My daughter wants to go to a grind school – I’m not so sure it’s a good idea

The older age profile of today’s Leaving Cert students means more want to make decisions for themselves

Our second-level schools tend to have all-encompassing rules and regulations which can appear very restrictive to a young person. Photograph: iStock

Our second-level schools tend to have all-encompassing rules and regulations which can appear very restrictive to a young person. Photograph: iStock

 

My 17-year-old daughter is about to complete transition year and wants to transfer to a grind school for 5th and 6th year. I’m worried about whether it is a good idea. Funding this decision would also be challenging for us. However, she insists that she has outgrown the rules of school life and should be able to dictate her own path.

Your dilemma gives a fascinating insight into a reason for the growth of full-time grind schools that is not often aired, ie the age profile of our school leavers.

Due to the widespread adoption of transition year and the development of the early childhood education sector, the profile of those taking the Leaving Cert has moved from 17 – when I sat the exam – to 18 or 19 today.

Our second-level schools tend to have all-encompassing rules and regulations covering everything from dress codes, to homework policies and general behaviour, which can appear very restrictive to a young person. After all, many have reached the age where one can vote, get married, or do any of the things that adults are free to do.

Having worked in a second-level school for over 40 years, I understand how difficult it is to have different policies applying to each age profile.

The US doesn’t have this problem because of its middle school and high school systems – but this isn’t an option in our education system.

While your daughter sees the option of attending a grind school as giving her more freedom, she may as yet come to regret her decision.

Regret

A school principal told me recently that some students who make that decision regret it quickly and seek to rejoin their classmates. They report no difficulties with the quality of teaching in their new institutions, but they miss the often unseen aspects of school life that we take for granted: the support of life-long friends and teachers; the sense of identity associated with the school itself; access to sports and extracurricular life.

Many schools also have a strong sense of camaraderie among their past pupils and organise events to allow them to stay in touch as a year group in the future. Students who leave to attend grinds schools can lose out on all that.

My only advice is to sit down with your daughter and discuss with her all of the elements and consequences of her desire to leave her existing school.

Positive aspects

You can acknowledge that you fully understand her frustration at being an adult in a school uniform, where teachers are pulling you up on minor infringements of the school’s dress code. But you also need to point out to her the positive aspects of school life which she might not reflected on.

Finally, you should have no embarrassment in pointing out to her the burden on the family of the financial cost of two years of private education.