Monday 23 April 2018

Widening gap in two-tier school system is revealed

Picture posed. Thinkstock
Picture posed. Thinkstock

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Pupils in fee-charging schools and those who receive an all-Irish education are most likely to go straight to college from school.

At the other extreme, research reveals that pupils attending schools in disadvantaged areas are most likely to drop out and if they do the Leaving Cert are least likely to go straight to a third-level institution.


A key finding – that girls are more likely than boys to leave school early – contradicts the long-held view that this was a predominantly male problem.

The reports confirm much of what is already known about how the system favours some students more than others – but the level of dropout by girls will trigger fresh worries about whether the education system is adequately meeting their needs.

Attempts to tackle early school leaving has traditionally focused on boys.

For the first time, the Department of Education has now tracked the progress of individual school-leavers from a single year, including both those who had done the Leaving Cert and those who dropped out.

The research was carried out on pupils who attended school in the 2009/2010 year, but were not enrolled the following year.

The department used PPS numbers to track the pupils and, in a ground-breaking exercise, cross-checked data in a range of government departments and agencies to establish where the school-leavers were a year later.

One study, 'School Completers – What's Next' looked at what happened to the 54,824 Leaving Cert candidates in 2009/2010.

The other study, 'Early School-Leavers – What's Next' looked at the destination of the 7,713 pupils (out of a total second-level enrolment that year of 257,060) who left school in 2009/2010 at any point before sixth year

Among the key findings were that 50pc of those who completed their Leaving Cert went straight into higher education. An additional 28pc went on to further education, such as a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course; training, such as a FAS course; or repeated the Leaving Cert.

A total of 10pc of the class of 2009/2010 took up employment; 7pc were claiming social welfare; and 5pc were 'other', such as emigration.

A closer analysis of the average 50pc who went straight to college shows a wide variation in progression rates, depending on school sector:

• Fee-charging schools (66pc).

• All-Irish schools (57pc).

• Non-fee-charging secondary schools, generally those run or previously run by the religious (47pc).

• Comprehensive schools (42pc).

• Community schools (38pc).

• Vocational sector schools (34pc).

• Schools in designated disadvantaged areas (24pc).

Overall, early school leaving is much less of a problem than it was, with 11,498 dropping out of school in 2001/2002.

The biggest dropout rate, 3.9pc, was in schools in designated disadvantaged areas, known as DEIS – double the rate of a non-DEIS school and four times that in an all-Irish school.

Although followed closely by 3.8pc in fee-paying schools, many of these pupils may have gone on to a grind school.

The research shows that more females consistently exit the second-level system earlier than males.

This is true both in absolute numbers and in the percentage of the entire male and female school populations.

About 55pc of early school-leavers went on to further education – such as a PLC course, or FAS training – or continued their second-level education in a private institution such as a grind school, as 22pc of them did. Another 14pc were enrolled in further education or training outside the State, while about 6pc were working and 7pc were claiming social welfare.


The remaining 17pc fell into the 'other' category, which includes emigration.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the reports "would fill data gaps and enhance the information used by the department to plan for the future education needs of our school-leavers".

Data was matched with agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners, the Higher Education Authority's Student Record System, FAS, the Department of Social Protection and the Further Education and Training Awards Council.

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life