By Dean Egan.

Wexford Senator Malcolm Byrne has pointed to the importance of the planned university campus for Wexford as well as the need for greater supports for disadvantaged students in the County.

His calls come following the release of new figures from the Higher Education Authority which show that Wexford students are among those across the country who travel furthest to college, as well as national concerns around high dropout levels by disadvantaged students.

The HEA’s analysis shows that Wexford students travelling furthest from home to college in the South-East and among the longest distances in the country.

As with most areas across Ireland, the relationship between Leaving Certificate points and affluence is evident.

Kilkenny is the least disadvantaged area in the region and Leaving Cert points are highest there on average.

Carlow and Wexford are the most disadvantaged and have the lowest Leaving Cert points on average in the region.

This relationship is most obvious in the areas around Kilkenny City and West Waterford, which are the most affluent areas in the region and where students there score higher mean Leaving Cert points.

Malcolm notes that “This is a real concern, especially for the individual student if they cannot complete their course.”

“Having Wexford as a University Town from next year will be transformational for the County and will make higher educational opportunities more visible locally.”

But he added,

“We still have a big challenge for disadvantaged students and we need to improve career guidance at second level as well as providing more second chance education and training opportunities.”

“The extra funding for the Waterford & Wexford Education and Training Board announced this morning is welcome as is the Government’s recruiting of additional guidance counsellors, but we need to be more radical in tackling disadvantage in education.”

“This Century is about the battle for knowledge. I passionately believe we have to prioritise upskilling all Wexford people, or whatever age, if we are going to be able to compete in a rapidly changing digital world.”

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