Portlaoise College is a dual purpose establishment, both a secondary school and a further education college. Back in 2007 I attended evening classes in painting there. At that time it was the newest of Portlaoise’s education campuses, having been constructed the previous year. More recently all of Portlaoise’s secondary schools have been housed in new buildings on a campus on the other side of town. This post is about the activities of a group of students and teachers from Portlaoise college’s secondary school facility and draws on a story from one of the town’s weekly newspapers.
Secondary Education in Ireland ends with two certificates: the Junior Certificate of Education, examined at age 16, and a two year Leaving Certificate curriculum examined at 18 or 19. These school certificates are roughly equivalent to the UK’s General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and ‘A’ levels. Between completing Junior Cert and embarking upon Leaving Cert studies students in Ireland have the opportunity to undertake a Transition Year (TY). This combines continuing study of core subjects with a variety of extra-curricular activities designed to act as a bridge between the two academic programmes.
At Portlaoise college the TY programme has, over the last few years, included a field trip to the Gambia where students and their teachers carry out work improving the facilities at a community school. This year they also provided a vital piece of equipment for a hospital in the same locality.
The list of students participating in this project is indicative of the diverse nature of the population of Portlaoise. Five of the sixteen students who participated have names suggesting their parents originated from Eastern Europe.
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