School dropout rates have reached their lowest recorded levels, but wide variations remain between cities and other areas.
The headline figure for students staying at school until Leaving Certificate is now at 90.6%, meaning 9.4% of those who started second-level education in 2008 did not stay the full five or six years. Of just over 56,000 students, nearly 5,300 did not finish sixth year in 2013 or 2014.
The early school-leaving figure is down from 9.9% a year ago, and from 16.4% among students who began first year in 1998. While the overall improvements are welcome, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said it was still a concern that almost one-in-10 students do not complete second-level.
“Many of these students are choosing other educational and training pathways such as apprenticeships and Youthreach courses, but a proportion are leaving school without any plan,” she said. “This is a serious problem and students who drop out of formal education as teenagers limit their life chances.”
Her own constituency of Limerick City has one of the highest dropout rates, the 13% who did not reach Leaving Cert being the country’s second-highest, behind Carlow with a 14% level.
Almost 4.5% of Limerick city’s 2008 first-year classes did not sit the Junior Cert, lower than Carlow (5.7%), Longford (4.9%), Galway City (4.7%) and Waterford City (4.5%). There are also high rates in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (4.1%) and South Dublin County Council (4.2%) areas.
Most cities have non-completion rates above the national average, with 12.5% in Galway City, 11.5% in South Dublin, 11.4% in Dublin City Council area, 11.3% in Waterford City and 9.8% in Cork City not doing the Leaving Cert. Limerick county had just a 6.3% early school-leaving rate, the country’s lowest and less than half the figure in the city, while Waterford county’s 7.1% was the ’s second-lowest.
Although more boys leave school than girls, the gap is continuing to narrow. Among 2008 entrants to second-level, 8.1% of females and 10.7% of males did not make it to Leaving Cert, the 2.6% difference comparing favourably to a 3.6% gap on the first-year class of 2007.
Dropout rates at Deis schools, which get extra staff and other supports due to high numbers of students with social disadvantage, remain far higher than the national average, at almost 18%. But the 82.1% retention rate is up from just over 80% in the previous two years, and from only 68% of those who started at Deis schools in 2001.
The minister praised the role of school leaders, teachers and parents in encouraging students to stay in education, which sees our completion rates among 20 to 24 year olds among Europe’s highest.
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