Dáil Éireann - Volume 614 - 15 February, 2006
Written Answers. - Early School Leavers.
Mr. Perry Mr. Perry
119. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the rate of school completion at second level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5576/06]
Mr. Hogan Mr. Hogan
152. Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science the statistical information available on second level retention rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5589/06]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 152 together.
 The primary source of information on retention available within my Department is the post-primary pupil database. Cohort analysis of the pupil records on this database allows for monitoring of retention through the publicly aided second level school system. To date, two retention reports have been published covering four cohorts of students — those who entered second level education between 1993 and 1996. Of those students who entered in 1996, 94.6% of them sat the junior certificate examination. When adjustments were made to account for departure to private institutions, the leaving certificate retention rate for the 1996 cohort of students was 81.3%.
As regards those who complete the junior certificate but who depart from second level education prior to the leaving certificate, the available statistical evidence indicates that the increasing range of further education and training opportunities available for these students is having a positive impact. CSO data show that the educational profile of 20-24 year olds in Ireland has improved steadily over the last five years, as increasing opportunities have been made available in the further education and training sector. By 2005, 86.1% of 20-24 year olds had attained upper second level education or equivalent, up from 82.4% in 2000. This indicates that there has been an increase in the proportion of young people with at least the leaving certificate or equivalent. Indeed, the level of educational attainment of Irish young people is ahead of the EU average on that measure.
The Government has taken a number of initiatives in recent years to encourage more of our young people to finish school, including the setting up of the National Education Welfare Board and the provision of extra supports for those at risk of dropping out through the school completion programme and the home school community liaison scheme. Also, under the new action plan for educational inclusion — DEIS initiative — which I launched last May, extra resources are being provided to schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to help them to improve their retention rates.
This Government has pursued a dual strategy of both encouraging more young people to finish school and ensuring much greater second chance and further education opportunities for those who left school early. This kind of strategy ensures that young people are empowered to achieve their full potential, be that by sitting the leaving certificate or by pursuing qualifications through other pathways such as Youthreach or FÁS apprenticeships which may be more appropriate to their individual interests. Thus, it is important that the Deputy appreciate that looking at just the level of retention in the formal school system is not a fair assessment of the educational attainment of our young people.
Dáil Éireann 614 Written Answers. Early School Leavers.