Northern Ireland

Concentrations of poor children

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • Half of all the primary school children in Northern Ireland who are eligible for free school meals are concentrated in a fifth of the schools.
  • Because of this concentration, the perception of poor children in primary schools is that there are many more poor children than there actually are.  For example, those eligible for free school meals have, on average, 34% of the pupils in their school eligible for free school meals whereas those not eligible for free school meals have, on average, 19% of the pupils in their school eligible for free school meals.

Definitions and data sources

This indicator tries to measure the extent to which poor children are concentrated in particular schools.

The first graph shows the proportion of children eligible for free school meals who are in the fifth of primary schools with the highest concentrations of such children.

For the latest year, for both primary and secondary schools, the second graph shows that, on average:

  • For children in primary schools eligible for free school meals, an average of 34% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in primary schools not eligible for free school meals, an average of 19% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in secondary schools eligible for free school meals, an average of 28% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.
  • For children in secondary schools not eligible for free school meals, an average of 16% of the children in the school are eligible for free school meals.

The data source for both graphs is calculations based on school-level data from the Department of Education, Northern Ireland (the data is not publicly available).

Pupils entitled to free school meals are those within families who receive Income Support (IS) or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (IBJSA).  Those within families who receive support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 may also be entitled.  Children who receive IS or IBJSA in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.  Also entitled are children whose parents or carers receive Child Tax Credit, do not receive Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by the HM Revenue & Customs) of below £14,155 (in 2006).

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  While the underlying data is sound, its relationship to other aspects of poverty and social exclusion is not immediately clear.