Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson
Ulster Unionist Party
Tabled Date: 03/04/2014
Answered On Date: 18/04/2014
Priority Written: No
To ask the Minister for Employment and Learning for his assessment of, and to provide available statistics on, the academic underachievement amongst Protestant working class communities in Upper Bann.
Population data from the Census indicate that Protestants and Catholics (aged over 16) in deprived areas in the Upper Bann assembly area are less likely to have level 2 qualifications and above than those in affluent areas.
Deprivation has been measured on the official multiple measure which categorises areas into ‘quintiles’. In deprived areas (quintiles 1 and 2), Protestants are less likely to have this level of qualification than Catholics – 45% of Protestants compared to 51% of Catholics (although they are much fewer in number) (Annex 1, Tables 1 and 2).
While the total number of enrolments for Protestants and Catholics in Upper Bann is very similar (at between 3,000 and 4,000 each year for level 2 and above (Table 4), the proportion of Protestants enrolling in further education from deprived areas is lower at 27% of all Protestant enrolments, compared to 61% of all Catholic enrolments (Table 3, 2012/13 academic year).
In terms of attainment, 27% of all Protestants gaining qualifications in further education come from deprived areas – a similar proportion to those enrolling (Table 3).
As the main providers of adult education in Northern Ireland, further education (FE) colleges encourage access to course provision by delivering a wide and varied curriculum through their main campuses and network of community outreach centres. Southern Regional College offers a range of full-time and part-time courses, from Entry level to level 5, which are open to people of all abilities across the Upper Bann constituency. Further education (FE) colleges continue to have a strong record of engaging participants from the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland. During the 2012/13 academic year, colleges across Northern Ireland had over 67,483 accredited enrolments from the 40% most deprived areas of Northern Ireland. This represented 44% of all such enrolments.
In addition, my Department has developed and implemented the Learner Access and Engagement Programme (LAE). This programme, which has been mainstreamed, with effect from September 2013, allows FE colleges to contract with third party organisations for the provision of learner support. This support is directed at ‘hard to reach’ learners, who are economically inactive, disengaged from the labour market and hold few or no qualifications, to encourage them to enrol on, and to complete, FE courses.
While the total number of enrolments for Protestants and Catholics in Upper Bann is very similar (at between 1,000 and 1,200 each year) (Table 6), the proportion of Protestants enrolling in higher education from deprived areas is lower at 11% of all Protestant enrolments, compared to 38% of all Catholic enrolments (Table 5).
In terms of attainment, approximately 11% of all Protestants gaining qualifications in higher education come from deprived areas – a similar proportion to those enrolling (Table 5).
Access to Success, is my Department’s regional strategy to widen participation in higher education among those groups which are currently under-represented. The strategy recognises an under-representation among young males from areas of high deprivation, which is particularly acute among young Protestant males.
The strategy has a strong focus on the creation of a more accessible sector in which the people who are most able but least likely to participate are given every encouragement and support to apply to, and to benefit from, higher education. The strategy sets out a programme which includes:
a co-ordinated higher education awareness and aspiration raising campaign which was launched in March 2014 to better communicate the benefits of higher education to under-represented sections of the community;
an expansion in the range of aspiration and educational attainment raising programmes at school, college, community and the workplace;
the development of agreed regional programmes for a standardised route of exceptional application to higher education for the most disadvantaged applicants;
the development of additional support measures by higher education providers for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to sustain their participation.
Training for Success (TfS)
While the total number of Protestants and Catholics in Upper Bann participating in TfS is very similar (70 and 86 respectively at the end of October 2012 and 112 and 120 respectively at the end of October 2013) (Table 8), the proportion of Protestants participating from deprived areas is lower at 37% of all Protestants participating, compared to 71% of all Catholics participating (at the end of October 2012) (Table 7).
Proportions at the end of October 2013 are slightly lower, at 34% and 67% respectively.
I have placed an Excel file containing 4 worksheets in the Assembly Library and on my department’s website at http://www.delni.gov.uk/ . The 1st tab looks at educational attainment (level 2 and above) by deprivation quintile for the Upper Bann Parliamentary Constituency for those aged 16 and over. The 2nd and 3rd tabs detail enrolments/qualifications (at level 2 and above) in HE and FE respectively from Upper Bann students, again by deprivation quintile for the 11/12 and 12/13 academic years. The 4th tab details the number of participants, from Upper Bann, on Training for Success as at the end of October 2012 and 2013, again by deprivation quintile.