A major new study of school leavers has found that students who had a positive experience in secondary school were much more likely to continue in education.

The study carried out by researchers from the ESRI documented the experiences of 750 young people up to four years after completing the Leaving Certificate.

It found the social class of the school had a significant bearing on whether a student would go to college or not.

The study is described by researchers at the ESRI as the first of its kind in allowing researchers to link school experiences to post-school outcomes in an Irish context.

The study found that 94% of students from middle-class schools applied for higher education courses, compared to 80% from mixed schools and only 50% from working-class schools.

Researchers also found that more than 80% of school leavers reported a significant difference in teaching and learning between second and third-level education.

Students highlighted particular difficulties in the standard expected of them, the difficulty of the course and managing their workload once they left school and entered college.

Researchers said the findings point to the necessity of providing a positive and engaging school experience for all students in order to enhance their education opportunities.

They also suggested a greater use of project and team work to equip young people with the types of skills they need for lifelong learning and the labour market.