However, the study by the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union also highlights difficulties accessing work experience in rural areas, and the restrictions of funding shortages were raised by schools’ co-ordinators of TY programmes.
From focus groups and online survey responses of 1,323 students, it emerged that more than three quarters felt TY was a worthwhile experience and 85% felt they learned new skills.
The option to go directly into fifth year after Junior Certificate was available in most schools but only 11% did so, with potential financial costs and fear of being too old when finishing school among numerous reasons given. Those who did TY reported average contributions sought from their schools of €300, but ranging from €150 to €900, mainly to cover charges for activities, buses and trips.
Students found the tasters of Leaving Certificate subjects helpful, and some went on to pick new subjects they did not study for the Junior Certificate, while others were glad to have their Junior Cert results before having to pick senior cycle subjects.
On the work experience done as part of TY in most schools, students favoured being in a workplace in blocks of a week or more to get a better insight into jobs, but some were given unrelated tasks such as making coffee or cleaning instead of normal work.
A difficulty faces rural schools finding work experience for students, because of limited local workplaces and transport restrictions.
Among 57 TY co-ordinators surveyed and interviewed, it was felt that students become independent learners through research projects, and that those who do TY are more ready to learn at the start of fifth year than students who do not avail of the TY option.