Northern Ireland has been in an intense thirty-year conflict, known as The Troubles, and outlined by a civil rights march in Londonderry, October 1968 and the Good Friday Agreement on April 10 1998.
The conflict brought violent, deaths, protests etc. And resulted in a major segregation between the two religions, Catholics and Protestants.
The conflict was primarily political and the paramount issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.
The main goal of the unionist and massive majority Protestants was to remain within the United Kingdom as they themselves claimed to be British, while the nationalists and republicans, being mainly Catholic, wanted to become part of the Republic of Ireland.
This caused the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to campaign a civil rights march to end discrimination against the Catholic and nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist majority.
Due to unionists not approving of this campaign it was met with violence, which led to British troops being deployed to Northern Ireland on order to restore law and order, and subsequent warfare during the next three decades.
Now that we have seen religious segregation is a legitimate issue within the schools of Northern Ireland is, looking into how this affects the performance of students, especially Protestants, is the next step.
Many factors come in hand together with segregation when answering this question, the Department of Education created in 2012 data on behalf of attainment by those whom entitled to free school meals.
Using the free school meal entitlement (FSME) as a proxy for poverty, the attainment gap becomes clear, “Only one third (33.9 per cent) of FSME students reached the five ‘good’ GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Educations) target.
Those not on FSME had an attainment level that was almost double, 66.7%” (Nolan, 93). On May 30th 2013 the Department of Education Statistics held a press release showing the attainment gap between the FSME and non-FSME (see table 2), “[…]
with at the upper end Catholic girls not on school meals and, at the other end, Protestant boys who have free school meal entitlement.
Using the measure of five good GCSEs including English and maths the gap between non-FSME Catholic girls (76.7 per cent) and Protestant FSME boys (19.7 per cent) is 57 percentage points” (Nolan 2014, 96-97).
Shown above is a table/illustration from the Peace Monitoring Report (2014) showing the wide attainment gap between FSME students and non-FSME students
also confirming that Catholics achieve better GCSEs than Protestants and girls performing better than boys, regardless of FSME.
However there still is an attainment gap of 57 percent between Catholic girls (FSME) and Protestant boys (non-FSME) again confirming Protestant underachievement especially the boys.
Gender is also a factor when discussing the segregated education system, it is even segregated in gender within the two religions and it is no secret that in general, girls do better than boys (Nolan 2014, 91).
It is shown in table 2 above and visible from primary to higher education (see table 5). The attainment gap between genders is significantly larger than the religion gap (see table 3 and 4) but they act upon each other as you can see in table 2.
“The accelerators come from the interplay of religion with two other factors: poverty (as detailed above) and gender. Using the same measures as for religion, a much wider attainment gap opens up when a gender filter is applied” (Nolan 2014, 96).