Labour claims 'golden circle' exists in education
The Labour Party today said figures showing private school students are better represented at the State¿s two main universities than pupils from other schools are evidence of "a golden circle in education".
Mr Joe Costello, party spokesman on education, said the figures reported in The Irish Timestoday show "huge numbers of children from middle and lower incomes are excluded" from university.
Mr Costello said: "It should be a fundamental principle of any democratic society that access to further education is based on academic ability, not ability to pay.
"We now have further compelling evidence that 80 years after independence many students are still able to buy their way to academic advancement," he said.
Fine Gael said the figures highlighted the need to widen the access to third level education.
"These figures further prove how wrong last week's cutbacks of €5m from access programmes designed to attract students from lower socio-economic backgrounds to third level," said Ms Olwyn Enright, the Party's education spokesperson.
Ms Enright called on the Minister for Education, Mr Dempsey, to reconsider the decision to slash the money to these "vital access programmes".
The figures showed that students who attended private fee-paying and the Republic's largest grind school are significantly more likely to go to UCD and Trinity than students from other schools.
The figures show that nine of the top 10 schools providing first year students to UCD last year were fee-paying, costing on average between €2,000 and €5,000.
In contrast, students from working-class areas were shown to be relatively poorly represented in Trinity and UCD.