No Peter Weir, there is nothing to be said for saying another Mass…

You might remember the Fr Ted episode Speed 3. Here is a handy episode summary from IMDB:

Ted is shocked to find that Pat Mustard, the island milkman, has been having affairs with his lady customers – possibly including Mrs. Doyle – and reports him to the dairy manager. As a result Pat gets sacked and Dougal takes on the delivery route, as the manager trusts a man of God. A vengeful Mustard has attached a bomb to the milk float which will activate at four miles an hour and detonate if the speed then falls below four. Ted manages to save Dougal thanks to a decorative brick that Mrs Doyle has brought into the house and Pat Mustard ends up literally – and fatally – hoisted by his own petard.

I was thinking about this episode while reading Simon Doyle’s excellent report in today’s Irish News on the new education Minister Peter Weirs plans to deal with the continuing issue of educational underachievement in working-class protestant boys. How does Peter Weir plan to address this issue? With another review of course! In the Fr Ted Episode, they are trying to come up with ideas to save Dougal. While brainstorming ideas one of the priests utters the immortal line ‘is there anything to be said for saying another mass?’

YouTube video

There have been 7 reviews into this issue in the last 10 years, from Simons article:

:: Peace Monitoring Report (2019): The CRC noted under-achievement among working class pupils generally, adding “working class Protestant boys continue to have lower educational attainment than Catholic boys”. It criticised the “failure of the NI government to tackle fundamental problems regarding the structure of education in NI”.

:: No Child Left Behind (2016): Led by DUP councillor Peter Martin, it reported that many of those most affected by underachievement came from the Protestant community. Mr Martin made several recommendations including addressing low parental expectations and aspirations. It also said early intervention in pupil non-attendance by schools should be a priority.

:: Investigating Links in Achievement and Deprivation (2015): Commissioned by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, ILiAD recommended the end of the current system of academic selection claiming it reinforced “privilege and disadvantage”. It found Catholic areas had higher levels of attainment in GCSEs than Protestant areas.

:: Education Inequalities in Northern Ireland (2015): The Equality Commission/Queen’s University found Protestant males entitled to free school meals had the lowest GCSE and A-level attainment rates and lowest proportions of school leavers moving on to higher education. It said the particular barriers to educational equality for Protestant males “must be considered closely”.

:: Firm Foundations (2014): It offered 20 proposals to improve education in Protestant, unionist and loyalist areas, including scrapping academic selection. Originally instigated by the Unionist Forum after flag protests, its final report was never agreed by main unionist parties. The PUP’s John Kyle continued the research.

:: Peace Monitoring Report (2014): The CRC compared ethnic groups using five good GCSE grades as the measure of success. It found half of Protestant boys failed to achieve this and warned they were being left behind. Dr Paul Nolan, the academic who led the research, said the attainment gap was “colossal”.

:: A Call To Action (2011): Made up of educationalists, academics, community and voluntary representatives and early years providers, it recommended capping grammar places adding academic selection accentuated social division. Community and cultural factors, it said, affected how Protestant families perceived education and participation in schools.

Let me repeat for clarity, 7 feckin’ reviews already and Peter Weir wants to do another one? To paraphrase Fr Ted, there is a time for reviews and there is a time for action, this is a time for action. This was Peter Weir’s response to being asked if another review was needed:

“Even if there have been a lot of reports in the past, it would be a little bit conceited if we did not think there was not anything new that could emerge.”

Not just in health but in all areas, our politicians are very found of putting off decisions and kicking the can down the road. Can we get #justfeckindoit trending on Twitter?

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