4,300 kids drop out of school before fifth year

Thousands of students annually drop out of school between first and fourth year, according to a report which exposes how early students are quitting the system.

A Department of Education report out today found that 7,713 students left the country’s 730 second-level schools before making it to sixth year in 2010, with 4,300 leaving before fifth year. The data for the 2009-10 school year found:

* More than 1,500 students had only got as far as first or second year;

* A further 1,777 did not go beyond third year;

* 1,064 left during or after transition year.

Equally worrying is the fact that official statistics from other education providers as well as income tax and social welfare records do not account for what happened next for half of the 1,573 students who left school after first or second year. This group included 865 girls and 708 boys, a statistic that flouts most gender patterns on early school-leaving.

Despite success over recent years in raising the numbers who stay to Leaving Certificate, giving Ireland one of Europe’s highest school completion rates, the figures raise concerns about those dropping out at an early age and the supports available to them.

While relatively small out of a total second-level enrolment in 2011 of 312,000, it will cause alarm given that the law requires children to be educated up to the age of 16.

More than 1,400 who left school early in 2010 were from the UK or other EU states.

Of the 800 children to leave in first or second year whose activities after school are known by the department, 369 were enrolled in education or training abroad and 343 were on Youthreach programmes.

Among the 3,299 to leave during or after fifth year, 522 went on to Youthreach, 365 were receiving social welfare, 364 worked during 2010, 311 were studying abroad, and 309 were on Fás courses.

The 7,713 students who left school in 2010 account for 2.5% of total second-level enrolments, a fall from 3.7% in 2002 when there were almost 11,500 early leavers.

However, the figure is still almost 4% for schools that get extra supports under the department’s Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme, because they cater for high numbers from disadvantaged families, compared to 2.1% in other schools.

A separate report also published today shows that students of non-Deis schools are twice as likely to go straight into third-level education.

It is estimated that about 1,000 children do not move from primary to second-level education each year, but no official figures are available because a long-sought primary database is still only being planned.


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