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Investing in Education: Combating Educational Disadvantage

Emer Smyth and Selina McCoy

Published by The Economic and Social Research Institute and Barnardos

Early school leaving has striking consequences for adult outcomes and leads to substantial costs for society. Key findings include:

  • Early leavers were 3 to 4 times more likely to be unemployed than those with higher qualifications, even before the current recession.
  • Early leavers in employment hold less skilled jobs and earn lower wages.
  • Young women who leave school early are more likely to become lone parents.
  • Early leavers have poorer health levels and are more reliant on the medical card to address their health needs.
  • Early school leaving reinforces existing social and economic inequality since early leavers mainly come from working-class backgrounds.
  • Early leaving means substantial costs for society, leading to higher expenditure on welfare, health and prisons as well as lower tax revenue.

The study, commissioned by Barnardos, examines policy addressing educational disadvantage in Ireland . It highlights a number of issues for future policy development:

  • Investment in education yields significant economic and social benefits for society as a whole.
  • Preschool education is crucial in promoting the educational and social development of disadvantaged children.
  • Targeting resources on disadvantaged schools is not enough to counter educational inequality. Around half of disadvantaged young people address non-DEIS (designated disadvantaged) schools; their needs must be a focus for policy.
  • There is a need for joined-up policy between education, health and welfare services to address children’s overall needs.

This study provides the evidence base for Barnardos’ policy document, Written Out, Written Off?

For further information contact:

Dr Emer Smyth (Co-author) (emer.smyth@esri.ie) on 01 863 2058

Dr Selina McCoy (Co-author) (selina.mccoy@esri.ie), on 01 863 2059                                    

Catherine Joyce (Advocacy Manager, Barnardos) (catherine.mjoyce@barnardos.ie)

on 01 708 0427


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