Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Executive Summary

Open in Excel:

This report, Post-Primary Outcomes 2012 – 2017, examines economic and educational outcomes for students following post-primary (upper secondary) education. The variation in outcomes for students is shown, depending on whether they completed the Leaving Certificate (LCE Completers) or left post-primary education before sitting the Leaving Certificate (Early Leavers).

The report examines outcomes from two years, 2011/2012 and 2012/2013, over the time period 2012 to 2017. Therefore, the academic year 2011/2012 has six outcome years (2012 – 2017) and the 2012/2013 academic year has five outcome years (2013 – 2017).

While life choices involve complex decisions, this report provides a statistical overview of the broad medium-term outcomes for students after post-primary education (Leaving Certificate programme). Its focus is particularly on the choice of continuing formal education (via further or higher education programmes) or initiating substantial employment, or a mixture of the two. It also provides information about those who do not pursue either of these outcomes in an outcome year.

The key findings of this report are:

  • Just over three-quarters (77.4%) of LCE Completers from the 2012/2013 academic year continue to engage with education in the first year after leaving post-primary education, (i.e., ‘education & training and substantial employment’ or ‘education & training only’).
  • Just under half (49%) of LCE Completers in 2012/2013 went on to higher education, and 25.9% went on to further education, in year one of this study. (Note that some students went to both higher and further education in the same year so the percentages are not mutually exclusive). A further 3.2% repeated or re-enrolled in the Leaving Certificate programme.
  • Just over half (53.5%) of Early Leavers in 2012/2013 were engaged with education in the following academic year 2013/2014.
  • Six years after the academic year 2012/2013, 74% of LCE Completers and 43.8% of Early Leavers were in substantial employment, (including those in ‘Education & training and substantial employment’).

This project integrated CSO datasets with data from the Department of Education and Skills (DES), the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), Revenue, and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). It develops previous research from the Department of Education and Skills on outcomes for students after post-primary education[1].

This report is an example of the policy-relevant research projects the CSO are developing as part of its leadership role in the Irish Statistical System. Our goal is to maximise the variety and volume of data available to provide high quality information to the Government, businesses and citizens, through the development of a National Data Infrastructure (NDI).

The NDI plays an integral part in facilitating the CSO to develop new and improved statistical products for the benefit of citizens and policymakers. The core concept of the NDI involves the collection, maintenance and storage on all public sector data holdings, of the associated PPSN, Eircode and Unique Business Identifier (UBI) to be developed whenever they are relevant to Public Sector Body transactions with customers. This supports the development of targeted policy interventions.

High quality statistics are the foundation of evidence-based decision-making and the basis for accountability. They help people to understand the changes taking place in Ireland’s economy and in our society. Under the auspices of the Statistics Act 1993[2], and in compliance with all relevant data protection legislation, the CSO is in a unique position to gather and link administrative data sources held by Government departments and agencies and evaluate their potential for statistical use.

The demand for data and insight continues to grow unabated. The growth is not just apparent in terms of the broad range of themes (e.g. globalisation, productivity, well-being, sexual violence) that Official Statisticians are being asked to provide information on but also in relation to the level of detail being required in the analysis (e.g. socio-demographic variables). It is clear that the range and depth of demand cannot be met from survey data alone but through analysis of new data sources including administrative records held by public sector bodies. 


There are five classifications which are used to describe destinations within each outcome year:

  • ‘Education & training only' refers to students that are enrolled in an education and/or training programme but are not classified as being in substantial employment:
    • Repeat Leaving Certificate
    • Re-enrolled in Leaving Certificate Programme
    • Higher education (based on Higher Education Authority (HEA) enrolments)
    • Further education (based on Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) awards and Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course enrolments)
    • SOLAS/FÁS training (based on QQI awards and SOLAS/FÁS course enrolments)
    • Youthreach (for Early Leavers Only)
  • 'Education & training and substantial employment' corresponds to students who meet the criteria for substantial employment or self-employment and are enrolled in education at some point within the same calendar year. 
  • 'Substantial employment only' refers to students who meet the minimum criteria for employment or self-employment, and have no record of enrolment in education within the same year.
  • ‘Neither employment nor education’ is the category comprised of students who are neither enrolled in education nor are involved in substantial employment within the year, but appear somewhere in the administrative data for that year. These students may have some record of (non-substantial) employment or may have claimed some benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection (DEASP) in the year.
  • ‘Not captured’ are those students who were not identified in any of the administrative data between 2012 and 2017. Some of this group may have emigrated, but this number is hard to quantify, as there is no definitive indicator of emigration available through administrative data sources. 


[1] School Completers -  What Next?: Report on School Completers from Post-Primary Schools – Pupils Enrolled in 2009/2010 and not in 2010/2011 (Department of Education and Skills, May 2013).

Early Leavers -  What Next?: Report on Early Leavers from Post-Primary Schools – Pupils Enrolled in 2009/2010 and not in 2010/2011 (Department of Education and Skills, May 2013).

School Completers -  What Next?: Report on School Completers from Post-Primary Schools – Pupils Enrolled in 2010/2011 and not in 2011/2012 (Department of Education and Skills, March 2016).

Early Leavers -  What Next?: Report on Early Leavers from Post-Primary Schools – Pupils Enrolled in 2010/2011 and not in 2011/2012 (Department of Education and Skills, March 2016).

[2] Irish Statute Book - Statistics Act 1993