I’m sure the great Bard William Shakespeare will not mind me plagiarizing his famous soliloquy. For many parents, the stressful end of the junior cycle is often faced with the immediate decision as to whether to progress into a transition year program. Many parents are equally stressed by the fact that they do not have the option as it is a compulsory course within their school.
A very frequent question I get asked regarding the Ty program is will it suit my child. How long is a piece of string is the ubiquitous question. If we look purely at the statistics 80% of students who had completed a transition year program according to the ISS said that they found it a positive experience. In my 30 years involved in education I think it is very much like a teabag. What you put into it is exactly what you will get out. This analogy applies distinctly not just to the students but also to the academic team who run and monitor the TV program in the school.
Transition year is no longer something new; it was introduced to Irish schools as early as 1992. The aims of any Ty program or to allow students to acquire new skills, academic skills, life skills and work experience. The content of the TY program in place in your school will greatly affect the impact it has on your child but so too will the level of enthusiasm and commitment that they bring to the program. From personal experience, my eldest son desperately wanted to do Ty. He was a very bright academic kid having scored high in his Junior Cert. My wife and I both felt having seen him in action that when he was under pressure much like a balloon he stood out as an exceptionally capable student. We both felt also that should the pressure be removed from him that he would not function anywhere near his capacity. He was sufficiently mature and academically capable of moving on. While he initially was very angry that we had said no to him going into Ty he did eventually accept that we were correct .He scored maximum points in his leaving cert went on to study science in UCD where he achieved a scholarship PhD. He was ready to leave home and live on campus at 17 but not all children are. My daughter was in a school where the Ty program was compulsory. So on our part, there was no great thought process. The program was thoughtful, well run and she engaged 100% with all aspects of it. She went from being a quiet shy student to someone full of confidence and with a clear goal and vision for what she wants to do with her life. TY program was transformative for her in so many aspects of her life particularly the area of employment and work experience.
For me, one of the strongest assets that the TY program has is the work experience placement. I can recall a young man who desperately wanted to study veterinary medicine in College but having spent two weeks working in the mud and gore that sometimes is involved in veterinary life ,he had a rapid change of direction in his study. I frequently hear students returning from boring low paid menial jobs during work experience convinced of the need to now study to have a higher pay and more fulfilling career. Many students also return to 5th year with a greater sense of social justice having worked with those disadvantaged in our society or perhaps in a third world setting.
Regardless of the content of any program one year from now your teenager will be wiser, more mature, more grown-up. In each and every fifth-year class I have thought throughout the years I would easily identify in the first week those who have been in Ty simply from their maturity and their attitude.This might allow them to achieve their points target without stress and expensive grinds.
The common fear parents have of students studying for the Ty program is that they will lose the habit of study. In my experience teenagers do not have the habit of studying so it’s not possible to lose it, equally the style of study required for the leaving cert is dramatically different from that of the junior cert in terms of content, volume and examination style. The Ty experience allows students to develop their study style and adjust to the new senior cycle. The vast majority of students that I help at study skills Ireland are coming from third-year directly to 5th year do not have the required study skills. Very early in 5th Year, they exhibit stress and anxiety because they don’t have the skills to cope with this increased workload and increased pressure.
Ty is a great place to make new friends, have new experiences perhaps learning a new language or travel. The Department of Education and science has strict rules about what content can be taught that it’s not to be a three-year leaving cert cycle. However most students will attempt prepare themselves in some way either using the school curriculum or privately to give themselves an advantage going into the fifth year.
Transition Year for me can be an opportunity to eliminate or reduce weaknesses that students will have .Perhaps if a student is borderline for doing honours maths or honours Irish the extra year of tuition and study might allow them to take the higher level paper in 5th and 6th year. I think if you’re making a decision on transition year it’s vitally important that you negotiate to speak with your teenager. If the decision you reach is by mutual agreement clearly it will be beneficial to all .Take your time gathering all of the information that you can explore all of your options before making a decision. I would recommend that you involve the young person in researching the choices that are available and what actions you will take.
In conclusion, I would state that there are multiple advantages for having your child take part in the Ty program: many of the experiences that they will have can be transformative for the rest of their life. However, it’s not simply a matter of making a decision yes or no as I said at the outset we have to look at the program and the possible benefits the needs of the child in your own family situation. What the child would like to do in the future? It’s a complicated matrix. So would I recommend transition year yes definitely maybe as the song title goes!