Ask Brian: Can my daughter skip transition year?
Schools have discretion to determine whether TY is compulsory or not
Schools have discretion to determine whether transition year is compulsory for pupils or not. Photograph: iStock
Question: My daughter’s school states that transition year is compulsory. Is there any way my daughter can skip the year or take a year out and return in fifth year?
Answer: Firstly, let’s get the legal position clear: attendance at school is compulsory from the age of six up to 16 or until students have completed three years of second-level education, whichever is the later.
As transition year (TY) takes place following the completion of three years of post-primary education, and if the student has reached 16 years of age by the following September, they are deemed by the State to have completed their compulsory education.
In Ireland, a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18. Although the legal age to leave school is 16, a student must have their parents’ consent to do so. If parents do not consent, the legal age to leave school becomes 18, when a student is deemed to be a full adult.
From the Department of Education’s perspective, TY is not a compulsory year; its provision is at the discretion of the school.
Under the Education Act 1998, it is a matter for schools to plan the provision of educational services to its students on behalf of their parents, up until their 18th birthday. In short, schools have discretion to determine whether to make TY compulsory or not.
Once your daughter withdraws, the contractual relationship between you as her parents and the school is broken
Some students may decide to seek to skip the year for a variety of reasons. Some may want to graduate from school as quickly as possible. Some students have the perception that TY is boring or is just another year in school which you don’t have to do. Some families find the cost of the TY prohibitive, although most schools subsidise families who experience financial difficulties.
If your daughter, with your permission, decides not to apply for a place in TY in her school, be warned: it is up to the school subsequently to ensure all the available places are fully taken up.
This may involve the school offering places to applicants on their waiting lists to maximise numbers for the coming academic year.
This is because school funding is based on the number of students attending the school; so, every school wants to fill all available places where possible.
In those circumstances, once your daughter withdraws, the contractual relationship between you as her parents and the school is broken. It then becomes a matter for the school’s board of management as to whether they choose to offer her a place in fifth year for the following academic year.
If the TY year group takes up all the available fifth-year places, they have no legal obligation to do so.
If you, in consultation with your daughter, choose to withdraw her from her school for the year, I would strongly advise you to seek a letter from the principal approving her temporary withdrawal for one academic year and guaranteeing her a place to complete her two-year Leaving Cert.
Otherwise you might find yourself searching for a new school in a year’s time.