Segregation, inequality, and educational performance in Northern Ireland: Problems and solutions

Vani K. Borooah, Colin Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Some 16 years after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland is most clearly evident in the delivery of key public services. The focus of this paper is the highly segregated and unequal system of education provision and the attempts made to tackle these problems at the post-primary level. First, in terms of performance, post-primary educational outcomes are hugely variable: this is the problem of performance inequality. Second, pupils from deprived backgrounds - pupils entitled to free school meals and those with special educational needs are grossly under-represented in Northern Ireland's top-performing (grammar) schools: this is the problem of access inequality. Third, as a corollary of two separate systems of education - Protestant and Catholic - there is 'segregation' of pupils by school type: Catholic pupils attend maintained schools and Protestant pupils attend controlled schools and, in consequence, rarely have the opportunity to meet and interact in a school setting. In the face of these problems, this paper proposes a novel approach entitled shared education. Under this scheme, schools of different religious backgrounds will enter into 'partnerships for excellence' to promote good educational outcomes through a sharing of resources and pooling of expertise and, by doing so, help to dismantle the boundaries which separate Northern Ireland's pupils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Education performance
  • Inequality
  • Segregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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