A-level results nothing to celebrate

The Minister of Education recently revealed, in a response to an Assembly Written Question by Paul Butler, the number and percentage of schools leavers in the Neighbourhood Renewal Areas who achieved 3 or more A Levels from 2006/07 to 2008/09. The statistics are stark highlighting the achievement gap between Protestant and Catholic socially disadvantaged communities.  For example: 46.5% of school leavers in 2008/09 from Andersonstown achieved 3 or more A Levels and only 16.6% from Inner East Belfast. Or 44.4% from Coalisland and 13.2% from Coleraine East. This once again points to the need for radical reform of our education system to a more shared and fairer system. 

Every summer the top achievers at GCSE and ‘A’-level are featured in the media, and it is right that they are recognized and celebrated. Yet this not only downplays the achievement of others who gain A-level success with slightly lower grades; it also disguises the reality that in Northern Ireland there is a huge academic deficit, with a significant tail of unqualified school-leavers.

This gives the lie to opponents of educational reform who take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. There are so many fractures in the overall education system, not only in the sense of a de facto cultural segregation.  We have got to rethink how we budget for education, and it’s important to start with the acknowledgement that even in  more prosperous times, we have not been spending wisely.

The IEF is calling for the establishment of an independent Education Commission or an Executive led review of the existing education system and we want a commitment to a more shared and integrated system to be included in the new Programme for Government.

For a link to the Assembly website with regards the question please go to: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/qanda/2007mandate/writtenans/2010/110304.htm#4

Further information on an initiative being led by Dawn Purvis to investigate educational disadvantage for Protestant working class young people please go to http://www.atl.org.uk/Images/EDPWC%20Research%20Summary%20Dec10.pdf