Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Inequality and Segregation in Northern Ireland Schools

Borooah, Vani and Knox, Colin (2015): Inequality and Segregation in Northern Ireland Schools. Published in: The Economics of Schooling in a Divided Society No. Palgrave Macmillan (2015): pp. 84-113.

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Abstract

Northern Ireland is praised as an education system which produces high performance levels. This is undoubtedly true for grammar school pupils. However it ignores the fact that only one-third of secondary school pupils obtain 5+ GCSE passes at A* - C grades, including English and Maths. It also conceals the level of inequality which children from disadvantaged backgrounds experience in accessing grammar schools. Structural reforms, proposed school closures and mergers into super-schools will do little to address these problems. School improvement policies employed by the Department of Education have also made no impression on raising standards. This paper offers peer learning, a model based on stronger-weaker school links, as an alternative approach. The pilot shared education programme provides early evidence of trust building between schools which allows for peer learning to happen. The essential point is that parents make a choice on educational grounds rather than the heterogeneity of schools. While segregated schools sit uneasily with a desegregated workforce, poor educational standards fail to prepare pupils for employment, the greater of the two evils.

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