My daughter’s school doesn’t offer transition year. Why not?

Ask Brian: Some schools still seem to think TY does not fully engage pupils

My daughter attends a boarding school which does not offer transition year. However, my older sons – who went to a different school – benefited hugely from it. I know I could move her, but she’s happy where she is. What would you advise?

Surprisingly, I have received several letters from parents, all raising the same issue as you. Some boarding school authorities seem to think the lack of traditional study material to occupy pupils in the evenings means transition year (TY) isn’t suitable for them.

I believe the mindset behind this decision is outdated and fails to see the purpose of education in its broadest sense. In my experience as a teacher, the introduction of TY in the 1980s was transformative in terms of the development of a wide range of life skills. It enabled 16- and 17-year-olds to face the challenges of Leaving Cert far more effectively than previously.

I believe that to deny any cohort of students the option of participating in TY can undermine their development across a range of life skills. Crucially, they are plunged into Leaving Cert preparation a year younger and are less mature than the vast majority of their fellow fifth-year students across the country.


Vital skill

As a teacher it is self-evident that learning is achieved and consolidated least effectively by sitting quietly studying a book. The more that a learner interacts with the content of learning, the deeper will be their understanding of the subject matter.

TY introduces students to research online and offline, facilitated by a well resourced school library.

Group discussion of a topic following an initial presentation by a classroom teacher, and the allocation of tasks to enable a presentation to be made to the full class group, gives TY students a vital life skill required both in third level and in the world of work.

Visiting speakers who can provide TY students with life-changing insights into opportunities they may engage with in their personal or working lives can be scheduled in the evening as well as during the school day.

With a small amount of creative imagination, the school authorities in your daughters boarding school could devise a TY programme which fully engages the girls during traditional study time.

Given its absence, I would not deny her the benefits of participating in TY in a local school, however unsettling that might seem to both you and her.

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