Gaisce -The President’s Award is now firmly recognised as an integral part of senior cycle education. What may be lesser known is that Gaisce is now available to students in their second year of post primary. The rationale behind introducing Gaisce to younger students is that second year is widely acknowledged as a flash point when some young people disengage from formal education and extra-curricular activities. Enabling younger students to develop in the areas of self-motivation, resilience, and target setting, which the Gaisce programme does, cultivates personal growth and maturity and compliments wellbeing in Junior Cycle . And, of course, if a student undertakes their Bronze Gaisce Award in second year, they can progress to their Silver Award while in TY.
Recently, over twenty schools have been involved in piloting Gaisce in second year, registering over 400 students. Some of these students are graduating from TY having been awarded a Silver Gaisce Award. We recently held a focus group with PALs who have been running Gaisce in 2nd Year to gather information on how the programme has been working with a younger cohort of students. The aim was to explore the benefits and barriers of introducing Gaisce to 2nd Year students.
A broad spectrum of experiences and socio-economic backgrounds was represented with input from PALs from Cork, Laois, Donegal, Dublin, and Wicklow. Thank you to all the wonderful PALs who participated!
Feedback from PALs was very positive:
“I would definitely recommend this as it pushes boundaries and improves you as a person”
“Gaisce in 2nd Year is about encouraging young people to set goals …They can see the community and a world beyond school [and] are more than capable of being able to achieve things to improve themselves and their lives. In 2nd Year they can be demotivated at that age and seeing young people achieve and improve every week is a hugely positive element of the programme and incredibly rewarding.”
Benefits identified by PALs included:
- Adding Gaisce, a nationally recognised award, to the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement is particularly beneficial to students who may be less strong academically, enabling them to explore other areas of talents and skills they have learned and developed.
- PALs were unanimous in the belief that participating in Gaisce in 2nd Year develops students’ Sense of Achievement, Confidence and Motivation, often resulting in a renewed engagement in school during what can be a ‘tricky’ year. This was particularly noted during school closures and remote learning, when Gaisce provided a framework for students to work independently. Students found a sense of purpose through their Award.
- Being able to Progress to Silver and even Gold Awards during a young person’s time in second level education was found to be a real positive and a useful goal pathway from junior through to the end of senior cycle.
- Fostering Civic responsibility. Students enjoyed the opportunity to become more involved in their school/local communities as part of their Gaisce and it assisted them staying involved in other groups and non-school groups. Other benefits that were explored were that students felt they were helped by having something to add to their CV for TY Work Experience applications.
PALs were also asked to identify barriers to undertaking Gaisce in 2nd Year. The biggest barrier was identifying appropriate community challenge area opportunities, given the younger age cohort. However, it was recognised that involvement in volunteer activities to support the school are particularly useful to facilitate this aspect of the Gaisce Award for younger participants. Starting their Gaisce Award in 2nd year was mentioned as a challenge for some participants due to them not being ready for the responsibility and therefore more “handholding” is required by their PAL. Finding suitable options for the Adventure Journey was also highlighted. The influence of peers in determining whether a young person would take part or not was also noted.
The focus group recommendations will help Gaisce develop more support tools for PALs for the forthcoming academic year to enable every 2nd Year student, should they wish, the opportunity to embark on their Gaisce Journey. For more information email email@example.com or see www.gaisce.ie. Follow us on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.