Students from better-off backgrounds twice as likely to go to college
Leaving Certificate students from the poorest backgrounds are still only half as likely to go to college as those from more financially well-off families.
More teenagers are sitting the Leaving Cert and more school-leavers are going to college but the chances of pursuing a degree still shows a strong link to financial circumstances.
And worryingly, there are large numbers of school-leavers who are not engaging in any form of post-school education or training, although employers are increasingly seeking specific knowledge and skills for any job.
Two new Department of Education reports look at the destination of those who left school in 2010-11, whether with their Leaving Cert or having dropped out early.
Despite higher progression rates to further and higher education, among those who sat the Leaving Cert, the following year, some 19.5pc - almost one in five - were working, in receipt of some form of welfare payment such as unemployment, disability or child benefit, or in a category that included emigration and seasonal employment abroad.
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said the data emphasised the importance of providing all young people with appropriate options - including apprenticeships, which are starting to emerge again after the economic crash.
The findings also highlight the ongoing gap in college entry between those from different socio-economic backgrounds.
According to the findings, 52.3pc of Leaving Cert students went straight to college, up from 50.4pc the previous year, while another 28.2pc enrolled in further education and training, including post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses.
But, only one in four (25.8pc) students from schools in the Department of Education's DEIS programme for designated disadvantaged areas went straight to college, compared with one in two (50.9pc) from non-DEIS schools, up from 24.2pc and 49.1pc the previous year.
A further breakdown by school sector shows that 66.8pc of students from fee-paying schools enrolled in college while, at the other end of the third-level progression spectrum, the figure from vocational schools was 36.4pc
A lack of appetite for education is clearly not the cause, with students from DEIS schools much more likely to enrol in PLC courses.
PLCs, an option taken by 19.3pc of Leaving Cert students in 2010-11, are often used as a stepping stone to college by those who have not made up their mind what to do, or cannot compete in the CAO points race, which favours those who can pay for extra learning supports.
That year, 26.7pc of school-leavers from DEIS schools did a PLC course, compared with 17.4pc from non-DEIS schools