Transition year is the year after Junior Cert and before the beginning of the Leaving Cert cycle. It is different from typical school years in that it is not examined and therefore aims to develop a student’s maturity and to promote personal growth rather than purely focusing on academics. Transition year is not compulsory in most schools, but it is becoming more and more popular and in demand with many schools starting to offer TY programmes to its students.
One of the main reasons students choose to do TY is to give them an extra few months to decide what subjects to take for Leaving Cert and ultimately to pick a career path. During the year a taster will be given of the different subjects on offer and students will have the opportunity to meet teachers who they may not have had at Junior Cert level. This gives them a unique opportunity to learn about the curriculum of each subject and to see if it’s the one for them. Most schools offer the standard subjects to TYs like accounting and biology, as well as some abstract subjects like Japanese and journalism, to broaden a student’s horizons.
If the subject variety wasn’t enough, it is common practise for schools to offer set weeks in which students are free to go to a workplace to observe what goes on, known as work experience. Generally it is two or three weeks in a year but if you want you can ask for extra weeks off. If the first week didn’t go as planned you can try again at another career. Just because you mightn’t have enjoyed your time at one job doesn’t mean it was a wasted week, it’s a valuable lesson that you can carry on into later life. If you had never tried that profession for a week you would have never known whether you liked it or not. It’s better to try it during TY than to regret choosing it later on. All you need to do to get work experience is ask, but the common areas that people tend to go for include bakeries, veterinarians, primary schools, hospitals and shops.
Gaisce, the president’s award, is undertaken by thousands of young people not only transition years every year. Lack of exam stress and an abundance of free time makes TY the ideal time to achieve the award. The award has three levels; students begin on bronze and can, if they complete it, go on to silver and gold. There are four components that make up the Gaisce, physical skills or sport, personal skill which can be anything from lifesaving to taking up sign language, community involvement, and adventure. Physical skill must be practised for 26 consecutive weeks while personal skill and community involvement can be done for a minimum of 13 weeks. The adventure section is normally completed through an overnight school trip to one of the many outdoor adventure centres around the country and involves such activities as hiking and orienteering.
While physical and personal skills have often been started by students prior to transition year, community involvement is often a very new concept to them. But it is by far the most rewarding aspect of the year, in my experience. In my school it is organised for us to work with children and young people who have physical and mental disabilities through swimming, art and hanging out on the playground. Some transition years work with the elderly helping them to understand technology. Taking part in these activities has been an eye opening experience that I will miss so much next year.