Aoife Walsh: ' Time for third year and Transition Year students to make senior-cycle decisions'
Around this time of year, schools require third year and Transition Year students to make decisions about their senior-cycle options. Such decisions can include whether to take Transition Year (if available) or go straight to fifth year and begin the traditional Leaving Cert (Established), the Leaving Cert Applied (LCA), or the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP). Those moving to Leaving Cert (Established) or LCVP must also consider which subjects they will select.
Different schools offer different programmes and also operate different criteria around entry for these programmes, however it is important for each student to choose the route through senior cycle that best suits their individual needs.
Third year to Transition Year
TY is now a very established feature of senior cycle. Introduced in the mid-90s as a year of alternative learning between junior cycle and senior cycle, it allows young people to develop transferable skills and be exposed to experiences which will support their learning in Leaving Cert and beyond.
The majority of schools offer TY, however schools can differ greatly in how they operate admission to this year. In many schools, TY is compulsory; this allows the school to invest a large amount of resources in the programme in order to give participants the best possible experience. In other schools, the class size is limited and often students are required to complete an application and interview to gain access. This allows the school to ensure that those participating are genuinely interested and committed to the year, again ensuring students get as much as they can from the experience.
Research suggests that those who participate in TY perform better at Leaving Cert than those who do not. However, like many things in life, the more you put into the experience the more you will get out of it. This means that TY is not for every student. Students are expected to take more responsibility for themselves, to participate in opportunities that are presented to them and to seek out opportunities for themselves. If a young person is willing to do this, it can be invaluable.
Leaving Cert Applied
The LCA is not offered in every school, but is often a popular choice where it is available. It offers an alternative form of study to the Leaving Cert (Established). It is a two-year programme with a more practical focus than the established programme. It also offers more of an opportunity for continuous assessment. It has three main aspects: vocational education, vocational preparation and general education. It is designed for students who do not wish to go on to higher level education, however it will qualify students to proceed to further education and other forms of training.
Leaving Cert Vocational Programme
While the LCVP is considered a programme in its own right, in reality, most students and schools view it as an extra subject that students can opt to take in Leaving Cert (Established). It is offered by a large number of schools.
It gives a strong vocational dimension to the Leaving Certificate (Established) and students doing it must sit a minimum of five Leaving Cert subjects at higher, ordinary or foundation level, an acceptable combination of two subjects from the list of specific vocational subject groupings and a modern European language.
For students who decide to go straight to fifth year to pursue either the Leaving Cert (Established) or LCVP, their next task is to make some very important decisions around subject choice. We will look at this in more detail after the mid-term.
Enjoy the break!
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q I want to do the best Leaving Cert I can do. I did not do a lot of higher-level subjects for Junior Cert. Which Leaving Cert subjects are easier?
A It is a myth that there are any Leaving Cert subjects that are easier than others. There are not! There are some subjects which, statistically, deliver more high grades than other subjects, however this is not because they are easier. If a student chooses to do a subject based on these statistics, they may find they perform very badly in it. However, Leaving Cert subjects differ greatly in the learning styles, aptitude, and skills required to be successful. The best advice I can give in trying to choose Leaving Cert subjects is pick the ones which you find the easiest. This will be based on how you like to learn (e.g. project work or memorising), what interests you and what you are good at.