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Middle-class schools tighten their grip on college places

November 22, 2011

WHILE VIRTUALLY every student in middle-class areas proceeds to college, the progression rate is less than 40 per cent across huge swathes of working-class areas in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The two-tier nature of Irish education is highlighted in the “2011 Irish Times School League Tables” published this morning.

The tables – now in their 10th year – also reveal how there has been only a marginal improvement in the number of pupils from working-class areas progressing to third level.

Several schools in Dublin’s inner city and in other areas, including Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Donaghmede and Crumlin, still have very low progression rates to college. In both Cork and Limerick, five schools have a progression rate of less than 40 per cent.

In stark contrast, 20 fee-paying schools in the list have a 100 per cent progression rate to third level.

Overall, this year’s list shows fee-paying schools and Gaelscoileanna tightening their grip on the top positions in the league tables. State schools within the “free’’ education scheme perform well in the overall top 50 list, which tracks progression to all third-level colleges.

But they perform less well on tables which track progression to high-points courses in the seven universities, the teacher training colleges and the College of Surgeons.

The top feeder schools to high points courses include Glenstal Abbey in Limerick; Coláiste Íosagáin, Gonzaga College and Loreto St Stephen’s Green in Dublin; Yeats College, a grind school in Sligo; and the fee-paying Sidney Hill in Cork.

The list also tracks the schools that are most successful in securing places in TCD and UCD, the two top-ranked Irish universities. This list is topped by Gonzaga, with Glenstal second. Other Dublin schools that feature prominently in this list include Mount Anville; St Conleth’s in Ballsbridge; Holy Child in Killiney; and Alexandra College in Milltown.

Overall, 31 of the 700-plus second level schools in the State have a 100 per cent progression rate to third level. Many State schools share top position in the overall top 50 list tracking progression to all colleges (including universities, the institutes of technology and other centres).

These include two Cork schools – Convent of Mercy in Fermoy and Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown. Several others – including St Benildus in Dublin and Tarbert Community School in Co Kerry – also have a 100 per cent progression rate to college.

Since the State does not publish comparative data on school performance, the Irish Times table is the most comprehensive source of information on schools for parents. Last month, an OECD review of the Irish economic and public service was critical of how “only limited data on comparative school performance is made public’’.