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.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty