Independent schools tighten grip on top university places

Credit: This story was first seen on The Irish Times

Pupils from private schools are tightening their grip on places in high-points third-level courses, despite millions of euro being spent on programmes to widen access to higher education, The Irish Times reports.

Some 20 of the top 25 schools which send the highest proportion of students to high-points courses are fee-paying, according to figures published in The Irish Times.

The annual Feeder Schools supplement gives a school-by-school breakdown of how many students are progressing to higher education and where they are going.

While there are just over 50 fee-paying schools nationally out of about 700 secondary schools, they are increasingly dominating many of the top university places.

In 2013, fee-paying schools accounted for just 16 of the top 25 schools sending students to university.

High-points courses are those offered in the State’s seven universities, as well as certain other colleges such as DIT and the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in Ireland.

These latest numbers are likely to put a renewed focus on policies aimed at narrowing the participation gap at third level across the social divide. Despite the introduction of ‘free fees’ 20 years ago and a range of access plans, there has been no significant narrowing in this gap.

The figures also show the extent to which geography and affluence are key factors in determining children’s future careers.

The bulk of high-performing private schools are based in the south Dublin area. Of the five non-fee-paying schools which make the top 25 list for sending children to high-points courses, three are based in south Dublin, including Donnybrook and Blackrock.

While these schools are sending 100 per cent of their students to high-points courses, those percentages fall to single digits among schools in many disadvantaged parts of the country.

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