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Five key takeaway points from 2022 Feeder Schools

More students from Deis schools secured places on high-points courses than from fee-paying schools, but disparity remains

The Irish Times 2022 Feeder School list, published today, provides new insights into the education pathways taken by thousands of students who have completed the Leaving Cert cycle. To view the full listings please scroll to the end of this article.

The following are five of the key takeaways from this year’s data:

1. Socio-economic determinants

At a macro level, more students from Deis schools (5,956) secured places on third-level courses in 2022 than from fee-paying schools (4,026). The undoubted success of investment in Deis schools which these figures reveals is tempered by the fact that the numbers are a proportion of 9,887 Deis school leavers (18 per cent of the overall number who sat the Leaving Cert in 2022 did so in Deis schools), whereas the fee-paying numbers are drawn from a much smaller cohort of just 4,106 school leavers (7.5 per cent of the overall).


At a micro level it would appear that fee-paying schools still dominate our most sought-after courses in our traditional universities. They secured 2,935 places, or 72 per cent, as a proportion of their 2022 6th year numbers. Deis schools on the other hand secured 2,205 places in traditional universities, representing 22 per cent of the numbers who sat the Leaving Cert in those schools. Of the 40,986 students who completed the Leaving Cert cycle in non-Deis/non fee-paying schools, 43 per cent of the 2022 Leaving Cert cohort (17,572) progressed to places in traditional universities.

In terms of overall progression nationally from all school types to traditional universities, eight of the top 10 schools are fee-paying, with Coláiste Íosagáin Stillorgan and Muckross College Donnybrook being the two non-fee paying schools. Their student social class profile would be similar to their neighbouring fee-paying schools.

Eleven of the top 16 boys’ schools in terms of progression to third-level are fee-paying colleges. The five non-fee-paying schools in this category, Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork; Oatlands College, Mount Merrion; Ard Scoil Rís, Limerick; Templeogue College, Dublin and Hamilton High School, Bandon, Cork, mostly draw their pupils from families with similar social class backgrounds to their neighbouring fee-paying schools. Interestingly, only five of the top 16 girls-only second-level schools are fee-paying, with three of the six most successful colleges being non-fee-paying. In 1st place is Presentation College, Kilkenny; in 4th place is Our Lady’s Templeogue, Dublin, and in 5th place, Muckross College, Donnybrook, Dublin.

Again social-class background rather than attending a fee-paying college seems to be the determinant factor governing levels of progression.

2. Most students are choosing to apply to their local or regional colleges

Irish young people, unlike their compatriots in the UK, tend to apply for third-level places at their local colleges. Research carried out with those who have progressed to third-level indicate that most Irish school leavers apply to attend colleges where they can continue to socialise with their peer group. There is also a growing economic factor causing students to select their local institutions, driven in large part by the soaring cost of accommodations in our towns and cities: living away from home adds hugely to the cost of attending college. There are significantly lower third-level progression rates among students in counties or geographic locations which do not have access to third-level institutions and who are therefore unable to attend a chosen course without living away from home. Contrast Cavan, at 61 per cent overall participation in third-level, with Carlow at 78 per cent.

3. Progression by postcode

Apart from the school a child attends, where families live also seems to determine overall third-level progression rates. The most affluent parts of the capital city, such as Dublin 4 and Dublin 6, saw 87 and 96 per cent respectively of the total numbers of 2022 entrants who sat their Leaving Cert in local schools within these postal districts progress to third-level this year. In other postal districts of the city, Dublin 11 and 12, the proportion of Leaving Cert students progressing to college in 2022 was 48 and 49 per cent respectively.

The divide is also stark when the figures are broken down into those who secured places in traditional universities. In Dublin 4 and 6, 67 and 68 per cent went on to a traditional university, compared with 23 and 21 per cent in Dublin 11 and 12.

4. We still want to pursue the CAO route

The current year’s numbers reveal Ireland’s exceptionally high third-level participation rate, among the highest in the world. Ireland also continues to have one of the highest retention rates at second-level across Europe: that is the proportion of students who stay in school until the Leaving Cert.

5. The growth of full-time senior cycle grinds schools

While pupil numbers sitting the Leaving Cert continue to increase annually due to demographic factors, our figures show that numbers sitting the Leaving Cert in 165 second-level schools (composed of eight fee-paying, 69 Deis and 88 non-fee-paying institutions) dropped by more than 15 per cent this year, compared to last year’s numbers. So what may be driving these numbers? Firstly, the country was still only coming out of recession when this year’s cohort of Leaving Cert students started second-level in 2016. Specifically, in relation to the lower numbers sitting the Leaving Cert in fee-paying schools in 2022, the downturn hit family incomes in 2016, adversely affecting enrolment numbers in these schools at that time. Secondly, and probably more importantly, the presence of full-time grind schools in our major cities offering a two-year Leaving Cert programme seems to be drawing some families who can afford the fees for the final two/three years of second-level education. Some parents believe the grind schools offer a more flexible range of subject choices than those available in their child’s second-level schools. Furthermore, many students want to escape what they perceive to be restrictive rules and regulations central to our second-level school cultures.

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney

Brian Mooney is a guidance counsellor and education columnist. He contributes education articles to The Irish Times