Half of Leaving Cert students feel unprepared for CAO form

The Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra performing at the CIT Cork School of Music open day.

Katherine Donnelly

More than half of next year's Leaving Certificate students are feeling unprepared to complete the CAO application form for college entry.

One in four current sixth-year students reported never having had one-to-one consultation with a career guidance teacher, according to a recent survey.

And a little more than half of the students said they had had less than an hour one-to-one consultation with a guidance counsellor.

The findings emerged in a survey of about 6,000 students - about one in 10 of the Leaving Cert class of 2015 - conducted by Studyclix.ie, an online forum for teachers and second-level students.

The survey found 56pc felt inadequately prepared to complete the form, 24pc never having had one-to-one guidance and 54pc having less than an hour's one-to-one guidance.

While not a scientific study, the findings will raise concerns as Leaving Certificate candidates prepare to fill in CAO forms ahead of the end of January deadline.

About two in three 18- and 19-year-olds apply for college, but there are concerted moves this year to encourage even more students to consider third-level.

Today sees the launch of the first ever College Awareness Week, aimed at increasing the numbers going to college from groups that are under-represented at third-level, such as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Over 200 activities are planned in schools and communities around the country, highlighting the benefits of third-level education.

The Studyclix.ie findings echo a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which tracked about 900 students through the second-level system and beyond, and found many ill-prepared for making decisions about college.

The ESRI found inadequate career guidance to help steer individual students towards the right path as a key problem.

On average, about one in six first year college students do not continue to second year of their course - they either drop out or switch courses - which is largely blamed on making the wrong choice.

The ESRI study pre-dated the cuts to school guidance services, introduced as a Government cost-cutting measure in September 2012. An audit by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) last year found that there had been a 59pc reduction in time for one to-one-counselling since September 2012.

Around 200 schools were not offering any one-to-one service.

IGC president Betty McLaughlin said the greatest impact was on socially disadvantaged groups, which increased education inequality.

Children from lower socio-economic groups tend to be more reliant on a school guidance counsellor because their parents are less likely to have experienced third-level education or to have detailed knowledge about it.