Educationally maintained inequality? The role of risk factors and resilience at 9, 13 and 17 in disabled young people’s post-school pathways at 20

July 5, 2022

Irish Educational Studies, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 573–594

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While Ireland has the highest level of participation in higher education (HE) in Europe, it also has one of the widest participation gaps between disabled and non-disabled young people. Using a large-scale longitudinal dataset, we assess how disabled young people compare with non-disabled peers in accessing a range of post-school educational pathways. Extending the effectively maintained inequality perspective to disability research, our results highlight important qualitative differences in disabled people’s trajectories. Ultimately, we find greater progression to Further Education and Training, and lower participation in Level 8 degrees in universities, all else being equal. Entry to HE is lower among those with socio-emotional difficulties, even after controlling for key characteristics, while attendance among young people with an intellectual disability or specific learning difficulty is mediated by academic performance. The results highlight the importance of school attendance, engagement and achievement during the primary and early secondary years, and parental expectations, raising important implications for inclusive education. The multiple challenges facing disabled young people in Ireland are evident, reflecting the direct and indirect impact of socio-economic disadvantage, at family, school and community levels. Stronger linkages across the tertiary landscape and stronger HE transition supports, particularly for young adults with socio-emotional/psychological difficulties, are needed.