Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD says it is imperative that more progress is made on reforming the CAO system and broadening entry routes into 3rd level education.

Deputy Byrne said, “It is of critical importance that we implement more meaningful and ambitions reforms to the CAO and Leaving Cert system.

“There has been a huge increase in the number of courses being offered at 3rd level under the CAO system in recent years. This has resulted in the CAO system becoming staggeringly complex, which is heaping further pressure on Leaving Certificate students who are already facing the stress of having to sit the state exams.

“The universities have admitted that such specialised courses were introduced with the intention of inflating entry points under the CAO system, with the aim of enhancing the perception that their institutions offered prestigious ‘high points’ courses.

“This has perpetuated the fallacy that high points courses are automatically more prestigious. Minister Bruton and the Higher Education Authority need to take a tougher line with 3rd level institutions that have shown themselves unwilling to broaden their entry routes.

“The loss of guidance counselling services has perpetuated the myth surrounding high point’s courses. This is particularly problematic in less advantaged schools where parental contributions and school fees are not available to replace lost funding.

“Without specialist guidance advice, young people find it difficult to cope with the huge range of options that are open to them. This is especially true to students who do not have parents or older siblings who have gone through 3rd level and lack personal knowledge about the higher education system.

“This is a further reason why Fianna Fáil considered it essential to secure a restoration of guidance counselling to schools in return for supporting the government on a Confidence and Supply basis. We expect to see significant restoration of guidance services in Budget 2017.”