Rate of progression to higher education slumps but LC retention edges higher

Rate Of Progression To Higher Education Slumps But Lc Retention Edges Higher
Minister for Education Norma Foley said the 'Education Indicators for Ireland' report is a "snapshot of the whole education system". Photo: PA Images
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Muireann Duffy

The number of students going on to higher education after their Leaving Certificate has dropped slightly over the past five years, according to a report published on Monday.

The 'Education Indicators for Ireland' report looked at all areas of the State's education system from 2017 to 2021, considering primary, post-primary and higher/further education, staffing levels, and qualification attainment.


The research found the overall transition rate from post-primary to higher education fell from 66.1 per cent in 2020 to 63.9 per cent in 2021, but remained slightly above 2017's figure of 63.6 per cent.

Figures were also supplied on the breakdown between Deis and non-Deis schools, showing there was a 43.4 per cent progression to higher education rate among Deis students, compared to 69.3 per cent of students in non-Deis schools.

The progression rates, regardless of school type, were found to be slightly higher among female students.

In terms of Leaving Cert retention, Deis schools have narrowed the gap to non-Deis schools, as 86.1 per cent of their students remained in education. This has reduced the difference from 8.5 in 2017 to 7.6 in 2021 - particularly among male students, falling from 10 to 8.3 over the same period.


The overall Leaving Cert retention rate hit 92.1 per cent last year, up from 91.6 per cent in 2017 and 91.2 per cent in 2019.

Across the three branches of the Leaving Cert, the established programme had 91,408 students (71.1 per cent) in 2021, while the vocational and applied programmes had 29,598 (23 per cent) and 7,456 (5.8 per cent) respectively.


The figures showed the trend of primary school teachers being overwhelming female has continued, holding steady at 84 per cent every year since 2017.

While the proportion of female teachers drops at post-primary level, it has also remained all but static during that time, hovering around 68-69 per cent.


In 2021, there were 40,351 primary (23,572 of which were mainstream) and 32,145 secondary teachers, representing an increase of 3,578 and 4,226 respectively at each level since 2017.

As a result, the primary-level student-teacher ratio has fallen from 15.3 to 13.7 over the same period, while the post-primary figure saw a more modest reduction from 112.8 to 12.2. Average class sizes in primary schools also dropped from 24.5 to 22.8 over the five-year period.

The report also showed the number of children enroled in primary schools dropped from 563,449 in 2017 to 554,788 in 2021, which was reflected in the enrolement figures of both Deis and non-Deis schools.

In contrast, the number of students enroled in secondary schools has increased, up to 391,698 last year from 357,408 in 2017.

In terms of school denomination, primary schools with a Catholic ethos continue to be the most common, accounting for 89.2 per cent in 2021, while 8.1 per cent of primary schools in the State taught through Irish.

Both these figures fell significantly at post-primary level, with Catholic-ethos secondary schools representing 49.4 per cent and just 3.6 per cent being Irish-medium schools.

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