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Transition Year (TY) (Irish: Idirbhlian) is an optional one-year school programme that can be taken in the year after the Junior Certificate in Ireland. However, depending on school population and funding it may not be available, and in other schools it is compulsory. It was intended to make the senior cycle a three-year programme encompassing both Transition Year and Leaving Certificate. For the most part the year is designed around giving students life skills, incorporating a work experience program. There are also many trips available to the students, foreign and local, aimed at giving a more hands on aspect to learning. There is a compulsory 'retreat' for team building and bonding within the TY program. It aims to help students mature and connect with their peers.[1] Transition Year was created as a result of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which called for a six-year cycle of post-primary education.[2] The mission statement of the Transition Year is:

"To promote the personal, social, educational and vocational development of pupils and to prepare them for their role as autonomous, participate and responsible members of society."[3]

Transition Year was introduced as a pilot project in September 1974, but it was not until September 1994 that the programme was introduced mainstream. Transition Year is not examined, but rather is assessed (i.e. no written exams), and is intended to be a broad educational experience which assists in the transition from the school environment by encouraging creativity and responsibility for oneself. Approximately 75% of second-level schools offer the programme[4] and it consists of both education and work experience. Schools generally set admissions criteria and design the programme based on local needs in accordance with departmental guidelines.

The year focuses on many non-academic subjects, such as life skills including first aid, cooking, self-defense, driving and typing. A lot of sport goes on, with many different types including: rock-climbing, hill-walking, horse-riding, sailing, kayaking and orienteering. Voluntary work is a requirement in many schools, with students helping out in local communities and charities. There are many programs aimed at TY students such as Student Enterprise[5] and Young Social Innovators (YSI).[6]

Students in TY are also encouraged to take part in various competitions and programs outside the school; these include BT Young Scientist,[7] Gaisce: The President's Award[8] and Junk Kouture.[9] Many schools use TY as an opportunity to give their students different experiences by organising foreign exchanges, putting on school musicals, etc.

Transition year students are graded at the end of the year on their overall participation, attendance and their project (usually a creative portfolio of their activities and experiences) they undertook for the year. There are three grades. Distinction being the highest, then merit and finally a 'pass', as it's not possible to fail the year. Oddly enough it is possible to get certificates in activities that one never does such as paintballing.

Many consider it to be a break from the pressure of examinations. However, most teachers[weasel words] agree that Transition Year gives students a valuable opportunity to engage in a wide variety of interesting, diverse, and challenging areas of their subjects which do not normally make the curriculum. It is a beneficial year if one takes the opportunities available.


Advantages of Transition YearEdit

Transition Year can be considered to be a time for maturity and development. Activities such as work experience, mountain climbing, and mini-company encourage growth and teamwork within the student body.[10] New life skills can be learned such as first aid, cooking, self-defence and budgeting.

A report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment found that students who partake in Transition Year generally have higher Leaving Certificate results.[11] It can give students previously unknown confidence in themselves.[12]

The student can work on weaker subjects so as to be more able to take on the workload in fifth year.[13]

Criticism of Transition YearEdit

In 2007, the Department of Education and Skills asserted that most teachers and principals are not really challenging students in Transition Year, based on official figures from a WSE report: "There was evidence that the content of certain subject areas lacked substance and that students were not being sufficiently challenged. It is strongly recommended that a root and branch review of the programme be undertaken."[14]

In 2009, businessman Bill Cullen dismissed Transition Year as a “doss year.”[15]

In 2011, independent councillor Richard Finn said Transition Year was a doss year and costs parents a fortune.[16]

In 2012, Dermot Kirwan of Friends of the Elderly criticized Transition Year for being a "self-indulgent luxury that we cannot afford" and was not "fit for purpose" given the current economic crisis. [17]

Success of Transition YearEdit

A study conducted by Transition Year Ireland[18] based on figures obtained from the CSO[19] showed that the uptake of Transition Year increased from 38.42% in 2001 to 63.55% in 2013. Percentages were calculated by comparing the number 4th (Transition) year students in any given year to the number of 3rd year students in the preceding year (nationally).

Uptake in other years were 38.35% in 2002, 39.57% in 2003, 41.33% in 2004, 45.41% in 2005, 47.43% in 2006, 48.86% in 2007, 50.44% in 2008, 52.75% in 2009, 54.34% in 2010, 57.94% in 2011, and 61.53% in 2012.

Mark English — described by Jerry Kiernan as Ireland's "greatest talent" ever in middle-distance running — first turned seriously to athletics during his Transition Year.[20][21]


  1. ^ Circular M31/93, Department of Education, Ireland, 1993
  2. ^ Programme for Economic and Social Progress, Government of Ireland, Dublin, 1991
  3. ^ Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, Department of Education and Science, Ireland, 2004
  4. ^ Transition Year information,, accessed March 2010
  5. ^ "Student Enterprise — You're never too young to become Ireland's next big entrepreneur". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Young Social Innovators (YSI) - Young Social Innovators Changing the World for Good".
  7. ^ "Welcome - BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Home - Gaisce". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  9. ^ "What is Junk Kouture?". Junk Kouture. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Transition Year is what you make of it -- just be glad you have the chance -". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Transition year pupils get better Leaving Cert scores -". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Be prepared and set your goals -- how to have a smooth transition -". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  13. ^ "Why Cullen's so wrong about transition year -". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  14. ^ Walshe, John (22 June 2007). "Schools cutting back on class time get a ticking off in report". Irish Independent. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  15. ^ Walshe, John (June 4, 2009). "Cullen wants transition 'doss year' scrapped". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on August 27, 2009.
  16. ^ "Councillor supports 'scrapping' of 'doss' Transition Year". Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Scrap Transition Year to help the elderly -- charity". Evening Herald. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  18. ^ "Transition Year Ireland".
  19. ^ "Home - CSO - Central Statistics Office".
  20. ^ McNulty, Chris (12 February 2016). "Mark English: Youngsters shouldn't 'specialise' in sport too early". Archived from the original on 28 February 2016.
  21. ^ McNulty, Chris (6 March 2019). "Jerry Kiernan says Mark English is the 'greatest ever' talent in Irish middle-distance running". Archived from the original on 7 May 2019.