Students from the most affluent areas are up to five times more likely to enter third level education than students who come from the most disadvantaged areas, as demonstrated by the Irish Times Feeder Schools List 2017.
Privately educated students continue to attend higher education in large numbers, with almost half of fee-paying secondary schools sending all their students to third level.
The data shows that university attendance percentages varying widely by location. In Dublin, areas such as Dublin 4, 6 and 6W recording the highest average levels of third level participation, with averages between 90% and 100% The lowest participation rates were recorded in Dublin 8, 11 and 24 with averages between 39% and 50%.
Eight of the top 20 feeder schools are in Dublin, with Holy Child School, Killiney topping the list for the highest number of students sent on to college. The highest figures outside of Dublin were recorded in Cistercian College, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, which sent the second highest number of students on to third level.
Sandford Park School and Gonzaga College in Dublin 6 and Presentation College, Mardyke in Cork City followed behind.
Many schools in disadvantaged areas show a third-level participation rate of between 20% and 25%, and in some cases the progression rate is lower.
However, the data does show that state-funded schools are closing the gap with privately funded institutions. There has been seven-fold increase in the number of publicly funded schools to record 100% progression to third-level since 2010.
Out of approximately 650 publicly funded secondary schools, almost 80 showed progression rates to third level of 100% – up from 11 in 2010, and from 58 last year.
Trinity and University College Dublin (UCD) have the lowest proportion of SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) grant-holders in third level institutions in the country. The data shows that more SUSI maintenance grants are awarded to students in institutes of technology than to students who enrol in university.
In addition, the data shows that only 15 of the top 50 feeder schools were mixed gender schools. The list is dominated by 17 girls’ schools and 18 boys’ schools.
The Irish Times data also shows the success of Irish language schools, many of which rank at the top end of the table. There has been an evident increase in the number of students sitting their exams through Irish and progression rates in these schools have also risen.
Writing in the Irish Times, Minister for Education Richard Bruton stated that while the data will generate public interest, “no one can imagine that they will tell the full story about a school”.
In August, the government announced a €16.5 million initiative to increase access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Funding has been divided between bursaries and other supports.