Key factor in education is parents’ support: QUB

Former Education Minister Peter Weir
Former Education Minister Peter Weir

A critical report by experts at Queen’s University has claimed academic selection favours parents who can pay for private tuition.

The Investigating Links in Achievement and Deprivation (Iliad) report was commissioned by the Office of First and Deputy First Minister in 2012 and has just been published.

It found that academic selection favours parents who can pay for private tuition, and leads to grammar schools “creaming” off high-achieving pupils.

It also found factors leading to poor educational achievement include lack of parental support, negative attitudes to education and low expectations from some teachers.

Former education minister and DUP MLA Peter Weir said in his view the report found the “unsurprising opinion” is that there is divided opinion on the subject.

“Correctly it identifies the ‘most important determinant’ as being parental involvement, and there is a key challenge in ensuring we strengthen links between parents and education.”

He added: “If we simply concentrate on what happens at 11 we have missed the boat.”

But Sinn Fein education spokesperson Karen Mullan said the report found that academic selection damaged the self-esteem of pupils and favoured more affluent families. There is a huge body of international evidence “which shows that academic selection is detrimental for education”, she added.

PUP spokesman John Kyle supported the report’s findings, noting that Finland had the best academic results in western Europe without academic selection.

However, he added that the country does use academic streaming instead, which Sinn Fein said it is “not opposed to”.