Be prepared and set your goals -- how to have a smooth transition
The number of TY pupils is growing, but the students should plan ahead. Kim Bielenberg reports
It is the year when a student could be bashing drums for fun during the school day, sitting like a wallflower in an office or designing their own website.
Parents commonly complain that Transition Year is a "doss", but research indicates that it benefits most students academically and in other ways.
On average, students who take part in Transition Year achieve higher Leaving Certificate exam grades and are more likely to go on to higher education than non-participants, according to research by the ESRI.
The number of students who do Transition Year (TY) is growing every year from about 50pc in 2007 to 60pc during the past academic year.
Dr Gerry Jeffers, lecturer in education at NUI Maynooth, said: "There is greater public confidence in the year, and schools have improved the quality of their TY programmes. Parents and students are also seeing the economic reality. With fewer jobs, they realise that there is little harm in spending an extra year in school."
The TY programme has three main aims:
• Education for maturity with emphasis on personal development, including social awareness and social competence.
• The promotion of general, technical and academic skills, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary and self-directed learning.
• Education through experience of adult and working life.
Noel Buckley, the ASTI's Transition Year co-ordinator, says the success of the year depends largely on the input of the student.
"The first thing I tell the student is that the benefits of the year depends on their own efforts. They have a great opportunity to improve their skills beyond that which is just academic.
"I know of a girl who had an enormous boost in confidence from organising a fashion show during Transition Year. And these organisational skills helped her in the Leaving Cert.
"Students should set themselves goals at the start of the year of what they want to achieve. That could include goals like improving their fitness, mastering a musical instrument or building up a portfolio of art."
Students may be daunted by the prospect of work experience placements, but these nervous first steps into the world of employment are usually beneficial, says Dr Gerry Jeffers.
Work experience should not be planned in a rush. Students should be considering their options months in advance.
Students should be encouraged to look for work experience themselves, because that is part of the learning process.
The student can write a letter directly to an employer. Experts say this should be done as professionally as possible.
Finding a suitable placement without contacts can be difficult. So, parents and teachers should be prepared to step in if they know someone working in the area.
"Students can learn a lot from trying to find the placement themselves, but there should be some kind of practical back-up from the school, in case no suitable placement can be found," says Dr Jeffers.
"Work placements should not be taken just because they are convenient."
Voluntary work in the community should be considered as a placement option.
Within reason, students should do their best to complete tasks when they are in the job, but they should not be too worried if this is not always possible. Rocket scientists are not created in an afternoon.
Careersportal.ie, a government service advising pupils on jobs, offers advice on finding work experience. It is particularly useful for finding placements in the hi-tech area.
Eimear Sinnott, director of Careersportal.ie, says students can learn just as much when they dislike a placement as when they enjoy it.
"They might have had a certain idea of what a job entails, but when they do it they find that it is different."
Ms Sinnott says: "Transition Year provides students with an opportunity to learn all sorts of skills that are useful for their careers."
Roisin Beaver, an English teacher at Coláiste Cois Life in Lucan, advises students to be adventurous in their choice of activities during the year.
"It is a great opportunity to work on your own initiative and challenge yourself. Students should cast their net wide,'' she says.
"Take something like web design, for example. Students find that they can learn an incredible amount by doing that."
The quality of Transition Year programmes is under threat from funding cuts, according to Noel Buckley of the ASTI.
In order to save on teaching hours, some schools are encouraging students to do work experience on one day every week.
Noel Buckley says: "This is done as a way of saving resources, but I don't think it works as well as when students go to workplaces in blocks of one week. It is harder to monitor a student's progress."