Fewer than one in 10 students now drop out of school before the Leaving Certificate, but boys and students attending disadvantaged schools are still more likely to leave early.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn welcomed the latest data from his department showing 90.1% of the 56,000 students who started second level in 2007 sat the Leaving Certificate. They finished school last year or in 2012, depending on whether or not they did transition year.
While down marginally from 90.2% for the previous year’s class, it is up significantly from a retention rate of 85% for the 2002 entry cohort and 82% among those who began second-level education in 1997.
However, despite narrowing gaps nationally, only 86% of students at vocational schools made it to Leaving Certificate, compared to 92% of those attending religious-owned schools and 90% of students at community or comprehensive schools. The figure for vocational schools — run by education and training boards — is, however, up from 75% for the group starting at the same type of schools in 2001.
This improvement reflects those in disadvantaged schools in the Department of Education’s Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme, where retention rates rose from 68% to 80% between the classes who started in 2001 and in 2007. In the same period, numbers at Deis schools completing the Junior Certificate rose from 93% to 97% but still fall short of the 98% in all other schools.
Mr Quinn said high retention rates tie in with commitments in the youth guarantee he jointly launched with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton last week. He said improvements in Deis schools are heartening despite differences from others.
“I would like to see this gap narrow, but it is further proof that our Deis programmes in disadvantaged areas are working,” said Mr Quinn.
The early school-leaving figures for Ireland compare well with those in other EU countries. Only seven of the other 27 EU countries have higher proportions of 18 to 24-year-olds who completed second-level education.
Meanwhile, just over 73,000 people have registered to seek third-level college places by Saturday’s main deadline for the Central Applications Office.
The figure is up nearly 2,000 on the same stage in the last two years, when final numbers passed 76,000 after late applications. Almost 44,000 people who sat the Leaving in 2012 and 2013 applied for college through the CAO, with the rest mostly seeking places as further education graduates or mature students.
The CAO will accept late registrations during March and April, but late applicants are ineligible for certain courses.
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