Protestant students lag behind their Catholic counterparts in terms of academic achievement in schools all across Northern Ireland says new data released by the Department of Education.

The London Derry Sentinel reports on statistics that highlight the gulf between Protestant and Catholic school leavers.

In statistics gathered in 2011/12, 59.1 percent of Catholic school leavers achieved two or more 'A' levels compared to 51.8 percent of Protestant school leavers.  Additionally, 78.8 percent of Catholic school leavers left with at least five GCSEs at grades A*- C or equivalent including English and math while Protestant school leavers measured in at 73.8 percent.

19.7 percent of Protestant boys entitled to free school meals achieve at least five GCSEs at grades A* - C or equivalent, compared to 33.2 perent of Catholic boys also entitled to free school meals.

Catholic girls entitled to free school meals also outperform their Protestant counterparts, with percentages of 43.8 percent to 32.4 percent respectively.

Taking religion of pupils into account, 39.2 percent of Protestant school leavers enter Institutions of Higher Education, as compared with 45.2 percent of Catholic school leavers. Last year it was reported that only 25 Protestant boys who qualified for free school meals went on to university from secondary school.

University of Ulster Professor Peter Shirlow says that "The city of Londonderry... needs to produce a better educational base. Investors will not come for a low wage economy as they now seek a workforce that is highly trained and educationally capable."

He went on to say that "it is clear that social class still determines lifestyle and outcome and all the more so as we are living in a knowledge driven economy."