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Reports confirm widening gulf in two-tier education system – Deputy Jonathan O’Brien

7 May, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Commenting today on the findings of two studies that examined the background of students who are more likely to drop out of school, or have enhanced opportunities to attend college, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien said the reports highlight a “trend that confirms the widening gulf in the State's education system”.

Deputy O’Brien said:

“One of a number of important findings contained in the reports entitled 'Early School-Leavers – What's Next' and ‘School Completers – What’s Next’ is that pupils in fee-charging schools are much more likely to make the transition to third level and conversely, pupils attending schools in disadvantaged areas are at greatest risk from dropping out of school before sitting their Leaving Cert exam.

“Both reports show that the education system in the 26 counties benefits young people from wealthier families and the widening gap in the background of those making the successful transition to third level highlights a worrying trend. The loss of essential supports and services for pupils who need additional help in school means we have a two-tier education system that is being further skewed at third level by the imposition of increased fees and cuts to college grants.

“Equally worrying is the higher than expected school drop-out rate for female students which somewhat surprisingly shows that girls are more likely than boys to leave school early and this seems to reflect major flaws within the current school curriculum.

“Without question pupils attending fee-charging schools have a distinct advantage over their peers who attend a state school because, as was highlighted in a Department of Education Report published earlier this year, they have significantly higher discretionary income at their disposal to pay for enhanced services.

“It is very unfair, therefore, that the State pays an estimated €100 million annually to subsidise private fee-charging schools yet at the same time numerous front-line educational services, that are absolutely vital to ensuring a more equitable system, are being cut.

“These reports clearly show that this government, like it predecessors, is failing disadvantaged learners who are at greatest risk from leaving school early or are finding it increasingly difficult to attend third level.”

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