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Background Information on Northern Ireland Society - Education



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Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna, Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

Education in Northern Ireland

Summary

  • The standard of education is Northern Ireland is considered to be relatively high. In 1993/94, Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of students in their final year of compulsory schooling who failed to achieve a graded examination result, and the highest proportion of students in post-compulsory schooling who achieved 2 or more passes at GCE A Level.[1]

  • Education attainments in Northern Ireland are rising rapidly. Second level school leavers in Northern Ireland have substantially higher educational attainments than the United Kingdom average. Between 1986 and 1998, the proportion of school leavers who attained three or more 'A' Level qualifications doubled.

  • The proportion of school leavers entering full-time higher education in Northern Ireland has also increased dramatically between 1986 and 1998. The number of full-time postgraduate students studying in Northern Ireland doubled, while the number of part-time undergraduate students tripled. The proportion of youths in Northern Ireland who proceed to university is higher than any other country in the European Union.

  • Basically, all schools in Northern Ireland can be divided into 5 categories
    (i)  Controlled Schools: These are essentially Protestant schools - they are owned by the Education and Library boards, although they are mostly controlled by their Boards of Governors. The Protestant churches are represented on the Board of Governors.
    (ii)  Catholic Maintained Schools: These are essentially Catholic schools - they are owned by the Catholic Church but are managed by a Board of Governors. The Education and Library Boards provide some financial assistance, by financing recurrent costs and the employment of non-teaching staff.
    (iii)  Other Maintained: These are essentially Protestant schools, in that they are owned by the Protestant church and managed by a Board of Governors. Like the Catholic maintained schools, they received funding from the Education and Library Boards for the recurrent costs.
    (iv)  Voluntary Grammar: These schools are owned by school trustees and managed by a Board of Governors.
    (v)  Grant Maintained Integrated Schools: These are essentially mixed schools, for Catholic and Protestant children. They are partially owned by trustees and managed by a Board of Governors, with their recurrent costs being met by the Department of Education.

  • The majority of Protestant children in Northern Ireland attend state controlled schools, whilst the majority of Catholic children attend Catholic maintained schools. These are essentially Protestant and Catholic schools.

  • The first integrated school, Lagan College, opened in 1981 with 28 pupils. According to the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) there are currently 50 integrated schools in Northern Ireland (during 2003), 18 of which are second level colleges and 32 integrated primaries, educating over 16,000 pupils. This represents almost 5% of the total school going population. The majority (95%) of children are still attending non-integrated schools. For additional information on integrated education see the NICIE web site {external_link}. See also: Table NI-EDC-13: Details of Integrated Schools in Northern Ireland (on separate page).

  • Girls in Northern Ireland at GCSE[2] and A Level standard achieve a higher standard of results than boys at the same level.

  • Compared with the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has proportionately more schools with a small number of pupils. In 1995/96, 37 percent of primary schools in Northern Ireland had less than 100 pupils, compared with only 15 percent in England.

  • The number of pupils in Northern Ireland attending Irish Medium Schools is on the increase. In 1994/95, the number of pupils attending these schools was 713, while in 1998/99 the figure had risen to 1,342 pupils.

  • A comparison of School leaver figures from early 1980's and 1990's reveal that fewer school leavers today go directly into employment, while a greater percentage are now going on to further and higher education.

  • Pupils in Catholic schools tend to perform much better in arts subjects and languages than pupils in Protestant schools, whilst pupils in Protestant schools tend to perform better in science subjects.

  • A survey carried out in 1985 showed that a higher proportion of Catholic school pupils progressed to further and higher education on leaving school than their counterparts in Protestant schools. A higher proportion of pupils from Protestant schools went directly into employment.

  • According to a press release issued by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) in March 1999 the reported religion of pupils in schools in Northern Ireland is as follows; 51% Catholic; 42% Protestant; 1% Other Christian; 0.3% Non Christian and 6% No Religion/Not Recorded.

    Sources:

    The following tables provide further details regarding education in Northern Ireland. Much of this material has been taken from the Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics (1996), Regional Trends (1996), The Majority Minority Review 1: Education in a Divided Society, by A M Gallagher. and the Irish Almanac and Yearbook of Facts (1997).
    Additional information can be obtained from the section on Key Issues - Education in Northern Ireland and Discrimination and Education in Northern Ireland.
    Additional up to date statistical information can be found at the following websites:
    (i)    Department of Education for Northern Ireland - Key Information & Statistics {external_link}
    (ii)   Statbase - UK National Statistics Online {external_link}

    List of Tables

    Table NI-EDC-13: Details of Integrated Schools in Northern Ireland (on separate page)


    Primary Education in Northern Ireland: Pupils, Teachers and Schools

     

    Schools

    Teachers

    Pupils

    1980/81

    Controlled

    562

    4,206

    99,943

    Maintained

    481

    3,827

    91,323

    Other Voluntary

    5

    20

    423

    Preparatory

    24

    164

    3,940

    1985/86

    Controlled

    516

    3,907

    90,014

    Maintained*

    481

    3,752

    90,762

    Other Voluntary

    4

    15

    311

    Preparatory

    21

    135

    3,274

    1990/91

    Controlled

    495

    3,913

    90,181

    Maintained*

    477

    3,142

    95,610

    Other Voluntary

    2

    4

    93

    Preparatory

    19

    123

    3,104

    Note: * Includes pupils in planned integrated schools: in 1992 this accounted for approximately 1,800 pupils

    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)



    Number of schools in Northern Ireland, by School Type, Religion and Area Board [3]

     

    BELB

    WELB

    NEELB

    SEELB

    SELB

    TOTAL

    Catholic Grammar

    5

    7

    5

    3

    10

    30

    Catholic Secondary

    12

    24

    14

    9

    20

    79

       

    Protestant Grammar

    10

    6

    12

    7

    5

    40

    Protestant Secondary

    10

    11

    24

    19

    16

    80

       

    Integrated Secondary

    1

    1

    0

    1

    1

    4

                 

    Total No. Schools per Board

    38

    49

    55

    39

    52

    233

    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review 1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)


    Qualifications of School Leavers in Northern Ireland

     

    1988/
    89

    1989/
    90

    1990/
    91

    1991/
    92

    1992/
    93

    1993/
    94

    1994/
    95

    1995/
    96

    1996/
    97

    1997/
    98

    All School Leavers

    25,088

    24,522

    23,693

    23,481

    22,316

    23,355

    24,533

    25,674

    25,717

    -

    % of leavers whose highest qualification was:

    3 or more 'A' Levels

    17.6

    19.3

    20.7

    22.8

    23.8

    24.1

    24.1

    23.5

    25.9

    -

    2 'A' Levels

    6.7

    6.9

    7.3

    6.3

    6.8

    6.6

    6.6

    6.7

    6.6

    -

    1 'A' Level

    3.5

    3.8

    3.7

    3.1

    3.2

    3.0

    3.0

    2.3

    2.1

    -

    No 'A' Levels but 5 or more GCSEs (A*-C grades)

    10.8

    11.3

    13.0

    13.3

    15.7

    17.0

    17.0

    18.9

    19.8

    -

    1-4 GCSE (A*-C grades)

    24.8

    24.8

    24.9

    25.9

    26.9

    26.4

    26.4

    24.8

    23.3

    -

    1+ GCSEs (D-G grades)

    17.6

    18.6

    17.4

    16.8

    16.4

    16.8

    16.8

    17.2

    16.2

    -

    Qualifications other than GCSE/ GCE/ GNVQ

    6.3

    5.3

    4.4

    4.3

    2.2

    2.3

    2.3

    2.1

    2.6

    -

    No formal qualifications of any kind

    12.7

    10.0

    8.6

    7.4

    4.9

    3.8

    3.8

    1.5

    3.6

    -

    Source: Department of Education Northern Ireland: Compendium of Northern Ireland Statistics, 1985/86 to 1997/98


    Examination Achievements of Pupils in Schools, 1995/1996: A comparison of results for England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland

     

    Pupils in their last year of compulsory schooling

    Pupils /students in education achieving 2 or more A levels/
    3 or more SCE Highers
    (percentages)

     

    Percentage achieving GCSE's or SCE Standard Grade

     

     

    5 or more grades A*-C

    1-4 grades A* -C

    Grades D-G only

    No graded results

    Total (=100%) (thousands)

    England

    44.5

    25.7

    22.0

    7.8

    594.0

    29.6

    Wales

    41.6

    24.3

    23.3

    10. 8

    37.2

    27.0

    Scotland

    53.6

    28.9

    13.9

    3.6

    65.2

    29.3

    Northern Ireland

    51.6

    26.1

    17.7

    4.6

    26.4

    35.9

    Source: Regional Trends, 1998, p.56


    Destinations of School Leavers in Northern Ireland

    Destination of school leavers:

    1988/
    89

    1989/
    90

    1990/
    91

    1991/
    92

    1992/
    93

    1993/
    94

    1994/
    95

    1995/
    96

    1996/
    97

    1997/
    98

    Institutions of Higher Education

    19.6

    21.1

    22.0

    23.9

    25.9

    26.0

    26.0

    25.0

    28.2

    -

    Institutions of Further Education

    28.5

    30.9

    33.4

    34.2

    36.4

    35.0

    35.0

    35.6

    32.6

    -

    Other Destinations

    41.7

    39.3

    36.3

    36.2

    33.3

    34.3

    34.3

    37.2

    37.6

    -

    Destination Unknown

    10.2

    8.7

    8.3

    5.6

    4.4

    4.7

    4.7

    2.1

    1.6

    -

    Source: Department of Education Northern Ireland: Compendium of Northern Ireland Statistics, 1985/86 to 1997/98


    Higher Education in Northern Ireland, 1988-1998

     

    1988/
    89

    1989/
    90

    1990/
    91

    1991/
    92

    1992/
    93

    1993/
    94

    1994/
    95

    1995/
    96

    1996/
    97

    1997/
    98

    Students studying in Northern Ireland [1]

    Full-time Undergraduate

    16,311

    17,095

    18,072

    19,368

    21,065

    22,990

    24,551

    25,943

    26,164

    28,090

    Part-Time Undergraduate

    5,411

    5,382

    5,950

    6,494

    7,000

    7,174

    7,667

    10,495

    12.626

    14,399

    Full-Time Postgraduate

    1,601

    1,671

    1,896

    2,216

    2,360

    2,666

    2,693

    3,029

    3,258

    3,359

    Part-Time Postgraduate

    2,735

    3,109

    3,578

    4,054

    4,413

    4,833

    4,802

    4,704

    5,330

    4,489

    Northern Ireland Domiciled Students [2]

    Full-Time Undergraduate

    21,869

    23,379

    24,617

    26,324

    28,81-0

    31,331

    33,248

    34,546

    34,940

    37,028

    Part-Time Undergraduate

    Open University

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    1,979

    2,583

    2,639

    2,723

    Other Institutions

    5,353

    5,258

    5,949

    6,453-

    7,024

    7,276

    7,958

    10,697

    12,440

    14,301

    Total

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    9,937

    13,280

    15,079

    17,024

    Full-Time Postgraduate

    1,800

    1,987

    2,186

    2,525

    2,675

    2,871

    3,028

    3,297

    3,382

    3,631

    Part-Time Postgraduate

    Open University

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    -

    487

    605

    377

    103

    Other Institutions

    2,675

    3,030

    3,485

    3,901

    4,172

    4,620

    4,582

    4,564

    5,273

    4,452

    Total

    -

     

     -

    -

    -

    -

    5,069

    5,169

    5,650

    4,555

    Notes:
    [1] Students studying in Northern Ireland irrespective of domicile
    [2] Includes students studying anywhere in the UK or Republic of Ireland

    Source: Department of Education Northern Ireland: Compendium of Northern Ireland Education Statistics, 2000


    University Graduates in Northern Ireland, 1987-1996

     

    1987

    1988

    1989

    1990

    1991

    1992

    1993

    1994/95*

    1995/96

    First Degrees - Honours

    2,588

    2,796

    3,262

    3,179

    3,448

    3,621

    4,013

    4,809

    5,105

    First Degrees - Ordinary

    646

    654

    651

    465

    499

    593

    406

    546

    641

    Higher Degrees

    796

    849

    877

    948

    1,070

    1,290

    1,548

    1,376

    1,604

    All Degrees

    4,030

    4,299

    4,790

    4,592

    5,017

    5,504

    5,967

    6,731

    7,350

    Diplomas, Certificates and other qualifications

    1,969

    2,166

    2,094

    2,330

    2,551

    2,766

    2,929

    3,309

    2,424

    (Source: Northern Ireland Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1998, p.64)

    * From 1994/95 onwards, the basis on which the count of degrees and diplomas is taken changed from calendar years to academic years.




    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)





    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)





    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)





    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)





    (Source: A. M. Gallagher, Majority Minority Review1, Education in a Divided Society: A Review of Research and Policy, 2nd edition, 1995)


    Footnotes:
    [1] General Certificate of Education(GCE) A Level is the standard examination taken by pupils in their final year at school, generally at the age of 18. Passes at A Level standard are a requirement for university entry.
    [2] General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) are the standard examinations taken by all schoolchildren in Northern Ireland at the age of 16.
    [3] BELB: Belfast Education and Library Board
    WELB: Wester Education and Library Board
    NEELB: North Eastern Education and Library Board
    SEELB: South Eastern Education and Library Board
    SELB: Southern Education and Library Board


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