‘Loyalist thugs are Protestant boys’ only role models’

Posted By: April 05, 2014

Belfast Telegraph. Saturday, April 5, 2014


Working class Protestant boys are falling behind at school because they have no role
models beyond gangsters, a leading educationalist has claimed.
This comes a day after a new report found that Protestant boys from poorer families
are the worst achieving group in Northern Ireland in terms of GCSE results.

Director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Mark Langhammer said that if
there is a 'single bullet', it is that schools attended by Protestant boys are much
more socially segregated.

"I think Paul Nolan, who wrote this report, put it quite well," he comented. "He
said that if you don't have role models, if you don't have prospects, if the world
of work has collapsed as it has in the unionist areas, then the best role model
might be the guy with the fancy car, and how did he get that?"

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Langhammer also blamed Protestant politics
for "inward looking, defensive and defeatist" attitudes.

"Decades of so-called 'intelligence-led' policing and turning a 'blind eye' to
criminality has had a corrosive effect," he said. "Pandering to paramilitarism has
accelerated the flight of the talented, decent and ambitious to the suburbs and

Yesterday, the Community Relations Council report found that Catholics do
consistently better than Protestants in terms of GCSE results; girls outperform boys
and better-off children achieve more at school than their poorer counterparts who
qualify for free school meals (FSME).

The report found that just 19% of Protestant boys entitled to free school meals
achieved five or more GCSEs, compared with 43% of Catholic girls.

This leaves Protestant boys who qualify for FSME at the very bottom of the heap in
terms of achievement and opportunity.

PUP councillor John Kyle queried why more hadn't been done since a report which
identified the imbalance, Educational Disadvantage and the Protestant Working Class:
A Call to Action, was was released in 2011.

The issue has also been causing ructions within the UnionistForum. It is understood
that the body has compiled a report which includes 28 recommendations but it has not
been released because unionist political parties have not been able to agree on it.

Education Minister John O'Dowd (left) said the current system needs to be overhauled.

"The report's findings should come as no surprise to observers of our education
system," he said. "I am on record as saying that our education system continues to
fail too many young people. The facts belie the myth that we have a world class
education system.

"The figures for young people from all disadvantaged sections of our community are
simply unacceptable."

Mr O'Dowd said the issue is a societal one that education authorities and schools
"cannot tackle on their own".

"This is a multi-faceted problem. I am working hard to break the link between
disadvantage and educational outcomes, however we need all stakeholders to work
together to achieve this," he said.

"We need the support of parents. We need the support of those in local communities
who have influence over young people. We also need the support of those who
currently advocate an education system that uses academic selection to exclude
disadvantaged children from schools."

Jackie Redpath has been running summer schools, transition programmes and revision
schools on the Shankill Road for 30 years. He said it is for the Department of
Education to act to make a difference.

"We have a proposal with the department at the moment, we are at an advanced stage
of negotiation about it," he said.

"We believe it will address this issue because it is a generational issue and it
goes beyond simple initiatives."

One school that takes a high proportion of working class Protestant boys is bucking
the trend.

GCSE results at the Belfast Boys Model in north Belfast have soared over the past
five years, according to latest figures.

In the summer of 2009, just 28% of the boys achieved five GCSEs at A*-C grades, but
by last summer, some 74% of pupils at the school had achieved five GCSE passes or