A time profile of mathematics in a ‘gap year’ in Irish secondary schools

The Irish education system is unique in an international context as it sets aside a full school year for a transition and youth development programme in the middle of secondary education. The Transition Year (TY) programme is an optional, full time programme offered in the majority of secondary schools. Each school designs its own programme, within set guidelines from the Department of Education and Skills. Within these guidelines, schools have considerable freedom and, in practice, the structure and content of the year varies substantially from school to school. There have been recent concerns regarding the amount of time allocated to core subjects such as mathematics in TY and also whether some schools are using the year as a lead-in to the final state examinations. This paper investigates these concerns further through the distribution of mixed methods questionnaires to deputy principals and mathematics teachers in 400 Irish secondary schools. The findings reveal that despite recommendations from a number of national reports, the time allocated to mathematics in TY remains low with wide variations between some schools. There are also an increased amount of schools now using TY to begin the upper secondary mathematics syllabus.