9th July 2020

Education is recognised as a factor in determining a child’s life-chances.  The term ‘life chances’ has long been recognised as referring to a child’s ability to engage fully in their schooling.  Research has shown that the move from Primary to Secondary School causes students to underachieve academically and socially.  It has been found that a “high proportion of students suffer educational process deficit, where the transfer from one set of educational parameters to another cause students to dip in their educational attainment”.  It is important therefore, that all aspects of this transition are addressed to ensure that the student can make the most of their second level education and can adapt to the change as they transfer from their primary school to their post-primary school.  Due to the difficulties presented by the COVID 19 pandemic this transition for our incoming first years has presented additional difficulties. 

Aware of these difficulties a group of students at Roscommon Community College are helping to make the transition from sixth class to first year a little easier.

“We know how difficult it is to make the transition from sixth class to first year even with all the support structures in place, so we could not even imagine how strange it must feel for the incoming cohort during this pandemic”. Orla Bishop, one member of the group of RCC students who are helping to ease incoming first year’s concerns prior to September, is busy putting together a schedule for the day to get all tasks completed on time. She explains that due to COVID-19 restrictions the normal on-site open day cannot take place and instead the group are preparing multiple video tutorials that will replace the traditional induction day. Small tutorial type videos are being made to send out to all incoming first years of RCC. There are videos explaining how to best organise your locker, how to understand your new timetable, how to use the suite of online resources, how to prepare for exams, how to best use your journal and how to use email.

This is a busy day as the group are rehearsing their scripts before a videographer captures their efforts to share with all incoming first years. All of this is student led from start to finish.  Adam Donnelly, another key member of the team says, “We just wanted to give back to the school community”. This sense of giving back is very evident and the enthusiasm to help is infectious. “I had been sitting at home since the school term finished and wondered how I could help others in some small way” says budding photographer Ben Finnerty. He has been organising the students for photos to be taken all day; ensuring uniforms are immaculate, classrooms organised, and lighting correct. Physical distancing makes his task quite a lot harder, but Ben takes it in his stride, issuing instructions clearly to get the right shot.

The Ina (6th year) and Gerard (3rd year) Van Opstal as they support their younger sister Willemijn’s transition into secondary school

The energy that teenagers have is immense, and this group is no different. From their sense of purpose, to their organisational skills, to their desire to help others: teenagers could, literally, run the world. Ina van Opstal another group member, thinks so (and could). During her time at home, between online lessons, Ina was speaking to her sister, who will commence in RCC in September. Here she realised how many questions 6th class might have. Ina created a map of the school for her sister as this would help her to at least not get lost. She shared this map with the school management and the idea of putting together a transition team grew from there. Ina explains: “My brother (current third year) found it a little difficult at first so I helped with his transition and from talking to my sister I found she had many questions that would normally be answered on the induction day so I began by developing a map but soon found there was much more I needed to help her with. I figured she must not be the only one in this situation, so I decided to share my idea and my experience with her. There was no problem getting a team together as many students were excited to come in and help out”.

The RCC Senior Student Induction Team

The senior team of Ava Coyle, Adam Donnelly, Caoimhe Leonard, Ina van Opstal, Ben Finnerty, Dara Finneran, Orla Bishop, Luke Gregory and Eduarda Ramos  (all just completed 5th year) and the junior team of Sean Allen, Tommy Morris, Mia Kilcline, Bridget Hoare, Mairead Lohan, Chloe McNamara, Kilan O’Brien, Jorja Rowe, Grace Dwyer, Aidan Gomally, Luka Finneran, Conor Harris, Daniel Hegarty, Josh Reddington and Hope Sherwin (all just completed 2nd year) will have all the videos and tutorials online in the coming weeks and shared with every incoming first year student and current student of RCC. This is the side of teenagers that the media don’t often like to portray: being creative, giving their time even during their summer months off and always thinking of helping others. The school community is always active at RCC especially with the opening of Phase I of their new (1.5m) extension, the upgrade of our internal WiFi system (costing over €20,000) and our Virtual Learning Platform: Office365 to ensure that they can maintain the same standard, if not better, of the teaching and learning offered throughout the lock-down whether it be fully on-site in our classrooms of through a form of blended-learning (onsite and online).  

The RCC Junior Student Induction Team

Roscommon Community College is a very progressive school, and with its current population of 535 students has placed it as the largest co-educational second level school in the county town, offering the most expansive on-site curriculum.  This rise is testament to a well-orchestrated school improvement plan embodied by all the stakeholders of the school.  When asked to comment on this, the school Principal Ms Georgina Keena stated that “evidence of school improvement does not just perch itself on bricks and mortar, but on the “student voice”.  Our students are the ones really making the difference at Roscommon Community College, this could not be more evident than when you witness our senior and junior students leading the way through a comprehensive online transition programme for our incoming and returning students. There is no greater representation of the school than to see students leading students through their journey in education”.