One-in-four leave VEC education early

MORE than one-in-four teenagers are dropping out from some second-level schools before the Leaving Certificate.

This is despite major improvements in student retention in the last decade.

Government spending on disadvantage has been largely focused on schools in deprived areas, with vocational schools and community colleges run by city or county Vocational Education Committees (VECs) likely to enrol a higher proportion of children from poorer families.

Department of Education statistics on the level of retention for students beginning second-level between 1991 and 2001 show that investment to keep teenagers at school has been moderately successful, with slight improvements year-on-year across all school types.

The biggest improvement was in the vocational sector, which saw a rise from 61.5% of the first- year group in 1991 staying on to Leaving Certificate, to 74.5% of those who entered in 2001 and would have completed school in either 2006 or 2007.

In other words, the proportion of students at VEC -run schools dropping out before Leaving Certificate fell from almost 38.5% to 26.5% in a decade.

But this rate still compares poorly with the 84.3% completion rate of students who started in voluntary secondary schools in 2001.

The numbers in that sector have remained fairly consistent since 1991, when they were 83.6%, meaning fewer than one-in-six children leave these schools early.

For the community and comprehensive sector, the figures rose from 74.2% for the 1991 first-year cohort to 80.6% for those who started second-level education in 2001. Reversing what is measured, the dropout rate improved from just over one-in-four to less than one-in-five.

Michael Moriarty, general secretary of the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA) which represents the 33 VECs, said the figures show that Government investment in disadvantage has worked.

But, he said, this process has to be maintained and VEC schools need further resources to close the gap.

“We have welcomed the reversal of some cuts so far but the disadvantaged are the silent cohort whose needs must be addressed,” he said.


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