossing the divide how can they do their job in a divided society adequately?

    This has to be remedied.

  • Nevin

    Granni, I was a QUB student in the early 60s; for me, there was a great sense of togetherness back then. We had a similar sense of togetherness in our JCSS inter-schools group in Coleraine in the 70s and 80s.

  • Barneyt

    The Catholics may also have zero Republican ambitions.

  • Barneyt

    Pros and cons, as Cosmo has illustrated. Left handed demonisation (sinestra) and enforced right-handed compliance was present on my primary school in the mid 70’s.

    I do appreciate what you are saying about the humane common-sense days. Today lots of male teachers are being turned away from primary teaching, and they will not take the risk. Its a minefield. Its only a personal view as primary school teaching is female dominated from what I can see.

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    Dear, dear!

  • eireanne

    working class Protestant boys said they didn’t do well in school because of on-going sectarianism,increased levels of racial conflict and being fearful of paramilitaries.
    https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/we-will-not-be-the-generation-that-fails-ulster-youre-just-the-generation-that-fails-exams-in-ulster/

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Thanks for the extra detail from the report Nevin, that’s absolutely fascinating. I still stand by my original comment in a stubbornly pedantic way in that Mick seemed to be implying that the ‘Republican’ students wouldn’t go to Stranmillis not because of perceptions about it being a ‘cold house’ but out of pettiness or a tit-for-tat mentality that “themmuns” (as Mick put it) wouldn’t go to St Mary’s which I think is a somewhat unnuanced reading of the material.

    But, like I said, that’s somewhat pedantic.

    As someone who comes from a Nationalist background, went to a ‘Protestant’ school, uni in Galway, and is doing a PhD (in politics, obviously) at university in England I find it simultaneously super easy to sympathise with the students quoted in the report and, as noted above, saddened by the insularity.

  • Barneyt

    You could say that selection is not helping. Unionism (if represented by the UUP and DUP) are pro-selection. Its a Conservative (big C intended) ethos. However, until recently, the Catholic community was vastly exposed to this same rat race, despite being represented by left leaning anti-selection politics. I can’t wholly vouch for the SDLP.

    The gap is perhaps less to do with selection that we think.

    Those on the protestant fringes need left leaning political representation that is based on their unionist beliefs and non-sectarian politics, politics which cannot be aligned with para-militarism. The truth is that some new party is going to have to move into that space to raise the profile and promote education.

    St Josephs non selective boys school in Newry has turned its fortunes around. The boys are presented well and now achieving academic success. I am not sure if they have an A level stream yet, but their GCSE results are not to be sniffed at.

    Perhaps this is due to many abandoning the entrance exam. Perhaps it has more to do with the headmaster engaging the boys fathers and involving them in the school and their sons education. I think that is the key and it has proved to be successful. It has also perhaps made it attractive to parents who do not want to put their kids through the 11-plus wringer.

  • John Collins

    Ironic that. I play a bit of golf and I am a ciotog. (left handed). However I write and do every thing else with my right hand. However my father, like yours, was beaten in school for writing with his left hand

  • John Collins

    I think it could and this is borne out in the South. Studies have shown that the uptake of University education is lower in the East of the country in what would appear to be richer counties with better land and more work in factories etc than in the West which would have less opportunities of that nature and this had nothing got to do with religion

  • Nevin

    Cahir, I’m puzzled by a phrase in the report’s opening sentence: ‘from across the political spectrum’. Perhaps the students they spoke to were from either end of the political spectrum ie those with strong views on the opposing constitutional aspirations.

    Student teachers would also be conscious of the likely prejudices of potential future employers and this would also influence their choice of training institution.

  • Dan

    So, just for clarity, over the last nine years, under Sinn Fein, has the average spend per pupil been higher, each year. in the Catholic and Irish language schools than in the State schools?

  • Reader

    I don’t think that is the last time that groups of potential St Mary’s students actually ended up at Stranmillis, and it has always worked out OK. (Special arrangements have been made to let the students get access to the Catholic Certificate via Glasgow, and my wife also took advantage of that arrangement.)

  • Lorcs1

    My little one is at a two year old development program (like a pre-nursery) run by surestart in a mainly protestant working class area. Attendance isn’t mandatory like school, but it’s designed to help those identified in reports like these. Get them a helping hand at two, rather than wait until they are in school and already struggling.

    It’s two and a half hours a day, three days a week. Middle of the day, so no early starts to get the kids sorted. Parents just have to drop the kids and go. Simples.

    There is rarely a full attendance (4 weeks into the programme) in a class of 12. More often than not there are at least 2 or 3 children not there.

    Speaking to the girls working at the programme, and asking them why, they say it’s the same at every one of the programmes, those most in need of the support and help just aren’t interested. The parents just don’t want to know.

    It’s all well and good eulogising early years intervention, but it requires the will of the parents to attain any kind of success. And unfortunately these children who are missing out, are ultimately more likely to become like their parent when they go on to have children and thus turns the vicious circle.

    We can talk all we like about resources, about how amazing the Ikea education that Swedish children receive is, about early years, but it’s all for nothing if there is no buy in if the parents aren’t interested.

    The real question is how do we motivate those who can make biggest difference, but don’t want to?

  • Lorcs1

    Is it the wrong answer though?

  • Cosmo

    I wouldn’t like be the teacher, or the boy pupils, in any of these hard, paramilitary-mafia dominated areas, both sides of the divide. Drug-running, fuel laundering as careers ? – maybe sitting at home in depression eating and drinking yourself to death might be the non-violent solution.
    I think the stats on Free School Meal Eligible (FSME) Boys, said roughly 80% of Prod boys fail, and 70% of Catholic boys fail.
    As last year, looks to have double FSME catholic boys (to Prod FSME boys) – that surely generates probably more unqualified catholic boys each year.
    Any views on this?

  • Reader

    BarneyT: However, until recently, the Catholic community was vastly exposed to this same rat race, despite being represented by left leaning anti-selection politics.
    I think the race is still on. Selective places may be disappearing from the maintained sector, but slowly. That’s making the competition even fiercer in some areas, and the remaining grammar schools even more elite. And there are parents who will keep the (less selective) controlled/voluntary grammars as a plan B.

  • Cosmo

    Barneyt – I don’t think the answer is just to ‘grammar-ise’ education for these boys (Albeit, decent turn-out and time discipline is just a necessary life-skill.) Maybe some boys are not academic, it seems pointless to me, to try to turn them into potential clerical staff for jobs which won’t exist anyway.
    I see there is a very recently appointed HeadMaster at St Joseph’s – are you following his policies closely?

  • Cosmo

    Yes, I believe the catholic middle-class, is just as committed to this, as the protestant middle-class parents.

  • Cosmo

    Do you talk/meet the other parents, Lorcs?

  • Lorcs1

    Not so much. We both work full-time, so our childminder tends to drop our little one off, so chances to interact are limited.

  • Cosmo

    Gosh, you and the Staff, must be very worried, that the funding will get cancelled, if there is such low attendance?

  • Lorcs1

    It’s off-topic but I knew this one was coming. As we are both full-time employed we are not the target audience for programmes like this. It is mainly for people on benefits, unemployed etc.

    From the staff’s point of view, they know that if the class was totally made up of the target audience, then there’s a chance that attendance would be poor and that the funding will be cut and the programme cancelled as a result. Those from the target audience that do care and want the help and support, would no longer be able to receive it. Their child wouldn’t get the early-years intervention that a lot of people espouse on forums such as this.

    From my point of view, our childminder has mostly older children e.g. 5/6/7 years old, and my little one has never had much chance to interact with children her own age. A programme like this offers her the chance to develop with children her own age, interact with them, and basically get her prepped and ready for school. Yes I’m aware that there are children more in need of the place, but the programme was under-subscribed, and why shouldn’t I take the opportunity to benefit my child if it’s there?

    Now back on topic, how do we solve the problem of parents of children who need additional help, not being willing to take it?

  • Sharpie

    I don’t get the uniform thing. In other European countries there is no uniform and in the Netherlands no schools have it. There is a presumption of it equalising all, where in fact it enforces authority and subservience and a lack of confronting issues of self image and materialism. The fetish in NI for uniform is disturbing in its uniformity.

  • Barneyt

    Hi I have not kept up with this. I just hear good reports from St Joes. Must take a look

  • whatif1984true

    Early years are very important. Attendance is very important. Discipline is very important. These are why education is failing.
    Pupils miss days at school as their parent(s) do not have a perception that it is important (one day won’t matter). Children are manipulative and will stretch the days off into habitual non attendance. A child that is behind its peers is embarrassed and will either avoid school or try to mask their weaknesses by being disruptive. This rapidly spirals out of control until there is a very slim chance they can ever recover the lost time (but it is possible).
    A child’s bad language, aggressiveness and inability to follow instructions is often a reflection of home life. However children can adapt and are capable of being ‘different’ in school. They have to be THERE for anything to improve.

    There are children whose lives are so awful it is a wonder they cope at all. Helping them is a huge struggle. Children can and do understand when someone cares even though their behaviour often seems to say otherwise.

    To succeed they must attend, they must be helped stay on course and they must be expected to succeed (to their best ability). Words of ministers aren’t action.

  • whatif1984true

    Assuming both sets of parents are equally enthusiastic what other factor is there? School resources or quality of teacher/principals?

  • Kevin Breslin

    On Spotlight there was a mention of a lack of Women in STEM being a major problem …

    There are three dogmas that need to be challenged here, not just about Women in STEM, but the stigma around STEM subjects …

    1. STEM is Maths and Machines.

    I would say it’s the Earth and the Engineer. Observing Nature and Creating something new is a lot more interesting than the stand alone calculations and technology than the observing nature and inventing or improving things that created these calculations and technology in the first place.

    Modern maths, modern science and modern technology rely on several generations of people’s nature observing and inventing things. Learning all this boring stuff keeps us repeating what’s already been done. It’s the same when it comes to music, art, sport or anything else that has a history.

    Is Nursing a STEM job? Some Nurses might have to do more scientific analysis than some engineers.

    Is even Biology, Life and Health Sciences STEM?

    Are we belittling Life Sciences by simply associating STEM with Maths and Machines? As a physics graduate I’d take offence to dismissing the Life Sciences … to quote Rutherford “All Science is Physics, the rest is just Stamp Collecting”.

    https://royalsociety.org/news/2010/influential-british-women/

    If women are adverse to maths and machines, that doesn’t mean they can’t make a scientific contribution in biology (which in some cases also needs maths and or machines to some extent). Because of the Dogma that STEM is Maths and Machines, physiologists like Mary Pickford get overlooked.

    We can’t target prejudice against women by a prejudice against biology. It was biological investigations into the Squid helped us understand electromagnetism.

    I’m of the view that Physiology is a Physics, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine is just as scientific as a winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry or Physics.

    If the lack of women in the physical sciences is a problem, all things being equal the lack of men in the life sciences might also be a problem.

    Viewing Biology as a Woman’s subject, is a masculist opinion i.e. anti-feminist opinion.

    2. (Physical) Science is a Man’s subject

    Only in Western Europe and North America

    In the Arab Gulf and Iran … computer science, physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics are dominated by women at higher education level … so not just biology… but the maths and machines bit too.

    http://gulfnews.com/culture/education/arab-women-show-the-way-with-computer-science-aptitude-1.1534065

    http://www.usnews.com/education/best-arab-region-universities/articles/2015/03/04/more-arab-women-studying-stem

    On women studying computer science in the Arab world, Sana said: “In the US, it’s 15-20 per cent, but in the Arab world it is 40 per cent. In countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it even reaches 70-80 per cent.”

    The idea that STEM subjects are masculine, comes not only from the Maths and Machine opinion of what a STEM subject is… but the Westernized Dogma that the Male dominance of the sciences in its countries is universal.

    The fact that in these “patriarchal societies” more women are likely to engage with science, challenges any politically absolutist ideas that Scientists are the primary drivers of Societal changes. Maybe they are or maybe they’re not, but you can’t say so absolutely.

    3. STEM is dependent on only one critical factor … STEM graduates.
    We need more STEM graduates to ensure better STEM.

    Scientific and Engineering companies, research and pursuits need more than Scientists and Engineers, these are merely priests and missionaries in need of a laity. Non-scientists can have significant influence over the success of sciences.

    It’s useless to simply ramp up the number of scientist and engineers and think that the laws of averages is going to come up with excellence. Networks of scientists are important and the communication of scientists with non-scientists is important in making scientific or engineering or medical achievement ubiquitous.

    If in the future there are going to be plenty of women who make scientific breakthroughs, then behind those good women, there will have to be other good women (and men) helping them up. Someone who raises money for cancer research is ensuring the oncology is getting done. It might not be done so much without them.

    So if wearing a labcoat and doing calculus isn’t to someone’s taste, their role, their interest, their skills might still be very necessary towards scientific breakthroughs in a whole list of other ways.

    Everyone can make a scientific contribution, not just the “geeks and boffins”

  • Cosmo

    Sounds beneficial for the children to meet from all backgrounds – does sound like it could help if there were some parents get-togethers organised?

  • Cosmo

    Agree – of course uniform isn’t an ‘important’ thing in itself. But, it’s a reasonably anodyne discipline for adolescents to rail against, don’t you think?? And they have to have something. Actually, on a personal level, having been in both non-uniform and uniform schools – it was a bit of a relief to have that decision sorted each morning. And surely, it cuts out all kinds of clothes expenditure demands, which contemporary adolescents would fall into.
    Culturally in NI, if the grammar kids are seen as successful, maybe it’s positive for the ‘other’ schools (and parents), also to be seen to have pride in their identity? Fraternity is a pre-requisite to real freedom.

  • Sharpie

    I don’t think it anodyne – if it was it would not be ubiquitous – it is a mindset and an extremely authoritarian one. I just think that young people should be treated with respect and be allowed to express their identity. I certainly would disagree that uniform is associated in any meaningful with pride in ones identity. It does I suppose uphold a traditional view of what is a good pupil with the right attitude. Saying that some monsters in uniform can look meticulous.

  • Lorcs1

    There is a “stay-and-play” type day once a month where the parent will stay with the child in the class to see how they behave with the other children, how they’ve progressed etc. So I suppose that is an opportunity for the parents to converse.

    I don’t believe however that would be the magic bullet to change the opinions/behaviour of those non-engaging parents. A motivated parent preaching to an unmotivated parent isn’t going to change things.

    Sometimes these parents have issues of their own, drugs, alcoholism, mental health issues. Sometimes they don’t, and they just feel like no matter what they do, their child has no chance. Their child will turn out just like them and that’s that.

    It needs to be a much greater societal change, to make the parents see the benefit of education in general, to show them the child has a chance and the opportunity to improve and prosper. That yes their child maybe doesn’t have the best of everything and all the opportunities that other children have, but they still have an opportunity to level the playing field before the gap becomes too large, and that eventually their child can and will fulfill their potential.

    Change such as this needs to come from political leaders in communities.

  • Cosmo

    I must say, you sound very brave, to let your little one under supervision, be in the company of parents who are possibly mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicts.
    Does he/she mention that they see any odd behaviour ?

  • Cosmo

    I am not a fan of uniforms in adults.
    My recollection of school uniforms, is that the personality of the person would actually always shine through in their particular way of expressing themselves within confines. Fallen-down socks, the tilt of the blazer, tidiness etc etc.
    NI, indeed Ireland, is a world apart from a cool place like the multi-lingual, history of trading, non-parochial Netherlands.

  • Lorcs1

    Cosmo please grow up. If you wish to comment on the original point regarding lack of parental motivation in the education of their children, then by all means feel free.

    If you have a point to make, then go ahead.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The Protestant Working Class that an Education System has Failed ! Look deeply into the picture of youth !

  • gendjinn

    In any phenotype there are two root causes – Environmental & Genetic.

    Studies show that genetics play the least important role in IQ or education. So that one can be set aside here.

    Studies have shown that the greatest variable in educational outcomes is nutrition. Regardless of any other factor, improving the quality and quantity of food is the one thing we can do to improve educational outcomes for all students. Removing lead & mercury from the environment is the other vitally important component.

    If you were to do one thing to improve educational outcomes in children it would be to improve their nutrition and remove lead. The trivial costs of these programs pay for themselves 10s of times over.

  • gendjinn

    Resources are not scarce – Trident. It’s priorities that are wrong.

  • Cosmo

    shades of clockwork orange?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I wish it was all Clockwork Orange, Cosmos – and Fiction but what you see on them streets is reality and it is very very young people who the system has said to them “You Have Failed” !

  • Reader

    I don’t get the whole of your #1. The ‘S’ in STEM stands for ‘Science’, which certainly includes Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and quite possibly includes medicine. It has been easier to get women into the squishy sciences than the flashy sciences, but that doesn’t devalue either women or the biological sciences.

  • barnshee

    “Is it the wrong answer though?”

    Yes
    The catholic community had it choice of schools funded by the state yes / no?

  • barnshee

    ” less than the 5 GCSe’s A to c level.
    (And therefore I assume, probably facing unemployment?).”

    and leaving university with varying degrees of varying classes -and facing unemployment?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well there’s a belief that some elements of biology aren’t really science … Or a soft science. Or because it is easier to get women into life science it would be better if they became engineers or physicists.

    Particularly applied biology practice and not just biological research and medicine.

    There’s no research is say generally physiotherapy or veterinary/sports medicine. Could even speech therapy or psychology count as a STEM subject? You have things like geography or archeology etc which are human sciences but have the applied natural science element.

    Other side of the scale is finance and to some extent economics, Applied maths?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Do we never ask the obvious question: why do NI people find it hard to overcome their perceptions and more importantly feelings of intimidation? It’s dangerous to take people’s perceptions too seriously. Think yourself instead into the experiences of a black person living on the Donegall Rd or many other parts of Belfast and get over it.

  • Reader

    And Rutherford was both arrogant and wrong:
    http://xkcd.com/435/

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Great points Lorcs and it also raises another issue of when more middle class/advantaged parents (those with um… cultural capital and ambition) use early years services (in some cases even take over it) the less advantaged parents feel excluded. It seems to be due to very different value sets. There is another issue of lack of/fear of social mobility here and the perceived betrayal of roots/identity.

  • Nevin

    “perception: the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted”

    We act upon our perceptions and/or the perceptions of others. For example, if I thought blogging on a certain topic would put others or myself at risk of serious harm I wouldn’t do it. Indeed, it’s possible that relying on your or my perceptions could indeed be dangerous – if we didn’t know the lie of the land.

  • Slater

    Plenty of Catholics attend Stranmillis.

  • James7e

    Same could be said of youths attending Republican rallies in paramilitary regalia.

  • Reader

    James7e: Same could be said of youths attending Republican rallies in paramilitary regalia
    Except there’s not very many and not very often.
    I reckon that boneheaded politics is a small part of the issue, but more importantly that loyalist working class communities are abandoned and ridden with (badly) organised crime. And therefore that the PUP, which is meant to care, is actually part of the problem.