State-funded schools now matching fee-paying sector
High-achieving, state-funded schools around the country are increasingly matching the fee-paying sector when it comes to sending their students to college.
Growing numbers of publicly funded schools now have a 100pc record - or very close to it - in pupil progression to third-level, according to figures published in the Irish Independent today.
The annual Feeder Schools supplement gives a school-by-school breakdown of how many of their pupils enrolled in higher education this autumn - and in what college.
The tables in the supplement provide details of almost 700 schools and over 30 third-level colleges, including universities, institutes of technology and teacher training colleges.
While the highest concentration of this year's college freshers comes from the 51 fee-paying schools, the 2015 feeder school figures show the strength of the competition across the second-level sector.
Advantages enjoyed by pupils in fee-paying schools, such as smaller classes, take the credit for the high transfer rates to third-level.
But rising demand for qualifications, which has contributed to growing third-level enrolments generally, and keen rivalry between schools has clearly had an impact.
According to the 2015 figures, some 28 of the 51 schools in the fee-paying sector had a 100pc progression rate to third level, compared with 31 of 56 schools in 2010. Among the 626 other second-level schools featuring in the tables, some 53 had a 100pc progression rate - an almost five-fold increase from 11 just five years ago.
Many other schools had third-level transfer rates of the order of 80pc and 90pc, again showing an upward drift.
The role played by geography in college choice was also obvious. For instance, UCD and Trinity College both attract a high proportion of students from the big number of fee-paying schools in their vicinities.
Recent figures also showed that both universities were least likely to have a student dependent on a maintenance grant.
Disturbingly, the 2015 figures also highlight how pupils in socio-disadvantaged areas continue to lag behind when it comes to third-level entry. While third-level progression rates of 80-100pc are now the norm for many schools, it is as low as 20pc for others.
The stubborn gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is triggering a new drive to break the education divide.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan will publish a New National Access Plan for Higher Education in coming weeks.
A key focus will be to boost college enrolments among children from families with a manual or skilled/semi-skilled background.
It will also target mature students, and encourage those who left education early to return and enjoy a "second chance".
Currently, 23pc of 18-20-year-olds in the 'non-manual worker group' attend higher education - compared with almost 60pc of all 18-20-year-olds - and the target is to increase that to 30pc.
The aim is to increase the participation rate from 26pc to 35pc among the semi/unskilled manual worker group.