Students in disadvantaged schools are half as likely to go straight to college, statistics reveal.
Half of all students who finished school in 2010 went on to higher education, including 44% who attended colleges funded by the State.
However, only 24% of those who attended schools in the Department of Education’s Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) scheme were in those publicly funded colleges, compared to 49% in non-Deis schools.
The figures cannot be compared to previous data as they emerge from the first in-depth analysis by the department of the progression of students who complete second level.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the report, and another on the fate of early school leavers, will provide a baseline for tracking students after school and helping to plan for their future education needs.
Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) education expert Emer Smyth has warned that disadvantaged students would suffer disproportionately from last year’s budget cuts, which saw career guidance provision reduced in most schools, as such students rely more than others on school-based supports when applying for or choosing third-level courses.
An Institute of Guidance Counsellors survey has found their members have been less available for one- to-one support in vocational schools — which tend to have more disadvantaged students — than in others because of the staffing and timetabling changes.
After higher education, the most common route for those who completed school in the 2009/2010 year was further education, including post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Another 5% repeated the Leaving Certificate, 1.4% undertook Fás courses, 10% took up jobs, and 7% had social welfare claims.
The data was compiled from records held by the department, the Higher Education Authority, Further Education and Training Awards Council (Fetac), Fás, the Department of Social Protection, Revenue Commissioners, and other sources.
One in five of the 54,824 who took the Leaving Certificate or related exams went on to a PLC course, but the figure was twice as high (almost 40%) for the 3,210 who completed the Leaving Certificate Applied.
The overall numbers going directly to PLC courses are up from about 16% a decade earlier, which may reflect the rise in numbers finishing second-level, as well as growing number of places available.
However, the sector also faces challenges as a Department of Education cap of 32,688 students remains in place on these courses, with hundreds of teachers being removed this year because of a budget cut.
Other figures show two thirds of students attending fee-charging schools went directly to higher education, compared to 47% of those at other religious-run secondary schools. The progress rates are much lower in other schools, at around 40% in community and comprehensive schools but just 34% in vocational schools that account for more than one-in-three of all 730 secondary schools.
Although the higher college attendance by those in fee-charging schools probably reflects the value their families put on education, it may strengthen arguments by some of Mr Quinn’s backbenchers and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland for reduced State funding for the fee-paying sector.
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