Record numbers of students from disadvantaged schools progressed to third-level colleges last year following the introduction of the calculated grades system for Leaving Cert students, new data shows.
However, social class remains a strong factor, with students from private schools strengthening their grip on high-points university courses.
The findings are contained in the annual Irish Times Feeder Schools supplement on Friday, which tracks the proportion of students in individual schools who progressed to higher education.
The latest data shows a record 64 per cent of students from disadvantaged or Deis schools went to third level last year, up from 57 per cent in 2019.
Some individual Deis schools showed dramatic increases in progression rates.
Mercy College in Dublin's Inchicore saw the proportion of students going to college jump significantly (up from 68 per cent in 2019 to more than 100 per cent last year).
New Cross College in Finglas (up from 45 per cent to more than 100 per cent) and Nagle Community College in Cork (up from 29 per cent to 50 per cent) – both Deis schools – also showed major increases.
Progression rates for entire postal codes such as Dublin 24 – which includes Tallaght and Jobstown – also rose significantly.
Despite these trends, private schools and those in mostly affluent areas dominated high-points courses in universities and elsewhere.
Fee-charging schools accounted for almost half of the 20 schools with the highest progression rates to high-points courses.
Overall, the schools which sent the most students to third level were Coláiste Chroí Mhuire gan Smal in Galway, followed by Holy Faith Secondary School in Clontarf, Dublin 3; Loreto Abbey in Dalkey, Co Dublin; Coláiste Íosagáin, Co Dublin; and Mount Anville, Dublin 14.
All these schools recorded progression rates in excess of 100 per cent, given that the numbers include students from previous years who deferred their application.
In any given year, about 20 per cent of students defer their applications to higher education.
Some individual private schools recorded a drop in progression rates, such as St Kilian’s German School.
The school expressed disappointment and frustration following the calculated grades process which, it said, penalised many of its students and did not take into account its strong record in German.
It is understood that significant numbers of students opted to sit the postponed Leaving Cert in November and did not take up college offers.
When third-level progression rates are broken down by school type, they show that private schools sent the highest proportion of students to college.
Nationally, about 80 per cent of students – including deferred applicants – from schools nationally progressed to higher education in 2020.
Progression rates were highest in the private sector (99 per cent) compared to other schools (83 per cent) and Deis schools (64 per cent).
When the number of students going to third level is broken down to include high-points courses only – mostly those in universities – the national progress rate across schools is 50 per cent.
Similarly, the highest progression rates are in private schools (86 per cent) compared to other schools (52 per cent) and Deis schools (33 per cent).