As Paddy spends so much of his life at school we get a realistic glimpse into the Irish education system - although there have of course been many changes since the 1960s.
As a former teacher Doyle is passionate about the need for children - especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds - to receive a good education.
In the novel he shows that while there are obviously some teachers and adults trying to educate Paddy, nobody really encourages his natural ability. This is shown by his curiosity, his reading for pleasure and information, and the intelligent way he often thinks about things.
The worry is that he will not reach the potential shown during the period when he stays up studying in an attempt to stop his parents fighting.
Doyle is highlighting the issue of the inequality in the lives of young people, and how many children have fewer opportunities in life just because of where they grow up and how much money their parents have.
Paddy seems to learn more at home or by himself than he does at school, and when he is learning something constructive he stays out of trouble.
He is genuinely interested in the world around him. In his home setting Paddy asks questions about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Vietnam War, he also discusses World War Two and Irish history.
He reads various factual books, about Geronimo for example. He reads the Just William series for pleasure. He also attends a local library and his father shows an interest in his book choices.
However, we see Paddy learning very little in school. At times the classroom seems more an exercise in crowd control rather than a place for learning. Some lessons are interesting, but others feel like simple babysitting of the boys.
We can’t help thinking that Paddy’s education dooms him.