Feeder Schools 2014

 

Sir, – The Feeder Schools 2014 supplement (November 27th) provided limited but welcome data on the present situation of education inequality.

In providing progression rates per school to third-level education as a percentage of all students sitting the Leaving Cert, the figures shed light on the vast disparities by postcode which exist in Ireland.

However, the figures are limited as they do not provide a full picture, particularly in relation to Deis (designated deprived) schools. The number of students within each school not sitting the Leaving Cert, or who drop out of the school prior to this, are not represented within the figures. Thus, the figures, already damning in terms of inequality, are actually downplaying the situation.

Serious questions must be asked as to the dearth of available data by the Government in this area. A number of months ago, my office contacted the Department of Education, the Higher Education Authority as well as the specialist body for widening access HEAR (Higher Education Access Route).

We asked for available data in relation to progression to third level from all Deis schools in the country, to which we were told that such data was not collected or indeed available by the State.

In light of the massive inequalities that exist, and have existed for a very long time, the question must be asked as to how the Government can justify not collecting this data?

In order to address these inequalities, it is absolutely imperative that such analysis is available.

Moreover, the very glaring inequity associated with socio-economic status must be addressed head on by this Government, not in the future, but right here, right now. How much longer can this two-tiered system of opportunity continue? – Yours etc, MAIREAD HEALY, Chief Executive, Future Voices Ireland, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Sir, – Following the publication of the Feeder Schools 2014 supplement (November 27th) I wish to acknowledge and congratulate the 2,965 students who sat the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme this year. Sadly, this group of students do not merit consideration or comment in your supplement. However many LCA students have secured places on their chosen course in one of our many “top” PLC colleges.

A decade ago a cohort of students would not have continued their second-level studies because of the high-stakes exam that is the Leaving Cert.

The LCA programme is an exciting alternative to the established Leaving Cert for those students who respond best to a hands-on, practical approach to learning. The skills they develop in LCA, such as communication, decision-making and teamwork, are essential in the modern workplace. It is designed to enable students develop these skills and qualities through the various experiences in the classroom and beyond. It enables students to have more positive learning experiences through the ongoing assessments and the regular feedback they receive at the end of each session of the programme.

At Castleknock Community College our LCA students are part of the Leaving Certificate group: they share the same teachers, participate in the same sports and are considered for the same awards.

Congratulations to all LCA teachers who honour their profession on a daily basis by ensuring that the needs of all students are provided for in their schools. – Yours, etc, JOHN CRONIN Principal, Castleknock Community College, Dublin 15.

Sir, – Peter McGuire says of the feeder school tables (Feeder Schools 2014, November 27th), “These tables are flawed and imperfect. We know that.” Well said, Peter, maybe now we can stop publishing them and making such a song and dance about what are essentially indicators of privilege and advantage as opposed to any real reflection on quality of experience and schools.

Wealth, privilege and opportunity are the real keys to success at school and progression to third level, as alluded to in Brian Mooney’s commentary in the same supplement.

The one way of raising standards for everybody is through narrowing the gap between rich and poor, something our current domestic policies seem hell-bent upon avoiding.

What the feeder school supplement does teach us is that the rich get richer through increased opportunity to access third-level education and therefore any discussion of school performance is in fact a discussion of social inequality. – Yours, etc, DR KEVIN CAHILL School of Education, University College Cork