Private schools tighten grip on top university places

Number of fee-paying schools dominating high-points courses is on the rise

First-year students at NUI Galway: some schools did not send any students to high-points courses.  Photograph: Patrick Heneghan

First-year students at NUI Galway: some schools did not send any students to high-points courses. Photograph: Patrick Heneghan

 

Pupils from private schools are tightening their grip on places in high-points third-level courses, despite millions of euro being spent on programmes to widen access to higher education.

Some 20 of the top 25 schools which send the highest proportion of students to high-points courses are fee-paying, according to figures published in The Irish Times today.

The annual Feeder Schools supplement gives a school-by-school breakdown of how many students are progressing to higher education and where they are going.

While there are just over 50 fee-paying schools nationally out of about 700 secondary schools, they are increasingly dominating many of the top university places. In 2013, fee-paying schools accounted for just 16 of the top 25 schools sending students to university.

High-points courses are those offered in the State’s seven universities, as well as certain other colleges such as DIT and the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Ireland.

These latest numbers are likely to put a renewed focus on policies aimed at narrowing the participation gap at third level across the social divide. Despite the introduction of “free fees” 20 years ago and a range of access plans, there has been no significant narrowing in this gap.

Geography and affluence

The figures also show the extent to which geography and affluence are key factors in determining children’s future careers.

The bulk of high-performing private schools are based in the south Dublin area. Of the five non-fee-paying schools which make the top 25 list for sending children to high-points courses, three are based in south Dublin, including Donnybrook and Blackrock.

While these schools are sending 100 per cent of their students to high-points courses, those percentages fall to single digits among schools in many disadvantaged parts of the country.

Schools in poorer parts of Dublin, Cork, Tipperary, Longford, Louth and Sligo failed to send more than 10 per cent of their students to high-points courses this year. A small number of schools in Waterford and Wexford did not send any students to high-points courses.

Despite the dominance of private schools, the overall feeder school lists for all higher education courses – including all universities, institutes of technology and colleges – show a strong performance by many non-fee paying schools.

Feeder schools app

The Irish Times has developed an online app for readers to track the performance of individual schools over several years and view Department of Education inspection reports for each school. www.irishtimes.com/feederschools