The number of students staying in school to complete their second level education is at its highest rate ever.

New data from the Department of Education on school retention rates shows that 90% of students now complete secondary school.

This compares to just over 80% 11 years ago.

The study focused on children who entered First Year in 2005 and 2006 and measured their progress against that of students over the previous 11 years.

During that period there has been a steady increase in numbers staying on until Sixth Year.

Students attending DEIS or disadvantaged schools are more likely to drop out early with retention rates in these schools 10% behind the national average.

However, the report found that over the past 11 years these schools have seen the biggest improvement in those rates.

The report also shows that Dublin and Limerick cities are the two geographical areas with the worst record on school drop out.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn welcomed the results of the study and said support systems for children from disadvantaged areas would remain in place.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said retention rates, particularly for young men, are higher in the Republic of Ireland than in many other EU countries and congratulated schools, especially the 200 DEIS schools.

However, Mr Quinn said there is still a drop out rate and this is one of the factors motivating the reform of the curriculum at second level.

"Some of the drop out factors that bring people to leave the school system is that they find the focus on a very academic leaving certificate curriculum with rote learning part and parcel of the process, not to their particular liking," he said.