GIRLS are more likely to leave school early than boys, new research has shown.
A report by the Department of Education shows that many more female students exit education earlier than boys.
It has been the predominantly held view that this was a problem that mostly affected male students, with a number of programmes aimed at them.
The report also showed that students who attend fee-paying schools or Gaelscoils are the most likely to go straight into third level education.
More than 75pc of all school leavers continue their education in college, through training or in second level.
New statistics from the Department of Education and Skills (DES) also shows that more than 50pc of early leavers enrolled in further education.
The School Completers – What's Next? report found that of the 54,824 school leavers in 2010, 44pc went on to study for a higher education course in a HEA-funded institution.
Another 20pc enrolled in PLC courses and 5pc repeated the Leaving Certificate. An estimated 4pc enrolled in colleges abroad, mostly in the UK.
However, the study has cast a new spotlight on the differences between fee-paying and non-paying schools.
It shows that two thirds of students whose parents pay for their education progress directly to higher education and 57pc of pupils attending all-Irish schools also enrolled.
However, less than half of those in non-fee charging secondary schools go on.
Some 42pc of students from comprehensive schools, 38pc from community schools and 34pc from the vocational sector go directly to higher education.
In terms of students attending DEIS schools (the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools action plan for children and young people from disadvantaged areas), some 24pc went onto higher education compared to 49pc from non-DEIS status schools.
Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn welcomed the new data, saying: "This new research will provide a baseline for tracking school leavers in the years ahead and will fill current data gaps."
In another new study, Early Leavers – What Next?, the department tracked early leavers who left DES supported post-primary schools between the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011.
The research found that 55pc of these early leavers went on to further education or continued in second-level education.
Another 14pc were enrolled in education or training outside the State, and 6.6pc had social welfare claims while another 6pc had joined the workforce during 2010.
Girls left at an earlier stage than boys with over 20pc leaving after the first or second year of the Junior Certificate compared to less than 20pc of males.
Another 25pc of girls left after year three of Junior Certificate/ JCSP compared to 21pc of boys.