Ruling out statistical abberation at heart of feeder tables

Schools with dramatically falling numbers can have grossly inflated progression rates

There are 100 schools in Ireland where the number of students who took the Leaving Cert in 2015 is 80 per cent or less than the number who took the exam in 2014

There are 100 schools in Ireland where the number of students who took the Leaving Cert in 2015 is 80 per cent or less than the number who took the exam in 2014

 

Falling numbers of students in schools affect perceived progression rates to college in an unexpected way. There are 100 schools in Ireland where the number of students who took the Leaving Cert in 2015 is 80 per cent or less than the number who took the exam in 2014.

The most dramatic example of this is St Michael’s Community College, Kilmihil, Co Clare, where 68 students sat the Leaving Cert in 2014, while only 18 students sat the exam in 2015.

This means the class of 2015 has only 26 per cent of the numbers who took the 2014 Leaving Cert.

St Joseph’s College, Summerhill, Athlone, Co Westmeath saw its Leaving Cert numbers drop from 47 to 20 since last year, leaving this year’s class just 43 per cent of last year’s one.

In both these schools, and many others with a significant reduction in Leaving Cert numbers since last year, the fact that the progression rate of former students to third level is measured here as a percentage of the 2015 class results in a false and inflated progression figure.

Measured as a percentage of the class of 2015, Kilmihil appears to send 189 per cent of its students (including past pupils) to college, and the percentage progression for St Joseph’s Summerhill appears to be 165 per cent.

Up to 25 per cent of those from any school who go to college every year come from Leaving Cert classes from previous years. These students have taken Post Leaving Cert programmes, or delayed going to college for a year or more, or dropped out of another course and are starting again.

So we estimate that for a school where the numbers taking the Leaving Cert remain relatively constant, you can deduct 25 per cent from their published progression rate to calculate the true progression rate of the 2015 class (see also page 4).

But in looking at schools with high college progression (as a percentage of the class of 2015) we can’t ignore the fact that 100 of these schools have had a reduction of 20 per cent or more in their Leaving Cert class size in the past year.

It is a statistical aberration – they have apparent high college progression precisely because their student numbers are declining.

To include such schools would create a false impression and distort the figures, particularly when we tabulate the “most improved schools”.

For that reason we have excluded from all the smaller tables (eg, geographic and gender analysis, top feeders, high points courses, etc) schools where the number of students who sat the Leaving Cert in 2015 was 80 per cent or less that the number that sat it in 2014. All the schools remain on the main feeder charts on pages five to 10.

There are other schools that seem to show an improvement in progression rates but have reductions of less than 20 per cent in Leaving Cert students, which lead to a perceived improvement because of that, but we have left them in our most improved progression charts.

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