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All students must be given chance to attend university

A CHILD attending a fee-paying or all-Irish school is no more intelligent and no more entitled to a place in college than one in a school in a designated disadvantaged area. Tradition and disposition play an important role.

Here it spells advantage.

A child from a family where a generation, or generations, have already gone to college will have that expectation, and the support at home that goes with it, both academic and financial.

Tradition and disposition are also factors in early school leaving. Here it spells disadvantage.

If a child's parents didn't complete second level, that pupil may not enjoy the support at home to get through to Leaving Cert and beyond.

The reports published by the Department of Education today provide important evidence of exactly how children fare in the second-level education system.

They are a welcome product of joined-up thinking and if they are to be of any real worth, the joined-up thinking must continue into policymaking.

Traditionally, the department seeks to overcome disadvantage by offering extra support to schools where the needs are greatest, but clearly more has to be done to level the playing field.

The current exercise by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to overhaul enrolment policies has potential in this area.

He wants to curtail, or end, practices that allow schools to "cherrypick", which ends up with some sectors enrolling exactly who they want from the most motivated backgrounds, while others carry more than their fair share of students with special educational needs, whether due to economic disadvantage or disability.

Increasingly, a third-level qualification is the passport to the workplace.

The system must ensure that pupils in each and every school have an equal chance of getting one, and at the same pace as everyone else.

Irish Independent