Easter school attracts record number of west Belfast pupils
A RECORD number of pupils hope to boost their English and maths grades having taken part in a flagship annual GCSE Easter School.
Young people from 11 post-primaries, who are considered borderline grade C candidates, attended the Easter School at St Mary's University College in west Belfast.
More than 250 pupils took revision classes in GCSE English and maths.
The Easter School, which is organised by the West Belfast Partnership Board (WBPB), St Mary's and schools, provides tailored support for those sitting exams this summer.
Many of the pupils live in some of the most deprived areas in the north.
Department of Education statistics show a gulf in exam performance between school pupils from different social backgrounds. Poorer pupils do only half as well as their richer classmates.
Five GCSE passes at grades A*-C including English and maths is considered a benchmark that most post-primary schools should achieve.
WBPB has been involved in an array of education programmes designed to improve pupils' performance in the core subjects.
The board identifies education as a top priority area to be addressed to improve the life chances of children and their families and develop sustainable social and economic neighbourhood regeneration and renewal.
In 2010, the percentage of school leavers in the West Belfast constituency achieving five GCSEs at grades A*-C including English and maths was 37.7 per cent, compared to the Northern Ireland average of 62 per cent.
By 2015, the percentage in West Belfast Post Primary Area Learning Community schools achieving this standard had improved to 61.3 per cent. Among pupils on free school meals, it was 45.4 per cent.
The WBPB said of those who took part last year, 86 per cent achieved grade C or above in both English and maths.
Organisers believe this year's event was the most successful to date.
Now in its eighteenth year, the school hosted 251 Year 12 pupils who took part in four intense days of exam preparation classes.
They received tuition from 21 qualified teachers who were assisted by 15 St Mary's University College students.
"We had students from all sectors including Irish-medium, and integrated education. As we continue to grow we hope to build on the success of the event as we move forward," said WBPB education coordinator Louise Brennan.
"I also want to wish all our students every success in their upcoming examinations."