Transition Year

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 and is intended to make the senior cycle a three-year programme encompassing both Transition Year and Leaving Certificate.[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, participative and responsible members of society.[3]

Transition Year was introduced as a pilot project in September 1974, however it was not until September 1994 that the programme was introduced mainstream. Transition Year is not examined, but rather is assessed, 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. It is not possible to fail Transition Year overall: all students continue to their next year of education no matter what their results. However, if a student does not do the set work or is absent for a large amount of time, there is a chance that the school will request that they leave.

Many consider it to be a break from the pressure of examinations. However most teachers would 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.

Transition Year is offered in 75% of the second level schools in Ireland. In some schools, Transition year is compulsory.[4]

Available subjects

Below are the list of subjects available to Transition Year students, though the course content varies from school to school.[5]

Modern languages


Applied Sciences

Business Studies

Arts and Humanities

Advantages of Transition Year

Transition Year could be considered to be a year for maturity and development. Activities such as work experience, mountain climbing, and mini-company encourage growth and teamwork within the student body.[6]

New life skills can be learned such as First Aid, cooking, self-defence, budgeting and typing.[7]

The student can try out a wide variety of different subjects which can help him/her decide which ones he/she wants to study for the Leaving Certificate.

A report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment found that if students opt to do Transition Year, their Leaving Certificate results could increase.[8] It can give students previously unknown confidence within themselves.[9]

The student can work on his/her weaker subjects so he/she is a lot more able to take on the workload in fifth year.[10]

Criticism of Transition Year

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."[11]

In 2009, businessman Bill Cullen dismissed Transition Year as a “doss year.” [12]

In 2011, independent councillor Richard Finn said Transition Year was a doss year and costs parents a fortune. [13]

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. [14]

Uptake of Transition Year

A study conducted by Transition Year Ireland based on figures obtained from the CSO 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, 61.53% in 2012


  1. Circular M31/93, Department of Education, Ireland, 1993
  2. Progranme 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. 1 2 Transition Year information,, accessed March 2010
  11. "Schools cutting back on class time get a ticking off in report" Irish Independent. URL last accessed 2008-03-16
  12. "Cullen wants transition doss year scrapped" Irish Independent. URL last accessed 2009-04-06
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