CAIN Web Service

'Discrimination and Education' from 'Perspectives on Discrimination and Social Work in Northern Ireland'



[CAIN_Home]
[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
DISCRIMINATION: [Menu] [Reading] [Summary] [Background] [Chronology] [Main Pages] [Sources]

Text: F. Gibson, G. Michael and D. Wilson ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

Discrimination and Education

Key Readings
Agnew, U., Malcolm, S. and McEwen, A. (1989) Children and Careers in Education. Belfast, Equal Opportunities Commission.

Cormack, R.J. and Osborne, R.D. (eds) (1983) Religion, Education and Employment. Belfast, Appletree.

Cormack, R.J., Osborne, R.D., Reid, N.G. and Williamson, A.P. (1984) Participation in Higher Education. Trends in the Social and Spatial Mobility of Northern Ireland Undergraduates. Final Report, SSRC Funded Project, HR 6846.

Darby, J. (1976) Conflict in Northern Ireland. Dublin, Gill and Macmillan.

Darby, J., et al. (1977) Education and Community in Northern Ireland: Schools Apart? Coleraine, New University of Ulster.

Dunn, 5. (1986) Education and the Conflict in Northern Ireland. A Guide to the Literature. Coleraine, Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Ulster.

Dunn, S., Morgan, V. and Wilson, D. (1990) Perceptions of Integrated Education. Coleraine, Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Ulster.

Gallagher, A. (1989) The Majority Minority Review: Education and Religion in Northern Ireland. Coleraine, University of Ulster.

McKeown, A. and Curry, C. (1989) "Subject Preferences at A Level in Northern Ireland", European Journal of Science Education, 9 (i), 39-49.

Murray, D. (1985) Worlds Apart: Segregated Schools in Northern Ireland. Belfast, Appletree.

Osborne, R.D. and Murray, R.C. (1978) Educational Qualifications and Religious Affiliations in Northern Ireland. Belfast, Fair Employment Agency.

Osborne, R.D. (1985) Religion and Educational Qualifications in Northern Ireland. Belfast, Fair Employment Agency.

Osborne, R.D., Cormack, R.J. and Miller, R.L. (eds) (1987) Education and Policy in Northern Ireland. Belfast, Policy Research Institute.

Wilson, J.A. (1985) Secondary School Organisation and Pupil Progress. Belfast, Northern Ireland Council for Educational Development.

Supplementary Readings
Austin, R. (ed) (1985) History in Schools: Essays on History Teaching in the Classroom. Coleraine, University of Ulster.

Department of Education, Northern Ireland (1988) The Way Forward: Education for Mutual Understanding. Bangor, DENI.

Department of Education for Northern Ireland (1988) Statistical Bulletin Various. Bangor, DENI.

Dunn, 5. (1986) "The Role of Education in the Northern Ireland Conflict", Oxford Review of Education, 12 (3), 233-242.

Education, Science and Arts Committee of the House of Commons, Second Annual Report, 1983.

Greer, J. "Religious Education in State Primary Schools in Northern Ireland", The Northern Teacher, 12(2), 11-16.

Livingstone, J. (1987) "Equality of Opportunity in Education in Northern Ireland" in Osborne, R.D., Cormack, R.J. and Miller, R.S. (eds), Education and Policy in Northern Ireland. Belfast, Policy Research Institute.

Northern Ireland Council for Educational Development (1988) Education for Mutual Understanding. Belfast, NICED.

Sutherland, A.E. and Gallagher, A.M. (1987) Pupils in the Border Band. Belfast, NICED.

Teare, S. and Sutherland, A. (1988) At Sixes and Sevens: A Study of the Curriculum in the Upper Primary School. Belfast, NICED.

Resources
FOCUS Group (1991) Who's Who in EMU? A Guide to Organisations Which Can Help Teachers to Plan and Carry Out Work in Education for Mutual Understanding. Peace Education Resources Centre, Catalogue 1990-91, 48 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast.

Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, 1 Windsor Road, Belfast. Belfast Tel: 236200.


1. Definitions of School Types

The five Education and Library Boards act as agents of the Department of Education for Northern Ireland.

Controlled Schools

Categories:
Primary, secondary and grammar.

Ownership:
Department of Education, administered through Education and Library Area Boards.

Management:
Board of Governors (minimum 9 voting members and Principal) composed of:

- 4 Church representatives
- 2 elected parents
- 2 nominees of Education and Library Board
- 1 elected assistant teacher.

Funding:
100% capital costs
100% running costs provided by Department of Education.

Maintained Schools

Categories:
Primary and secondary.

Ownership:

Catholic Church, administered through Area Boards.

Management:
Board of Governors (minimum 10 voting members and Principal) composed of:

- 6 trustees of the Catholic Church (1 must be a parent)
- 1 elected parent
- 2 nominees of Education and Library Board
- 1 elected assistant teacher.

Funding:
85% capital costs
100% running costs provided by Department of Education.

Voluntary Schools

Categories:
Mainly grammar schools, Catholic and Protestant.

Ownership:
Trustees of the school administered directly from Department of Education.

Management:
Board of Governors (minimum 10 voting members and Principal) composed of:

- 6 trustees (1 must be a parent)
- 1 elected parent
- 2 nominees of Principal/Education and Library Board or both
- 1 elected assistant teacher.

Funding:
65%-85% capital costs
100% running costs provided by Department of Education.

Maintained Integrated Schools

Categories:
Primary, secondary and comprehensive.

Ownership:
Trustees of the school, administered through Area Boards.

Management:
Board of Governors composed of:

- 6 trustees (1 must be a parent)
- 1 elected parent
- 2 nominees of Education and Library Board
- 1 elected assistant teacher.

Funding:
85% capital costs
100% running costs provided by Department of Education.

Independent Schools

Categories:
To date all integrated schools have started as independent schools (once "viable", they achieve maintained status).

Ownership:
Trustees of the school.

Management:
Board of Directors appointed by trustees, which may, or may not, have elected parent representatives.

Funding:
Totally self-financing.

Further Education Colleges

Ownership:
Department of Education, administered through Education and Library Boards.

Management:
Board of Governors (up to 25 people) composed of:

- half from business, industry and professions
- one-fifth selected by the Education and Library Board (up to two-fifths can be district councillors)
- one-tenth elected by teachers
- at least 1 co-opted by the Board of Governors.

Funding:
100% capital costs
100% running costs from the Department of Education.

2. Historical Developments

2.1 Milestones in Education

1812 Commission of Enquiry.
1831 Education Act established National Schools.
1880s National School system's principle of a common school for all children was gradually eroded because of objections and concessions.
1921 Lynn Committee recommended three different management and financial arrangements for transferred, maintained and voluntary schools.
1923 Education Act (Londonderry Act) established three types of school as above. Excluded religious education in schools.
1930 Education Act provided for the inclusion of religious education, grants, representation of clergy on management committees for transferrers.
1947 Education Act (Northern Ireland) provided compulsory free education for all up to 15 years.
1965 Lockwood Committee on Higher Education introduced selection.
1974 Announcement of intention to introduce mixed schools.
1979 Astin Report.
1980 Chilver Report - The Future Structure of Teacher Education in Northern Ireland. An Interim Report of the Higher Education Review Group.
1982 Chilver Report - The Future of Higher Education in Northern Ireland.
1984 Education (Northern Ireland) Order.
1986 Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order.
1988 Cross-Community Contact Scheme.
1989 Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order.


2.2 Brief Historical Summary

Historically schooling in Ireland has been shaped more by clerics than by educationalists. (Murray 1985)
In the sixteenth century Henry VIII instructed his Anglican clergy in Ireland to set up schools to promote the English language and Protestantism among the Catholic masses. Further laws prevented Catholics from establishing their own schools or appointing their own teachers. Many refused to attend these church schools, creating instead the illegal "hedge" schools.

In 1812, a Commission of Enquiry reported, reflecting the emergence of a new, more liberal attitude. It proposed "to afford the educational advantages to all classes of professing Christians, without interfering with the peculiar religious opinion of any". This report formed the basis of the 1831 Education Act, which established a national school system providing a common education for children of different creeds. Bible readings, although obligatory, were to be excluded from the secular day. This was the first attempt at integrated education.

The Catholic Church was persuaded to accept it, but the Protestant reaction was so violent and so many concessions were made to them that Catholic feeling against the Act increased; by 1859 they were demanding "a Catholic education, on Catholic principles with Catholic masters and the use of Catholic books" (P. Cullen, 1859 pastoral letter cited in Freeman's Journal - Dublin).

By the 1870s there was a de facto segregated system with both sectors receiving equal financial assistance from the government. In 1921 the creation of the new state of Northern Ireland provided the opportunity to review the system of education, which was clearly not reaching everyone. The Lynn Committee recommended the creation of three types of management structure with corresponding financial provision related to the extent of government representation on the committee. All their recommendations were accepted other than the one relating to the compulsory teaching of religious education within school hours. The 1923 Act excluded religious instruction from the secular day. All the churches objected, the Protestant clergy being the most vociferous. "The Bible is under threat."

The churches also objected to authorities not being permitted to take into account teachers' religion when considering them for employment:

The door is thrown open for a Bolshevist, or an atheist, or a Roman Catholic to become a teacher in a Protestant school.
(Lord Craigavon, 1923)
The Catholic Church, as anticipated, refused to transfer their schools to the authorities, but with the Protestant churches also refusing, pressure on the government became so intense that concessions were made. "Simple Bible instruction" was permitted.

Disputes still continued over the terms of transfer. The Catholic clergy eventually entered the dispute, though it is argued by some that they had left it rather late, and would have had more chance of shaping the educational system in their favour, had they become involved in the debate earlier. It was clear the 1923 Act's attempt at integrated or mixed schooling had failed.

Protestant pressure continued and in 1930 secured the passing of a new Education Act. There was no attempt to disguise its purpose. Lord Craigavon said at the time:

You need not have any fears about our educational programme for the future. It will be absolutely certain that in no circumstances will Protestant children ever be in any way interfered with by Roman Catholics.
The 1930 Act provided Protestant clergy with the opportunity to be represented on education committees and the school management boards of those schools "transferred" from the church authorities to the state. These schools were required to give religious instruction. Those schools not transferring were given financial assistance up to 50%. This Act seemed to appease both groups and gradually some Catholic schools transferred limited authority to the state.

The 1947 Education Act provided Catholic schools with greater financial incentive to transfer to local education committees, under the "four and two" system of management (two public representatives). However, this did not happen on any large scale until 1968 when those schools transferring to the four and two system were given 80% funding (later 88%) for capital expenditure and 100% funding for maintenance. The 1947 Act also introduced a conscience clause, exempting those teachers not wishing to give religious education. In spite of objections from the Protestant churches this clause was passed. The 1957 Act has shaped the schools in Northern Ireland into basically what they are today.

Another significant landmark was the Astin Report (1979), the brief of which was to

consider the arrangements for the management of schools in Northern Ireland, with particular regard to the reorganisation of secondary education and the government's wish to ensure that integration where it is desired should be facilitated and not impeded and to make recommendations.
The Education (Northern Ireland) Orders 1984 and 1986 translated the Astin proposals into law. They prescribed the management structure for controlled primary, intermediate and grammar schools; voluntary grammar schools; and maintained grammar schools. They also provided for a new category of school - the controlled integrated school - whereby an existing school could, with the approval of two-thirds of the Board of Governors and three-quarters of the parents, apply for a change of status.

The Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 was aimed at:

(i) raising educational standards through the introduction of a common curriculum and associated assessment arrangements;

(ii) giving greater choice and involvement for parents in their children's education through better and more frequent information; through greater choice of school as part of the open enrolment provisions; as school governors with responsibility for how the school's finances are organised; through the provision of integrated education where a demand is voiced. The government now accepts responsibility for providing this option where the demand is evident.


3. The Present System

The present education system allows for different types of schools which differ according to the proportion of funds, both capital and recurring which come from the public exchequer, and the degree of control exercised by the five Education and Library Boards. The three types of school are controlled, maintained and integrated.

3.1 Controlled Schools
These are defacto Protestant schools, as an understanding of their history would suggest, and as supported by present evidence. When a new controlled school is opened representatives from the Protestant churches are approached to sit on the management committee (not the Catholic Church); when vacancies occur, a list is circulated round the controlled schools (not the maintained schools). In 1981, one Education and Library Board did appoint two Catholics to a management committee, but pressure from Protestant churches and the other controlled schools, forced them to resign. It was argued that in the vast majority of cases, pupils at state schools are Protestant and so should only be represented by Protestants. Controlled schools are attended mainly by Protestant pupils, and staffed mainly by Protestant teachers.

3.2 Maintained Schools
These are attended mainly by Catholic pupils, and staffed mainly by Catholic teachers. Murray and Darby found that none of the 67 maintained schools they examined had less than 95% Catholic enrolment, and 58 of them were 100% Catholic. Of the 139 grammar schoolteachers in the maintained sector, less than 1% were Protestant; of the 765 secondary teachers, 1% were Protestant; of the 283 primary teachers, 0.5% were Protestant.

3.3. Voluntary Schools
These are mainly long-established grammar schools of either Catholic or Protestant tradition although generally attracting a small proportion of pupils from the other community, largely because of their geographic location.

3.4 Integrated Schools
The history of these schools begins with the All Children Together Movement founded in the 1 970s, initially to put pressure on the Catholic Church to provide religious instruction for Catholics in non-Catholic schools. In the absence of any progress on this issue, the All Children Together Movement began a campaign to integrate Catholics and Protestants in the one school. The first such school, Lagan College, opened in 1981. By September 1989 there were 10 integrated schools, two secondary and eight primary. Four are in Belfast, the others being Banbridge, Portrush, Newcastle, Dungannon, Enniskillen and Ballymena. These schools started their lives as independent schools having to obtain funding from independent sources. Once they have proved they are "viable", meaning that DENI is satisfied they have approximately 90 children in attendance - more for secondary schools; that they can show that there is interest in the school; and that it is educationally sound, they may apply for maintained status, which puts them on the same financial footing as the Catholic schools.

Changes introduced in 1989 now enable integrated schools to receive financial support from the day they open, meaning that the lead-in period to prove viability is no longer required.

These schools are constitutionally bound to an approximate balance of the numbers of Catholic and Protestant pupils and staff and to a management structure which also represents both communities in equal proportions. In 1989 the 10 schools enrolled 1870 pupils, an increase from the 1987 enrolment of 750 pupils. The 1989 figure included four nursery classes containing 100 pupils. By 1991 these figures had grown to 15 schools (12 primary and three secondary) having a total enrolment of 2,800 pupils. A further 168 pupils are enrolled in seven nursery classes. It must be inferred from their rapid development in the last four years that there is support in the community for an alternative to the long-established and powerful system of segregated schooling.

3.5 Further Education Colleges
These serve as an alternative to the secondary and grammar schools, providing general, vocational and second-opportunity types of education and training on both a full-time and part-time basis. As well as attracting both Catholic and Protestant students, they also offer a wide range of courses to people undertaking work-training schemes of various kinds, and recreational education to adults and additional routes to recognised educational qualifications.

3.6 Education for Mutual Understanding (EMU)
A policy initiative with the above title has slowly evolved as a recognised part of the education system. Professional and financial support is available to schools undertaking both formal and informal joint education programmes. EMU is supported by the five Education and Library Boards, DENI, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, and the Association for Governing Bodies of Grammar Schools in Northern Ireland.

3.7 Pre-School Education
See also Discrimination and Women's Employment Section.
Nursery education is not compulsory. In 1985 NICER estimated that only 13% of three- to four-year-olds had a nursery place and these were mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Belfast, Derry, Craigavon and Newtownabbey. The provision of nursery places which does exist is relatively recent with some 70% established between 1974 and 1980, and two out of every three being in the controlled sector. Provision in Northern Ireland lags far behind every other region of the United Kingdom. For example, in 1988, while the North-West region of England had 27.6 nursery places per 1000 children under five, Northern Ireland had only 2.2 places.

The Present Position
Important changes have been taking place in the Northern Ireland school population which are bound to influence various aspects of education. These changes include alterations in the number and age distribution of pupils, types of school and staff/pupil ratios. The position is not static and the whole educational provision for students of all ages, as well as questions of curriculum content and methods of assessment, is in a constant state of change.

Changes in the number and type of school over a 10-year period are given in Table 2.

Table 2 Number of Public Sector Schools by Type 1979-1989

Type
1979/80
1988/89
Nursery
68
85
Primary
1067
975
Secondary
205
193
Non-maintained
88
90
Special
24
46*
Universities
2
2
Colleges of Education
3
2
Polytechnics
1
-
Further Education Colleges
27
26

* Includes 22 schools which were the responsibility of DHSS (NI) up to March 1987.
Source: Central Statistical Office (1991) Annual Abstract of Statistics, London, HMSO.

Pupil enrolments in 1989 by type of school are shown in Table 3.

Table 3 Pupil Enrolments in 1989 by Type of School
January 1989




Table 4 Changes in School Population Numbers between 1984 and 1989

Decline in total enrolments
almost 11,000
Increase in primary school enrolments
2,846
Decrease in secondary school pupils
15,000
Increase in nursery school places
369
Overall pupil/teacher ratios in grant-aided schools
improved from 18:7 to 18:3
Staying-on rates for 16-year-olds
increased from 41.4% to 47.8%

Source: DENI (1990) Statistical Bulletin, 2 December.

Enrolments in controlled primary schools, excluding nursery classes, have fallen by 2.6% in the period 1984 to 1989, the greatest decline occurring in the Belfast Board (4.6%) and the smallest in the Western Board (0.4%).

In the comparable maintained sector, enrolments increased by 5.9%, the biggest increase being in the South-Eastern Board (13.8%), and the North-Eastern Board reporting an actual decline in enrolments (0.3%).

There has also been a decrease in the number of children under 5, excluding special schools, receiving nursery education if we count both nursery schools and nursery classes in primary schools. Seventy-five percent of 4-year-olds and 15% of 3-year-olds attend such schools, while at the same time the proportion of the under 5 age group receiving nursery education has increased by 7.9% in the years 1984 to 1989.

Enrolments in secondary schools between 1984 and 1989 have fallen by 9.3%. The number of secondary controlled school pupils, excluding grammar schools, has fallen by 16.7% in the same period with all Board areas reporting decreases. The biggest decline (29%) has been in the Belfast Board area.

The number of pupils attending secondary maintained schools, excluding grammar schools, has also fallen in the same period in all Board areas, although the decline has been smaller (8.6%) than in the controlled sector.

Voluntary grammar school pupils have also declined by just over 1%, but while there has been a decline in the number of pupils in these schools in both the Belfast and North-Eastern Board areas, enrolments have remained at much the same level in the South-Eastern and Western Board areas and have actually increased in the Southern Board area.

Increases have been achieved in the overall numbers staying on beyond school-leaving age although less than half the age group of 1 6-year-olds stayed on in 1989 (47.8%), while 3 1.9% of 17-year-olds and 14.3% of 18-year-olds stayed on. The increases in the numbers staying on over the 5-year period 1984-1989 is rising only very slowly.

There has been an increase in the number of teachers in primary schools and a decrease in secondary schools which, linked with changing enrolments, has meant improvement in pupil/teacher ratios.


4. Contemporary Issues

Several key questions arise when the largely segregated school system in Northern Ireland is considered in terms of whether or not it contributes to perpetuating divisions, differences, and possibly discrimination within Northern Ireland. The questions are complex and require the most careful and critical appraisal of relevant research, which we suggest students should seek to read in detail for themselves, rather than rely on the brief summaries included here.

There are a number of key studies, several of which are now somewhat dated but which will repay careful scrutiny. Alternatively, Gallagher's Majority Minority Review: Education and Religion in Northern Ireland (1991) provides a comprehensive review of relevant literature.

The following questions are addressed below:

4.1 Does the largely segregated education system in Northern Ireland perpetuate community divisions?
4.2 Are there differences in what Catholics and Protestants are taught?
4.3 Do Catholics and Protestants differ in access to educational opportunity?
4.4 Why do fewer Catholics than Protestants go to grammar schools?
4.5 Do Catholics and Protestants differ in educational attainment?
4.6 Are there differences in attainment levels between different regions of the United Kingdom?
4.7 Are there differences in the proportions of Catholics and Protestants proceeding to universities?
4.8 Do class differences exist among entrants to higher education?
4.9 Are the subject preferences different for Catholics and Protestants studying at university?
4.10Is Northern Ireland losing the best of its young people?
4.11 Who leaves Northern Ireland after graduation?
4.12 Are there gender differences in education in Northern Ireland?


4.1 Does the Largely Segregated Education System in Northern Ireland Perpetuate Community Divisions?
The work of Darby, Dunn and others (1977) suggests that a definitive answer to the question is not possible although existing research findings support their view that segregated schooling plays a contributory part in so far as significantly different activities are encouraged within the two sets of schools, thus encouraging cultural apartheid.

Polarisation is thereby seen to be intensified at school and this may suggest a failure on the part of the educational institutions to remove the ignorance and prejudice of both Catholic and non-Catholic children that has so recently been manifest in aggression and violence.
Differences in curriculum content may contribute to the development of a sense of identity and difference. For example, Irish is taught in all Catholic grammar schools, but in no Protestant schools. Recent evidence indicates that Catholic schools place an emphasis on arts/humanities courses and Protestant schools on science courses, though this is changing. On the other hand Murray (1985) concluded that the operational practices of maintained and controlled schools were remarkably similar and there was even evidence, he argued, that a common culture was present in games played, places visited and resources used. The national curriculum soon to be implemented may possibly result in reducing differences in curriculum content while various initiatives under EMU may serve to promote a variety of shared learning opportunities.

Darby et al. (1977) argue that segregated schooling causes social apartheid; the very separation of Catholic and Protestant children into different schools encourages suspicion and develops group differences and tribal loyalties. They stress the importance of the "hidden" curriculum, as opposed to the formal curriculum. The hidden curriculum concerns itself with school values, rituals, group loyalties, peer influences and friendship patterns, which

establish a basis upon which society later builds a superstructure of political, demographic, recreational and social segregation.
Such a view is supported by Murray in Worlds Apart (1985). He found evidence that rituals, flags and statues which were taken for granted by one group of teachers made the other group feel ill at ease, because these symbols represented an alien culture.

Attitudes of teachers towards the Education and Library Boards were also found by Murray to be different. Teachers in the controlled schools saw them as partners while teachers in the maintained schools saw them as intruders.

Thus the suspicions and attitudes of the broader society were reflected in its schools and, perhaps unconsciously, the schools initiated children into separate customs and attitudes.

4.2 Are there Differences in what Catholics and Protestants are Taught?
More time is spent on religious education in Catholic schools than in Protestant schools, as shown in surveys by Greer (1979) and Teare and Sutherland (1988). Also more time is spent in Catholic primary schools on preparation for selection, as shown by Murray (1978).

History teaching has until relatively recently been taught very differently in Catholic and Protestant schools but Austin (1985) indicates that the philosophy underlying history teaching as well as the availability of more generally acceptable texts is changing.

4.3 Do Catholics and Protestants Differ in Access to Educational Opportunity?
The educational reforms of 1947 with the extension of the compulsory school-leaving age and the introduction of grammar school places based on selection at eleven-plus made wider opportunities available for all children. Wilson (1986) found a broadly similar pattern of transfer grades among pupils entering Protestant and Catholic post-primary schools by 1985.

Despite this, Wilson found that there were only 25.7% of pupils in Catholic grammar schools as compared to 30.9% of pupils in Protestant grammar schools. Relevant factors are:

(i) More grade A Catholic pupils choose not to enter grammar schools than Protestant pupils (a difference of 8%). See Osborne (1985). Religious and Educational Qualifications in Northern lreland, Paper 8, FEA, Belfast.

(ii) More pupils enter Protestant grammar schools (8%) as fee payers (Wilson 1986) than Catholic (5%). This may be related to the fact that more preparatory departments are based in Protestant than in Catholic grammar schools.

(iii) A significant number of Catholic A and M grade children choose an all-ability comprehensive school. Wilson (1986) identified 16 all-ability schools, 11 of which were Catholic.

(iv) There is a movement out of the Catholic grammar school and a movement into the Protestant grammar school, after the time of transfer. Livingstone (1987) analyses this flow for pupils aged 16 or more years as being out of Catholic grammar schools into Protestant grammar schools or Catholic secondary intermediate schools, and out of Protestant secondary intermediate schools into Protestant grammar schools. Overall, only 26% of Catholic pupils leave school having attended grammar school for all or part of their secondary education, compared to 35% of Protestant pupils.

4.4 Why do Fewer Catholics than Protestants go to Grammar Schools?
(i) Livingstone offers no explanation for the movement which occurs after the transfer period, and accepts that it is not usual for pupils to transfer from grammar schools to intermediate schools.

(ii) He offers two explanations of the differential existing at the time of transfer.

(a) There are fewer Catholic grammar school places available. In 1985 there were 46 Protestant grammar schools and 29 Catholic grammar schools, so obviously some Catholic qualifiers would find that there was no Catholic grammar school within travelling distance, and would choose a Catholic intermediate school, or a Protestant grammar school in preference to travelling long distances or boarding.

(b) Some Catholic parents choose to send their children to non-grammar schools. Sutherland and Gallagher (1987) found that four-fifths of pupils in Catholic secondary intermediate schools were in the school of their first choice, as opposed to less than half of the pupils in Protestant intermediate schools. A higher proportion of Catholic parents than Protestant parents, of grade M children, when asked what sort of post-primary education they preferred, chose the secondary intermediate category.

Livingstone showed that there are proportionately fewer grammar school places in the largely Catholic secondary section compared with the largely Protestant secondary sector. However, a larger proportion of Catholic pupils study A levels at all-ability secondary schools, i.e. comprehensive schools (11 out of 16 schools are Catholic). This latter point probably reflects the fewer Catholic grammar school places available in the rest of the Province notwithstanding the higher proportion of Catholic children in the relevant age band. Wilson (1985), Livingstone (1987) and Osborne (1987) showed that a larger proportion of qualified Catholics choose to enter non-grammar schools than do Protestants. Rather than permit their children to attend non-Catholic grammar schools, to board or to travel long distances, Catholic parents prefer to enrol their children in local Catholic secondary schools. Some 8% of Catholic qualifiers attend Protestant grammar schools. This tendency could open up the possibility of some of these schools redesignating themselves as integrated schools.

4.5 Do Catholics and Protestants Differ in Educational Attainment?
An analysis of examination results supplied by the Department of Education, Northern Ireland has shown significant differences between attainment levels. Pupils from largely Protestant secondary schools generally have higher qualifications and enter university with more A levels, as well as having higher grades, than pupils from largely Catholic schools.

Studies by Murray and Osborne (1978), Osborne (1985) and Osborne (1989) provide us with school-leaver statistics for 1971,1975, 1982 and 1987. The general pattern emerging is that the relative performance of pupils leaving Catholic schools is catching up with that of pupils in Protestant schools, but nevertheless remains lower. In 1983/84 Osborne and Livingstone (1987) noted that overall 20% of Protestants and 16% of Catholics left school with two or more A levels.

This broad picture, however, on closer examination masks several other interesting differences.

(i) When like schools were compared by Osborne and Livingstone, there were more similarities in attainment levels. Among Catholic grammar school pupils with one or more A levels, passes had been lower than that of leavers from Protestant schools in 1971, but by 1987 a position of relative parity had been achieved. Among secondary intermediate school-leavers with one or more O levels, there was parity between Catholic girls and Protestant girls by the middle 1970s. The picture was very different for Catholic boys from secondary intermediate schools. In 1971 the relative performance of Catholic boys was lower, and this worsened by 1975. By 1982 the performance of Catholic boys was starting to improve, but by 1987 the performance level was still below that of their Protestant counterparts.

(ii) There are more pupils leaving Catholic schools without any qualifications than those leaving Protestant schools (32% compared to 27%). The gap between the two religious school systems widened in 1982 and had only narrowed slightly by 1987.

It is important to compare results for students leaving similar schools as well as to understand the differences in the overall rates of Catholic and Protestant levels of achievements.

(a) Two-thirds of pupils attend intermediate schools, and so Catholic boys attending intermediate schools (who have the lowest performance levels) are a substantial enough group to lower the overall average for all Catholic pupils.

(b) A higher proportion of post-primary pupils enter Protestant grammar schools, than that of post-primary pupils entering Catholic grammar schools. This is important because the average attainment of grammar pupils is higher than that of intermediate pupils, even when allowance is made for transfer status (Gallagher, 1988).


4.6 Are there Differences in Attainment Levels between Different Regions of the United Kingdom?
While Northern Irish students generally compare very favourably with English and Welsh students in terms of CSE and O-level passes, they do not do so well in terms of number of students leaving with some sort of qualification. In 1979-80, 27% of pupils left with no qualification; in 1981-82, 24.2%; and in 1983-84, 22.4%. The figures for England are less than half those for Northern Ireland. The situation is summed up by the Education, Science and Arts Committee (1983) in its second report to the House of Commons on further education in Northern Ireland:

Achievement in schools [in Northern Ireland] is commonly regarded as being of a higher standard than elsewhere in the U.K. Mr Scott told us that "if you look at the Assessment of Performance Unit reports that came out, invariably they show the children of Northern Ireland at, or very close to, the top of the range of performance in the U.K." Claims of this nature should be used with caution and are best substantiated by reference to the record of the top 20% of the ability range. An examination of the statistics relating to the educational achievements of the remainder of the relevant age group indicates that they are, on average, lower than the rest of the U.K.
In 1987/88 Northern Ireland students continued to achieve better results at A level than their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom, but over twice as many Ulster students left school with no graded results as their English contemporaries.

4.7 Are there Differences in the Proportions of Catholics and Protestants Proceeding to Universities?
Cormack and Osborne (1983) found that Catholics appeared to be under-represented in higher education before World War II, but the data for the twenty years following 1945 shows a steady increase in their numbers, though by the end of the 1 960s the Catholic representation was still not in proportion to the population. In the 1970s there was an expansion of university places, Catholics gaining a larger proportion of these places - Catholic student numbers increased by 71% in 197 3/79 at Queen's University while Protestant numbers increased by 45%.

This increase in Catholic participation took place mainly at the bottom end of the entry qualification scale. There were no significant mean differences in A level scores of Catholics and Protestants in 1973 (9.9 and 9.3), and yet in 1979, the mean score for Protestants was 9.4 and for Catholics 8.3. The present position is summarised as follows:

With regard to access, it is important to note that Catholics in Northern Ireland are currenfly not under-represented amongst entrants, although this is a position apparently reached only very recently.
Regional differences do exist, however. The proportion of students entering university in 1973/79 relative to the number of 18-year-olds in the population showed that the West of the Province was under-represented particularly in terms of Catholics.

4.8 Do Class Differences Exist among Entrants to Higher Education?
Data from 1973/79 by Osborne et al. (1983) showed that Protestant entrants to higher education were more likely to come from non-manual-worker backgrounds than were Catholics (72% Protestants, 54% Catholics). Catholics were more likely to come from manual-worker backgrounds (46% Catholics, 28% Protestants).

4.9 Are the Subject Preferences Different for Catholics and Protestants Studying at University?
Subject differences do exist. O and A level subject patterns in 1984 indicate that there are broad differences between Protestants and Catholics, the latter showing a bias towards arts and related subjects, and the former towards the sciences. Data from Queen's University in the 1950s and 1960s, which reflect, not surprisingly, the same subject choices seen at A level, show that a similar pattern existed then. In 1953, of the Catholic intake, 6-7% were in science and 33-35% in arts. In 1968 these percentages were 21% and 38.9%. This trend continues. The percentage of Catholics enrolled in language/literature courses dropped from 20.7% in 1973 to 11.2% in 1979. The social sciences/business studies courses were most popular in 1973, and even more so for Catholics in 1979.

The agricultural department was the least popular among Catholics at Queen's University during the period 1953-69. The 1979 data would indicate that Catholics continued to be grossly under-represented in agriculture, 80.3% of the students in agriculture being Protestant. It is not known whether this marked difference reflects overall differences in agricultural land ownership and tenure throughout Northern Ireland, between Protestants and Catholics, or that Catholic students interested in agriculture are choosing to study outside Northern Ireland or to attend agricultural colleges rather than universities.

Detailed recent information on subject choices is not available but there is some suggestion, particularly in respect of increased numbers of Catholics entering law and business studies courses, that older demarcations are breaking down.

4.10 Is Northern Ireland Losing the Best of its Young People?
Increasing concern is being felt about the numbers of high achievers who seek university education outside Northern Ireland and who then fail to return.

Two studies were undertaken by Osborne et al. (1984) of all students entering university in 1973 and 1979. They found that the flow of students studying outside Northern Ireland had remained constant over this time, with one in three students leaving. What marked Northern Ireland out as being different from other areas in the UK was that there was no compensatory flow into Northern Ireland. Recently British students at the Coleraine campus of the University of Ulster have been on the increase. Northern Ireland universities have compensated in numbers by enrolling more mature students and more modest A level achievers than other regions of the UK.

Students studying outside Northern Ireland have tended to be those with the highest A levels, generally a high proportion from the Protestant community, (in 1979,40.6% of Protestants and 25.4% of Catholics) and from a middle class background. Of these students 63.2% of the 1973 cohort had not returned 3-4 years after graduation and 68.2% of the 1979 cohort, around two-thirds, did not return. In 1973 more males than females returned, and more Catholics than Protestants. By 1979 the pattern had changed. There was a dramatic fall in the number of males returning, whereas the female group remained similar. There was also a fall in the number of Catholics returning, with both groups in 1979 returning in equal proportions, approximately 31%.

The recent introduction of student loans in place of grants may well affect the number of Northern Ireland students studying outside the Province. More from the lower socioeconomic classes may have to choose to remain in Northern Ireland.

4.11 Who Leaves Northern Ireland after Graduation?
Of the students studying in Northern Ireland, Cormack, Osborne et al. (1984) found that 58.6% were Protestant and 41.4% were Catholic. Those with the highest degrees were more likely to leave after graduation - 23.1% of those gaining an upper second or above left and 14.7% of those with lower degrees. Those who left were most likely to come from engineering/technology (25%), science (20.4%), and medicine/dentistry/health (18.9%), while those with languages/arts degrees had only a 12.6% leaving rate.

When those students who studied in Northern Ireland and left were balanced with those students who studied outside Northern Ireland and returned, there was a gain in numbers only of those who studied languages/arts; a balance in numbers of those with social administration/business degrees; and a loss of those who studied science/technology, medicine, dentistry or other health courses.

Therefore, we conclude that, not only does Northern Ireland lose its best students to universities outside the Province, two-thirds of them not returning, but it loses its best graduates as well. It has no compensating influx of students or graduates from outside.

4.12 Are There Gender Differences in Education in Northern Ireland?
The Robbins Report (1963) noted " the existence of large reservoirs of untapped ability in the population, especially among girls". This concern was reflected two years later in the Lockwood Report, which remarked on the low participation rate from females in higher education in Northern Ireland and expressed the hope that "every opportunity will be taken to encourage many more girls to go to university". More recently the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has shown an interest in this area, as equality in pay and in recruitment and promotion depends on women obtaining similar qualifications to those of men. The EOC publishes official statistics, pioneers research, and has successfully brought High Court actions against the Department of Education and the Education and Library Boards in respect of the 1987/88 Transfer Procedure. The EOC argued that the Department's practice, which resulted in the award of non-fee-paying places in grammar schools to the top 27% of girls and the top 27% of boys in the transfer age group, meant that some boys would be awarded non-fee-paying places who got lower marks than some girls who were not awarded places, and that this amounted to sex discrimination. The EOC won the case, and as a result a total of 860 girls who were not awarded places in 1988 became eligible for such places. Also the Department was forced to change its policy regarding transfer percentages, and allocate a certain top percentage, irrespective of sex.

O and A Level Results - Subjects Chosen by Girls
Over the period 1982-86 there has been a 5-10% increase in the proportion of girls gaining 0 levels and A levels in chemistry, physics and maths. In computer science there was a 9% increase in girls obtaining 0 level awards over this period. There has been a gradual shift in emphasis from arts to science courses or mixed courses for girls, while there has been little change of direction for boys. Between 1975 and 1985 the proportion of girls taking science A level subjects increased from approximately 7% to 10%, and, more dramatically, the proportion of girls taking a mixed science/arts A level course increased from about 9% to 16.5%. Although it remains true that girls are more inclined to study arts and humanities, and boys more inclined to study science, attitudes are changing. McEwen and Curry (1989) in their study found that the "lower" social classes had the greatest difficulty in seeing science subjects as acceptable choices for girls. They also found that the subject choices students made were more influenced by their parents than by their teachers, a view supported by Agnew, Malcolm and McEwen (1989). Boys were socialised into seeing science and science-related subjects as being masculine, whereas girls were socialised into seeing arts subjects as being more feminine.

Not surprisingly, girls' subject choices at university level mirror the subject pattern at school level. They are under-represented among science subjects, and over-represented in arts subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Nevertheless, as in school, this pattern is changing. The percentage of women taking science courses has changed from 18% in 1966/67 to 34% in 1984/85. At the postgraduate level the change is even more dramatic, the percentage of female science students having increased from 3% in 1966/67 to 30% in 1984/85. There is also a big increase in the number of female students taking social studies courses. Women represented 54% of this intake in 1984/85.

Qualifications and further education
Girls did better overall than boys in the number of 0 and A level awards obtained in 1983/84, and 1986. Also, fewer girls leave school with no qualifications. More girls are going on to university and further education colleges. In 1984 they represented 42% of the university population, 48% of students in advanced further education courses and teacher-training courses, and 49% of students in non-advanced further education courses. In 1984/85,50% of those obtaining the highest honours and degrees were women, and yet only 30% of the higher postgraduate degrees were awarded to women. They are under-represented in the pass degrees and over-represented in the general degrees.

Destination of primary degree graduates
A study of the first destination of primary degree graduates for the period 1977-88 showed that proportionally more women are going on to further study and temporary employment. Gender differences in university subject choice is reflected in destination, women being heavily under-represented in industry and over-represented in education. There has been a steady increase in the number of women entering business and commerce.

Overall, it is fair to say that there has been a significant increase in the participation of women at university and further education colleges. Differences in subject choices are still apparent, though there have been significant moves from arts to science subjects on the part of girls in recent years. As yet this change has not been reflected to any great extent in the occupational analysis of society in Northern Ireland.

Incomes of Graduates
Osborne, Cormack, Millar and Williamson (1987) analysed the research available on graduates' incomes. The average graduate income for Northern Ireland was among the lowest for the United Kingdom. Those who worked outside Northern Ireland had a higher average income. Men's graduate incomes exceeded women's incomes, even for those studying the same subjects, obtaining the same degree and employed in the same occupations.

They also found that Protestants' graduate incomes exceeded those of Catholics. Those Catholics in management occupations had incomes that were 87.2% of Protestants' incomes; for Catholic professionals in education/health/welfare the figure was 9 1.6%, and for clerical and selling occupations, 90.3%. The one exception was the professional in service/engineering/technology where the mean Catholic income was slightly higher. There were, however, small numbers of Catholics in this group -one-third of the number of Protestants.

Exercises

1. What opportunities did your school formally and informally create for you to share learning, sporting and cultural activities with children from schools across the divide?
1.1 What proportion of Catholic/Protestant children attended your (a) primary school and (b) secondary school.
1.2 How did you become conscious of this divide?
1.3 Do you think your school inculcated separateness? If so, how?
1.4 Do you see any links between your educational experience and the "troubles"?
2. Are you conscious of selection differences among:
(a) students in your college or university?
(b) social work students?
2.1 If so, how are these differences manifested?
2.2 Do you think these differences, if any, need to be addressed?
2.3 What significance are these differences, if any, likely to have for you as a social work practitioner?
3. What are the likely implications of the loss of well-qualified young people for the future of the Province?

Return to Publication Contents


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :