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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.
 
 

Key inequalities in education

Research
Education

What you need to know

Case studies

 

Statement
The Equality Commission has published a new assessment of the experiences of people in education across all the equality grounds in Northern Ireland.  The statement highlights areas where there are educational challenges and how these impact on children.
Key inequalities in education





 

Many children in Northern Ireland continue to experience persistent inequalities in education. The equality grounds where key inequalities were highlighted include: ethnicity, disability and gender, among others. These key inequalities are lifelong and impact upon the whole education journey.

Download the Key Inequalities in Education:

Some equality groups are subjected to bullying

Some equality groups are subjected to bullying



A number of equality groups are more vulnerable to prejudice-based bullying, or more likely to be bullied, in schools.  Research has identified that: over two fifths of minority ethnic students having been the victims of racist bullying and harassment ; over six out of ten trans pupils, and students with same sex attraction have been called hurtful names related to their sexual or gender identity; over two fifths of pupils with a disability being bullied ; and students with SEN also experience bullying.

 

Males have lower levels of attainment than females


Males have lower levers of attainment



Although there have been overall increases in the levels of attainment, in 2014/15 there were attainment gaps, to the detriment of males, of eight percentage points for those obtaining 5+ GCSEs and 16 percentage points for those obtaining 2 + A Levels. Furthermore, just over a third of male school leavers went on to higher education, compared to just over a half of females.

 

There is persistent underachievement of school leavers entitled to free school meals, particularly Protestants males

Persistent underachievement of school leavers entitled to free school meals, particularly Protestants

Despite overall increases in the attainment levels of all students, there is a persistent and overarching trend of higher proportions of Catholics achieving the education targets in all three areas (5+ GCSEs (A*-C), 5+ GCSEs (A*-C) including Maths and English and 2+ A Levels (A* - E), than both Protestants and ‘Others’.  This is a persistent inequality.  The lower achievement of Protestants, as measured by an attainment gap, remained between 2007/08 and 2014/15 for those obtaining 5+ GCSEs at (A*-C), or 2+ A Levels Grades (A* - *-E), with a slight reduction in the gap for those obtaining 5+ GCSEs (A*-C) including Maths and English.
 

Underachievement of working class Protestants

Underachievement of working class Protestants
In 2014/15, just over a quarter of Protestant males entitled to free school meals attained 5+ GCSEs (incl. English and Maths)(A*-C) compared with over four in ten of all school leavers entitled to free school meals, and almost three quarters of all school leavers not entitled to free school meals.
 

Students with a disability or SEN have lower attainment levels

Students with SEN or Disability have lower levels of attainment


Between 2007/08 and 2014/15, there have been increases in attainment levels for all SEN and/or pupils with a disability, and in particular for SEN 1-4 school leavers. The attainment gap, for those obtaining 5+ GCSEs Grades A*-C, between SEN 1-4 pupils and those with no SEN decreased from 46 to 23 percentage points. While SEN 5 pupils have also experienced increases in attainment, it has not been to the same extent as for SEN 1-4 pupils. The attainment gap between SEN 5 pupils and those with no SEN decreased from 59 to 48 percentage points.
 

Roma and Traveller pupils have the lowest levels of attainment

Roma and Travellers have lowest levers of attainment

Over the 2007/08-2014/15 period, anywhere between a half to over eight in ten Irish Traveller children left school with no GCSEs. This is in stark contrast to the proportions of all school leavers with no GCSEs, which has reduced from 3.5 percent in 2007/08 to 0.5 percent in 2014/15.
 
 

Research
The Equality Commission developed the statement based on research it commissioned, carried out by Queen's University, Belfast, other data sources and stakeholder engagement.



This statement on Key Inequalities in Education is part of a series of statements which will examine key issues across various areas where people in Northern Ireland face inequality. It will update the our work on key inequalities carried out in 2007 (pdf)




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Case study videos - Key Inequalities in Education in Northern Ireland



Key Inequalities in Education in NI - introduction
Many children in Northern Ireland continue to experience persistent inequalities in education. The equality grounds where key inequalities were highlighted include: ethnicity, disability and gender, among others. These key inequalities are lifelong and impact upon the whole education journey.








Sandy Row Homework Club - Community engagement

Billy Ennis, Tutor Co-Ordinator at Sandy Row Homework Club, explains how community involvement and collaboration has improved the attainment levels of local children.







Oisín's story - Parental involvement and early intervention

Bernadette and Eugene Mee and son Oisín talk about his condition, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and his education experience. It shows the impact of early intervention and parental involvement on the education experience of a pupil with a disability.








St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook - Targeted action for boys
Daíthí Murray, Vice-principal at St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook, Co Armagh, talks about the steps his school has taken to significantly boost the performance of boys at GCSE level.








Special Education Needs Advice Centre - Outstanding issues for SEN framework
Fiona O’Donnell, Support and Information Officer at the Special Educational Needs Advice Centre (SENAC), provides an advisor’s view of the SEN framework.









Malone House, Belfast - Inclusion and community outreach
Máire Thompson, Principal at Malone College, Belfast, explains the actions taken to welcome and promote the attainment levels of Newcomer students.








Patrick's story - Supportive and inclusive learning environment for Travellers
Patrick McDonagh, an Irish Traveller studying at Trinity College, Dublin,
describes his experiences of the education system and how Traveller attainment could be improved.






Belfast Boys' Model School - Collaborative approachesBelfast Boys Model School
Boys' Model School in North Belfast has achieved success by harnessing the dedication and effort of teachers and support staff, pupils and local community to ensure greater achievement by Protestant working class boys.


 

 
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