TYS STILL ENJOYING THEIR YEAR Murt Dunleavy, St Louis Community School.
TRANSITION Year was always the avenue students liked to turn to for an academic break before their Leaving Cert course began in earnest, a release from the exam-based pressures and a year that promotes freedom and movement.
Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 climate promotes the exact opposite of freedom and movement, meaning TY 2020 for all students will be a much different experience than their predecessors had.
As Murt Dunleavy, long-term TY co-ordinator in St Louis Community School, Kiltimagh explains, they now have the challenge of making the year as interesting as possible for their students, and coming up with initiatives that are still practical, fun and regulation friendly.
“The biggest challenge for us is to keep the course interesting for them,” he said. “That means having as much in-house activities this year as we possibly can.
“For example, I’m very lucky that I’ve a number of local people who will come in and do workshops – photography, furniture painting and design, plumbing, metalwork, dance and drama – and that’s what we’re confined to do.
“But they’re enjoying them at the moment. A lot of the things TY normally attend have been cancelled, days out in Castlebar or to the Ploughing Championship, so it’s about thinking around that.”
St Louis CS has still maintained a really high interest in their students from their TY programme, with nearly 100 students opting to take part in the year and just over 20 deciding to go to Fifth Year or their Leaving Cert’ Applied programme.
The high number means the year is split into four groups and unlike previously, the groups do not interchange on a daily basis, which creates its own challenges.
“Normally we mix them up, but we cannot do that and it has been a change for the students,” Murt added. “This year you have to keep them confined to one room, which I’d imagine is probably getting a bit boring for them.
“The class room is very strange this year and you can tell the classroom is a lot quieter. You can’t see facial expressions with masks, sometimes you can’t hear who is talking to you.”
Regular large outings are no-go and the few that are, now need approval from the school’s Board of Management.
The famous trip abroad for TYs looks a slender possibility at this stage but St Louis are still able to attend Petersburg Outdoor Education Centre in Clonbur for example, albeit in stricter conditions and splitting the groups.
State of the art facilities in their school allow for sufficient space in-year drama productions, with each group enjoying writing, producing and acting their own short plays.
Safety of the students and of the community is paramount concern to Murt and the teaching staff at St Louis CS as they try and navigate the year ahead. While he is also fulsome in his praise for the students in this difficult time.
Even though the traditional format of TY has changed so massively this year, Murt is still a strong advocate for its influence on students.
“It’s been a very strange time for the students, but they’re absolutely great,” he said. “Of course you might have one or two here and there that are complaining, but that’s very minimal.
“I really think that TY is as important as ever. There is a girl in the school who assists me as co-ordinator and she’s even more enthusiastic than I am!
“Every year we do an interview with the students to talk about their experience in TY and you would be so proud of them when they come in, speak from the heart about what they have gained and it’s something as a teacher you might not have seen. It’s incredible really.”