The information published today aims to provide parents with a snapshot of information about how many students from each school in the Republic of Ireland go on to various third-level colleges in Ireland. This includes progression data for 23 publicly-funded colleges in the Republic of Ireland, the two Northern Irish universities, Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, and two independent, fee-paying third levels, Griffith College and Dublin Business School.
Our list normally includes all schools in the Republic where 11 or more pupils sat the Leaving Cert exam.
In 2020, the Leaving Cert was cancelled due to the pandemic, and students were awarded a calculated grade. Last year, however, students had the option of sitting the exam, receiving an accredited grade, or the higher mark from sitting the exam and getting an accredited grade.
Figures from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) show that 87 per cent of this year's 60,000 candidates chose a combination of both written exams and accredited grades, while just 6 per cent chose accredited grades only and 2 per cent chose written exams only.
The information in today’s list is compiled from two sources: the SEC Leaving Cert sits list, which tells us the number of students that sat the Leaving Cert and/or opted for accredited grades in each post-primary school this year, and lists provided by each of the higher education institutions which tell us the school of origin of the full-time, first-year undergraduate cohort.
Elsewhere in today’s feeder schools supplement, we present the arguments for and against the publication of this data, and highlight the other factors that parents and guardians should consider when choosing a secondary school. This year, however, the data provides a particularly timely indication of how record grade inflation – which in turn led to record high CAO points – impacted on third-level progression rates across schools.
These tables give information on every student who ever attended a particular school and began to study this year, and thus includes mature students and deferrals; it is not a picture of the class of 2021 alone.
Caveats and cautions
Each of the colleges on this list records the information in slightly different formats, which means that there can be minor discrepancies.
For instance, many students will change schools during their time in secondary education, and some third-level institutions will record every school that the student ever attended; as a result, the progression level of some schools is likely to be over-reported. On the other hand, every year most third levels are unable to identify the school of origin of a small number of their students which means those schools don’t get a credit.
The lists don’t account for the numbers moving into apprenticeships or further education; at the moment, the State does not centrally collect this data.
Our lists do not provide information on how many students went on to study in the UK or overseas, although we know that if this data was available, many Protestant schools including the College of St Columba in Dublin, as well as schools in Border counties, would have higher progression rates.
Why is my school not on this list?
Some people will go looking for their local school and find it missing. Why? There are six main reasons:
– The school had fewer than 10 students sitting the Leaving Cert this year and, for data-protection reasons, the Department of Education may have withheld information on those schools and their sits.
– The school has amalgamated with other local locals. Where possible – and it usually is – we credit deferred or mature students from a now-closed school to the school into which it has merged.
– The school has closed.
– The school introduced a mandatory transition year in 2019 which means it had no Leaving Cert class this year.
– It is a relatively new school and has not yet had a sixth-year group
– The school is a "grind school" run without State support. These include Bruce College, the Institute of Education, Hewitt College, Yeats College and some others.
How to read this list
Let’s say, for instance, you want to see how the schools in Dublin 8 have fared.
1. Go to the page featuring Dublin 8.
2. Number who sat Leaving Cert 2021: This column tells you the total number of students from each school who completed the Leaving Cert cycle in 2021, from every school in that area, based on figures provided by the Department of Education.
3. Total number (all years): This column tells you the total number of students from that school who sat their Leaving Cert in that school in 2021 or previous years (or who repeated the Leaving Cert in another school), and started full-time undergraduate studies in a publicly funded, third-level institution on the island of Ireland.
4. Total percentage progression (all years): The percentage of students from each school who completed the Leaving Cert cycle in 2021, plus those who sat the Leaving Cert in previous years and either deferred making a CAO application until 2021 or repeated in another institution, and started full-time undergraduate studies in a publicly funded, third level institution on the island of Ireland.
Accuracy and fairness
To ensure the greatest possible degree of accuracy and fairness, The Irish Times uses a standardised system to compile this list. We use this system to help us spot the vast majority of errors and data holes, but there are numerous complicating factors – primarily the fact that our information is only as good as the data we receive – which means that some schools will occasionally record a lower third-level progression than is accurate.
One key spot check that we normally carry out – a two-person, extensive, side-by-side and line-by-line comparison of each school’s progression from one year to the next to alert us to major changes that could indicate a data error – is both redundant and practically impossible this year. As with last year, social-distancing regulations make it impossible for two people to do the line-by-line check at once. And although our IT systems team can indicate significant deviations from last year, accredited grades, grade inflation, grade adjustments and expanded college places will have a combination of positive and negative effects on different schools that are completely different to the patterns observed over previous years.
While we are committed to improving our systems, and the quality of the data has increased over the past 18 years, any significant deviation from our current system would lead to a significantly skewed and wholly inaccurate list.
The Irish Times will investigate and correct errors that are brought to our attention, but regret that we cannot enter correspondence regarding the manner in which this data is compiled.