A TRANSITION-year project aimed at encouraging students to read and discuss newspapers has been a "phenomenal" success.
The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) Press Pass initiative was taken up by almost half of schools, well ahead of expectations for any transition-year programme in its first year.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in Dublin's Convention Centre yesterday to hand out the inaugural Press Pass awards for the best entries in a student newspaper writing competition associated with the programme.
Commending Press Pass, Mr Kenny said that it would promote literacy, as well as helping students to develop analytical skills and stimulate social awareness.
NNI chairman Matt Dempsey said that studies from around the world had shown that students who read newspapers did better at school.
"They become familiar with language types they will encounter in the Leaving Cert English paper, they discover a variety of different writing disciplines and language styles, they get to debate current issues and affairs and they become more critical of what they read."
Mr Dempsey said Press Pass had received widespread praise, including from the World Association of Newspapers, which described it as a "superb example for the 21st Century world of how printed newspapers can play a key role in enhancing the education of today's digitally accomplished youth".
National co-ordinator of transition year, Michael O'Leary, spoke about the phenomenal uptake of the initiative, with 255 schools participating – almost half of those doing transition year.
The project is set to expand and NNI is collaborating with Colaiste Chiarian, in Croom, Co Limerick, on the development of a journalism/media studies module for post-primary students. It will be trialled from September.
The overall winner was Fiachra O'Braonan, Colaiste Cois Life, Lucan, Co Dublin, for his articles on developers and on juvenile GAA.
Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan, who chaired the judging panel, said he exemplified all the characteristics of a good journalist.
Other category winners were:
Features: Sinead Kenny, St Mary's Secondary School, Ballina, Co Mayo. Sport: Ann Marie Torsney, Loreto College Swords, Co Dublin. News: Helen Mcloughlin, St Mary's Secondary School, Ballina, Co Mayo. Comment/Opinion: Greta Ryan, Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School, New Ross, Co Wexford. Photojournalism: Niamh Hogan, Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Co Cork.