Catholic boys fail to make the grade

Posted By: February 10, 2016

Undue focus on male Protestant pupils skews resources says MLA

Simon Doyle.Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, Februarry 10, 2016
A significantly higher number of Catholic boys are failing to meet government exam targets than their Protestant peers, new figures reveal.

While there has been greater focus in recent years on tackling Protestant male underachievement, more Catholic pupils, particularly boys, struggle to make the grade.

In the last three school years for which statistics are available, more Catholic than Protestant boys did not achieve five or more ‘good’ GCSEs – and the gap is growing wider.

There are concerns that too many children continue to leave school without proper qualifications. Thousands of boys fail to reach the five GCSEs mark every year.

An assembly all-party group, headed by DUP junior minister Emma Pengelly, is working to produce “key actions” on tackling poor standards.

A recent report from the Equality Commission emphasised the harsh reality of educational failure for too many young people. In addition, ‘Firm Foundations’ by the PUP highlighted underachievement among Protestant working-class children.

However, new figures, in response to an assembly question by the SDLP’s Dolores Kelly, show a greater number of Catholic than Protestant children failing to reach government exam targets.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to increase the overall percentage of young people who achieve at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including English and maths, by the time they leave school.

In 2011/12, there were 2,105 Protestant boys who did not reach this compared to 2,421 Catholic boys. In 2012/13 the numbers were 1,995 Protestant and 2,430 Catholic, while last year they were 1,894 and 2,392 respectively.

Ms Kelly said statistics also show that highest levels of deprivation are in nationalist areas and more than 60 per cent of the prison population are young Catholic men.

“The political narrative suggests that the number of Protestant boys failing is the only issue and, therefore, will be used by some to skew resources,” Ms Kelly said.

“It is necessary to highlight the fact that young Catholic boys are also being failed on a number of fronts.”

Education minister John O’Dowd has said there is a need for a combined strategy for working-class communities, Protestant and Catholic.